Thursday, December 31, 2015
Mark 1:1 "The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God."
Yesterday we zeroed in on two of the three titles found in Mark 1:1: "Jesus" and "Christ". We did this for the purpose of meeting Jesus for the first time in Mark's Gospel. The title "Jesus" refers to the name of the Son relative to His true humanity. We discovered that though His name "Jesus" refers to His true humanity - there is more than meets the eye. The second title "Christ" speaks to us about His mission. We expounded at length the multiple layers of Jesus' Messiah-ship. In all reality we only scratched the surface - however, it is hope that the reader has become more acquainted with the richness of Jesus Christ. This leads us to the third title in Mark 1:1 - namely, "The Son of God".
The title "Son of God" refers to the majesty of Jesus Christ
One of the observations noted in yesterday's post is the fact that many of the titles and names of Jesus may emphasize His humanity or deity, but neither one is ever totally excluded at the expense of the other. The title "Jesus" for example does pinpoint the historical figure "Jesus of Nazareth" as a Jewish man and miracle worker who died and raised from the dead in the first century. However, this name also points to the truth that He was not just a man, but more than such. The title "Christ" also functioned in much the same manner.
When we consider this third title "Son of God", on first glance it appears Mark is emphasizing the Divinity of Christ. Bible scholar Wayne Grudem notes: There are nevertheless instances in which the phrase "Son of God" refers to Jesus as the Heavenly, eternal Son who is equal to God Himself (see matt 11:25-30; 17:5; 1 Cor 15:28; Heb 1:1-3,5,8). This is especially true in John's Gospel where Jesus is seen as a unique Son from the Father (John 1:14,18,34,39) who fully reveals the Father (John 8:19; 14:9). As Son he is so great that we can trust in Him for eternal life (something that could be said of no created being: John 3:16, 36; 20:31).
With regards to the conclusions we can draw from Mark's Gospel alone on this title, episodes of Jesus' teachings and actions help us fill in the details about this title. Mark 3:11 has demonic beings of which Jesus exorcised saying: "Whenever the unclean spirits saw Him, they would fall down before Him and shout, “You are the Son of God!” In Mark 12:6 we see the parable of the son and the tenants depicting the unique place the Son would have in the history of God's dealings with His people. In commenting on Mark 12:1-9, scholar William Lane Craig notes in his book "Reasonable Faith", page 311: "What then does this parable tell us about Jesus' self-understanding? It tells us that He thought of Himself as God's only Son from all the prophets, God's final messenger, and even the heir of Israel itself". This is idea of the Son of God being "unique" is stressed in Mark 13:32, which places the Father and Son in a category above angels and men.
We then arrive at the final place in Mark where this title appears, the Roman Centurion's confession of Jesus at the crucifixion in Mark 15:39 "When the centurion, who was standing right in front of Him, saw the way He breathed His last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” This confession is striking, since in Graeco/Roman culture, the title "son of god" or "son of the divine" (divi filius) was used exclusively with reference to the Roman Emperor. Hence, the centurion was swearing His allegiance to a New Emperor, so-to-speak!
In brief, the rest of the New Testament brings out clearly the true meaning of this title that begins to unfold in Mark. Hebrews 1:1-4 reveals that the Son is nothing less than God Himself. He is exalted above the angels (Hebrews 1:5-11) and is God forever praised (Romans 9:5). Another common title used by Mark and other Gospel writers is Jesus' own favorite designation - "Son of Man". We won't go into detail about this particular title - only to note that its Divine/human dual function draws from Old Testament passages such as Daniel 7:12-14 and is found in the same setting where we find the title "Son of God", indicating their overlap in meaning and purpose (compare for instance Mark 10:33; 14:41; 14:62; 15:39).
Concluding thoughts on Jesus' Majesty as "Son of God"
So in light of the above observations, we return once more to Mark's opening in Mark 1:1. We have aimed these last two days to meet Jesus for the first time. We saw His humanity in His name "Jesus", noting that He is truly human - but more than just a man. The second title "Christ" suggests to us His mission as the Divine/human Savior who came to redeem His people and reveal Himself as the anointed Priest and King. Then as "Son of God", Jesus Christ reveals His majesty. It seems these three titles combine to present a complete picture of Christ's majesty. As the "Son of God" He is exalted Messiah. By way of His actions we see further evidence that He is this majestic One. Certainly Jesus' own self-identification as the Son of God (Mark 10:45; 12:1-9) as well as the testimony of the soldiers at His crucifixion (Mark 15:39) all combine together to demonstrate His majesty - and this before His resurrection! We saw finally that all of the material in the epistles that assert Jesus Christ as the Son of God do so from the stand-point of His triumphal resurrection. All that Jesus claimed to be before His cross was demonstrated and confirmed in His resurrection. Jesus Christ is the majestic God/man - the Son of God. May we be in awe of meeting Him for the first time in Mark 1:1.