Must Have Been Something in the Water

By Jennifer Woodruff Tait

February 15, 2024

Scripture — Mark 1:9-15 (NRSV)

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”

Focus

Jesus’s baptism means something for how we understand his glory in Epiphany. It also means something for how we understand his temptation, and his ability to resist temptation, in Lent.

Devotion

Years ago, I served as a supply priest at a church almost two hours from my house. One day I was driving home from church listening to the radio. As my church was in the Appalachian mountains of Kentucky, the music most immediately available to me was country music. Among the songs about pickup trucks and lost loves warbling across the airwaves, I was suddenly surprised to hear these words:

“He said, ‘I’ve been where you’ve been before
Down every hallway’s a slamming door’
No way out, no one to come and save me
Wasting a life that the Good Lord gave me
Then somebody said what I’m saying to you
Opened my eyes and told me the truth
They said, ‘Just a little faith, it’ll all get better’
So I followed that preacher man down to the river
And now I’m changed
And now I’m stronger
There must’ve been somethin’ in the water
Oh, there must’ve been somethin’ in the water”

“That,” I said to myself, “is a song about baptism!” I was absolutely right; it was called “Something in the Water” by Carrie Underwood, and you’ll get to listen to it later.

If you feel like we were just thinking about the baptism of Jesus in Epiphany, we were. The first Sunday after the Feast of the Epiphany has historically been celebrated as Baptism of the Lord Sunday. I wrote in 2021 and 2022 for Life for Leaders about how this sets the tone for thinking about God’s glory manifest in the world throughout all of Epiphany.

We had a very short Epiphany this year (the kind of short Epiphany that was once described by a former priest of mine as “Jesus is born! Wanna see him? Repent.”) So it seems no time at all has passed between the first Sunday after Epiphany and the first Sunday of Lent, this coming Sunday—a Sunday on which Jesus’s baptism also features prominently.

The reason we revisit Jesus’ baptism on the first Sunday of Lent is because of the close link between Jesus’s baptism and his temptation in the wilderness. What the lectionary compilers wanted to focus our attention on as we begin the Lenten journey is Christ’s temptation. But that time of temptation directly follows his baptism. The baptism strengthens Jesus for the temptations he is to undergo. And yet, in a way, it is also—as the beginning of his public ministry—what puts him on the devil’s radar screen in a new way. Someone so named, so called, so empowered, is clearly seen by the devil to be so, so dangerous.

Jesus’s baptism means something for how we understand his glory in Epiphany. It also means something for how we understand his temptation, and his ability to resist temptation, in Lent. And, because he is our fully human as well as fully divine Savior, and we are baptized into his name and into his body, the church, it means something also about our temptation, and our ability to resist temptation, in Lent—and always.

“And now I’m changed
And now I’m stronger
There must’ve been somethin’ in the water”

There is. Trust in the name of the Lord you were baptized into as you walk the wilderness road.

Reflect

How does your baptism comfort you?

What does your baptism call and commission you to do?

Act

Remember your baptism and be thankful (as the liturgy of at least one church says) while you listen to Carrie Underwood. (Lyrics here.)

Pray

(Prayer for the First Sunday of Lent in the Book of Common Prayer) Almighty God, whose blessed Son was led by the Spirit to be tempted by Satan: Come quickly to help us who are assaulted by many temptations; and, as you know the weaknesses of each of us, let each one find you mighty to save; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: The Beginning of the Gospel (Mark 1:1-13) .


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Jennifer Woodruff Tait

Editorial Coordinator

Jennifer Woodruff Tait (PhD, Duke University) is the editor of and frequent contributor to Life for Leaders. She is also the managing editor of Christian History magazine and web editor for the

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