Who is this Man?

In Galilee, the disciples witnessed Jesus heal the sick, cast out demons, forgive sins, and even calm a violent storm, all supernatural acts performed with great authority. However, all too often, his words and deeds produced confusion followed by the question – “Who is this man?” Only at his execution on Golgotha did a human being begin to understand who he was.

This ironic storyline occurs often in the Gospel of Mark, and it leads to a stunning conclusion - Until his crucifixion, no man or woman acknowledged him as the “Son of God.” He was only recognized as the Son by the demons he cast out and the heavenly voice heard at his baptism in the Jordan River.

Lake Storm - Photo by Igor Goryachev on Unsplash
[Photo by Igor Goryachev on Unsplash]

At the Jordan, that voice proclaimed him the beloved “
Son.” Later, when he began to exorcise demons, the “unclean spirits” understood that he was the “Son of God,” though whenever they made any outcry he silenced them - “for they knew who he was.”

In contrast, the men and women of the Jewish nation proved incapable of comprehending his identity or mission, including members of his own immediate family, and even 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 asked one another, “Who is this, that even the wind and sea obey him?” They were even more fearful after Jesus commanded the storm to desist than they were during the storm. Even a display of power of that magnitude proved insufficient to open their eyes - (Mark 1:27, 4:41).

Later, while on the verge of grasping his identity, Peter declared, “You are the Messiah.” However, when Jesus explained that his calling meant suffering, rejection, and death, Peter “began to rebuke him.” Whatever momentary glimmer of insight he had disappeared at the first mention of a suffering and dying Messiah.

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

Only at his death did one man recognize him, and rather ironically, none other than a Roman centurion who very likely supervised his execution. When Jesus breathed his last, the pagan officer declared, “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. Only when he was dying on the cross did someone begin to understand. Thus, there is no Christianity without Christ, and there is no saving faith or knowledge apart from Christ Crucified.

DISCIPLESHIP


Writing years later, Paul presented the submission of Jesus to a shameful death on the Roman cross as the paradigm for Christian conduct, especially in the Assembly. The Son of God “poured himself out, taking the form of a slave.” Moreover, he humbled himself by becoming “obedient as far as death, even death upon a cross.” This has become the ultimate example of right conduct for his disciples, especially reckoning others as better than oneself - “In lowliness of mind - (Philippians 2:6-11).

Paul’s statement alludes to the description of the suffering ‘Servant of Yahweh’ in the Book of Isaiah. The Servant of the LORD would “justify many and bear their iniquities… Because HE POURED OUT HIS SOUL UNTO DEATH was numbered with the transgressors, yet he bore the sin of many and made intercession for the transgressors” – (Isaiah 53:11-12).

Rough Trail - Photo by Kyle McLeod on Unsplash
[Photo by Kyle McLeod on Unsplash]

To follow Jesus requires reconfiguring one’s life into conformity with his teachings and deeds. This pattern goes back to the Nazarene himself when he taught that the 
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, when his disciples were disputing which of them would be the “greatest” in the Kingdom of God, Jesus admonished them, and like Paul years later, he alluded to the song of the suffering “Servant”:

  • 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.”

Both Paul and Jesus understood the Messiah to be the “Servant of Yahweh.” Moreover, in his domain, true “greatness” is achieved only through humility and self-sacrificial service to others. To follow "the Lamb wherever he goes" necessitates living a life of service, submission to the will of the Father, a willingness to suffer for him and his people, and acts of mercy especially for one’s opponents and persecutors.

Jesus cannot be understood only or even primarily by his miracles. It is in his sacrificial death for others that we begin to perceive who he is, the nature of his mission, and what it means to follow him.



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