Who is this Man?

In Mark, no one recognizes who Jesus is except the demons that he exorcises. Only in his death on a Roman cross is his identity understood

Cross at Night - Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash
The disciples witnessed Jesus heal the sick, cast out demons, forgive sins, and most spectacularly, calm a violent storm, and all with great authority. Yet, among them and others, rather than faith in the Son of God, his powerful miracles produced confusion, fear, and the question – “
Who is this man?” Only at his execution did someone begin to understand who he is - [Cross at Night - Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash].

This ironic storyline is threaded through the gospel of Mark, and it leads to the stunning conclusion - Until his crucifixion, no one can recognize who Jesus is, and no one acknowledges him as the “Son of God” with the sole exception of the demons he casts out and the heavenly voice at his baptism.

At the Jordan River, the voice from heaven proclaims him to be the beloved “Son.” Later, when he begins to exorcise demons, the “unclean spirits” recognize him as the "Son of God,” though whenever any demon makes an outcry he silences it - “for they knew who he was.”

UNRECOGNIZED IN GALILEE


In contrast to the demons, the men and women of the Jewish nation prove incapable of understanding his identity or mission, including members of his immediate family and his inner circle of disciples. After casting out one demon, amazed, the crowd “began to discuss among themselves saying: What is this?” - (Mark 1:10-11, 1:24-34, 5:7).

Following his miraculous calming of the storm, the disciples ask one another, “Who is this, that even the wind and sea obey him?” In fact, they are even more fearful after Jesus commands the storm to desist than they are during the storm. Even a display of the power of that magnitude proves insufficient to open the eyes of his closest followers - (Mark 1:27, 4:41).

Later, while on the verge of grasping his identity, Peter declares - “You are the Messiah.” But when Jesus explains what his calling entails - suffering, rejection, death - Peter “began to rebuke him,” whatever momentary glimmer of insight Peter had disappeared.

The idea of Israel’s Messiah being crucified by her enemies is inconceivable to a devout and patriotic Jew. But Jesus reacts by sharply reprimanding Peter: “Withdraw behind me, Satan, because you are not regarding the things of God but the things of men!” - (Mark 8:29-32).

AT CALVARY


Only at the Cross does one man finally recognize him, and quite ironically, none other than the Roman centurion in charge of his execution. When Jesus breathes his last, the pagan officer declares - “Truly this man was the Son of God.”

The centurion perceived what none of the religious leaders of Israel or even his own disciples could comprehend. Only when he was dying on the cross did someone begin to understand who Jesus was, the “Son of God.”

Thus, there is no Christianity without Christ, and there is no saving faith or knowledge apart from Christ Crucified.

Writing years later, Paul presented Christ’s submission to the shameful death of execution on a Roman cross as the paradigm for Christian conduct, especially within the congregation.

DISCIPLESHIP


The Son of God “poured himself out, taking the form of a slave,” and humbled himself by becoming “obedient as far as death, even death upon a cross.” In his letter to the Philippians, this becomes the paradigm for right conduct, to count one’s fellow believer better than oneself “in lowliness of mind - (Philippians 2:6-11).

To follow Jesus means to reconfigure one’s life for conformity to his teachings and example. And this pattern of discipleship goes back to Christ himself when he taught his disciples that his disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above his master… He that does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me” - (Matthew 10:24-38).

One day, his disciples were disputing which of them would be the “greatest” in the kingdom. But Jesus admonished them:
  • Not so is it to be among you, but whoever shall desire to become great among you shall be your minister, and whosoever shall desire to be first among you shall be your slave: just as the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto but to minister, and to give his life a ransom instead of many.”

Greatness” is achieved only by self-sacrificial service to others. To follow "the Lamb wherever he goes" means to live a life of humble service, submission to the will of the Father, and a willingness to suffer for him and his people.

Jesus cannot be understood by his miraculous deeds. Only in his sacrificial death for others can we begin to perceive just who he is and the nature of his mission.



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