I’m preparing a message on Mark 1:9-13, which is Mark’s account of Jesus’ Baptism and Temptation experiences. When I first sat down with the text, my initial impression was confusion. We’ve just began a sermon series on Discipleship in the Book of Mark, and so I was trying to read this passage through the lens of what it may communicate about our lives as disciples. The problem, is that this is a Christological passage, and doesn’t say anything directly about discipleship!
That’s okay, I’ll work it out. In the process however, I was reminded of my goals in preaching and how complex passages affect can affect this. We know that generally speaking, attention spans are shrinking due to the influence of media communications. I wrote recently on this topic which you can access here. I believe we can rightly conclude that when teaching or preaching to any group, we need to consider that people’s capacity for internalizing and processing information is generally low. For students of any age though, we know this dynamic is exacerbated by their developmental stage.
So, complex passages. I noticed that there were several sets of teaching points in Mark 1:9-13. I could talk about the Trinity, the Humanity and Divinity of Christ, Baptism, Temptation and more. I was taught that each passage has a main point and for the most part I adhere to that idea; but some passages describe such intricate theological concepts in such dynamic ways that it’s difficult to discern just how to preach them.
What I realized is that I could preach any of those things from Mark, but I couldn’t preach them all; at least not in one sermon. I would be doing them a disservice by trying to fit all of that information into a single message. Again I think this is generally true for all generations, but especially true for younger people. The reminder for us here is this: that just because we can go over all the points and sub-points of a Biblical passage or theological topic doesn’t mean that we should. As those who want to both rightly handle the Word and want to illuminate Scriptural truths to the next generation; we have to break it down into manageable sizes.