Monday, January 29, 2024

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, 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 and the Transfiguration.

Cross dusk - Photo by Cdoncel on Unsplash
[Photo by Cdoncel on Unsplash]

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

In contrast, the men of the Jewish nation proved incapable of comprehending his identity or mission, including members of his 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 a 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 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 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 understand. Thus, there is no Christianity without Christ, and there is no saving faith or knowledge apart from Christ Crucified.


The Apostle 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.” He humbled himself by becoming “obedient as far as death, even death upon a cross.” This became the ultimate example of right conduct for his disciples - (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).

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, 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.

Dusk - Photo by Martin Brechtl on Unsplash
[Dusk - Photo by Martin Brechtl on Unsplash]

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.

  • The Son of Man - (The one like a Son of Man in Daniel is the source of Christ’s self-designation as the Son of Man and his authority)
  • Opposition Begins - (Jesus began to proclaim the Gospel following the arrest of John, foretaste of the opposition that would plague his ministry – Mark 1:14-15)