Wednesday, December 30, 2015

P1 Meeting Jesus for the first time in Mark - Understanding the titles "Jesus" and "Christ" - Mark 1:1

Mark 1:1 "The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God."

As we have so far explored the message of Mark's Gospel and how he develops his understanding of what it means to follow Jesus - we now turn to the titles of Jesus. Mark has the reader meeting Jesus for the first time. Mark 1:1 functions as a title and as a main heading for describing one of the main points of Mark's Gospel - namely in introducing us to Jesus, His Mission and His majesty. One of the chief ways Mark does this is through the titles and names of Jesus. 

There is so much wrapped up in each of the titles of Jesus that no amount of space would be sufficient to deal with all of them in one post (when you consider there are some 200 such titles in God's Word!). Mark's Gospel uses an economy of words to zero in on three of those titles: "Jesus", "Christ" & "The Son of God". In today's post we will consider the first two of those titles in our effort to meet Jesus for the first time in Mark.

The name "Jesus" refers to His humanity (and more)
Out of all the names and titles of Jesus - none are more approachable and tangible than the very name "Jesus". This name comes from a Hebrew name ("Joshua" or "Jeshua") meaning - "The Lord Saves". In Matthew 1:21 we read: "She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” This first title puts us into direct connection with the man "Jesus". We know Jesus was real and indeed a true man. 

However, even in the emphasis of His historical identity as "Jesus of Nazereth" (Matthew 26:71; John 1:45; Acts 10:38), there was a hint that Jesus was not just a man. Even at the announcement of His name to Mary and Joseph by the Angel we read in Matthew 1:22-23 "Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.” The great theologian B.B Warfield notes about the character of Jesus as presented in Mark's Gospel: "That of Mark, who was also a companion of Paul, as also of Peter, is, as truly as the Gospel of John itself, a presentation of facts in the life of Jesus. (That is to say), with a view to making it plain that this was the life of no mere man, human as it was, but of the Son of God Himself." 

As we noted already, even the very meaning of the name "Jesus" (The LORD saves or "Yahweh saves") tells us that this Person of Jesus was God decisively acting in and through and as Jesus of Nazareth. However, Mark hitches another title to the name "Jesus" to add to his profile.

The title "Christ" refers to His mission
The title "Christ" is a Greek carryover of the Hebrew "Meshach" - meaning "anointed one" or "chosen one".  The Holman Christian Standard Bible has rightly chosen to translate "Christ" as "Messiah" - since in its purest sense - Christ simply refers to "Messiah". This title carries with it multiple layers deriving from the Old Testament. These layers of meaning carry the reader from initially considering a special human royal descendant of David (2 Samuel 7:13-16; Psalm 89) to an exalted figure that mediates between the God of Israel and the nation of Israel (Isaiah 49; 61) to a figure that is nothing short of being Divine and human (Zechariah 14:1-9). Scholar William Lane Craig writes in his book "Reasonable Faith" concerning this title "Messiah": "Jesus is deliberately and provocatively claiming to be a promised king of Israel who will inaugurate his reign of peace. His action is like a living parable, acted out to disclose His true identity".

Mark's Gospel aims to unfold the Messianic identity of Jesus - much like Matthew. Matthew chooses to do this by starting with the human lineage of Jesus  - taking the reader back through David and Abraham's bloodline (see Matthew 1:1-17). Mark's approach is clearly different - being that his audience was primarily Roman and practically-minded-just-the-facts type of folks. Hence, Mark will use more of Jesus' own actions in demonstrating His Messianic claims. 

As one reads the Old Testament prophecies about Messiah - there emerges the following connection: the Messiah-the throne of Israel-temple. Mark's Gospel weaves together these threads in portraying the identity of Jesus as "the Christ". As the perfect sacrifice who would ransom His people (Mark 10:45) and at the same time the King who offered Himself to the people - Jesus brings together these twin themes in His Messianic activity. Again William Lane Craig observes: "The clearest indication of Jesus' Messianic self-consciousness emerges by reflecting on His execution. The plaque nailed to his cross recording the charge for which Jesus was curcified is multiply attested as stating that Jesus was executed as "the King of the Jews" (Mark 15:26; John 19:19). 

Closing thoughts for today
Therefore as we meet Jesus for the first time, we find His mission as Messiah was to be the true saving King who would sacrifice Himself on behalf of the people. Mark 10:45 - the key verse to Mark's Gospel - states: "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” This is the main reason why we are identifying the theme of Mark as being: Jesus the Divine Son of God came to serve and give His life a ransom for many. Consider how awesome it is to realize that this Jesus is truly the Messiah - the chosen One, came to give His life for you and me. Mark's opening states this is "Gospel" or "good news". Tomorrow we will continue meeting Jesus for the first time by considering that third title in Mark 1:1 - "The Son of God".

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