Who is this Man?

No one recognized who Jesus was except the demons that he exorcised. Only in his death can his true identity be understood

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

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

At the Jordan River, the voice from heaven proclaimed him to be the beloved “Son.” Later, when he began to exorcise demons, the “unclean spirits” recognized him as the "Son of God,” though whenever any demon made an outcry he silenced it, “for they knew who he was.”

UNRECOGNIZED IN GALILEE

In contrast, the men and women of the Jewish nation proved 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 asked one another, “Who is this, that even the wind and sea obey him?” In fact, they were even more fearful after Jesus commanded the storm to desist than they were during the storm.

Even a display of the power of that magnitude was insufficient to open the eyes of his closest followers to perceive just what kind of Messiah he was - (Mark 1:27, 4:41).

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

The idea of Israel’s Messiah being crucified by her enemies was inconceivable to a devout and patriotic Jew. But 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).

AT CALVARY

Only at the Cross did one man finally recognize who he was, and quite ironically, none other than the very Roman centurion in charge of his execution. When Jesus breathed his last, that pagan officer declared: “Truly this man was the Son of God.”

The Roman officer perceived what none of the religious leaders of Israel or even his own disciples could comprehend. Only when he was crucified did someone begin to understand who Jesus was, the “Son of God,” and what it meant to be the Messiah of Israel.

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

Writing years later to the Philippians, 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.

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, this becomes the paradigm for the disciple of Christ to count his fellow believer better than himself “in lowliness of mind each” - (Philippians 2:6-11).

DISCIPLESHIP

To follow Jesus means to reconfigure your 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 his sake.

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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