Cross at Dusk - Photo by David Dibert on Unsplash

RECOGNIZING JESUS

No one recognized who Jesus was except the demons exorcised by him, that is, until the moment of his death on a Roman cross.

In the gospel of Mark, despite his miraculous deeds and authoritative teaching, until his death on Calvary, no human being recognized who Jesus was though demons certainly did. And most striking of all was the identity of the one man who did acknowledge him as the “son of God,” namely, the Roman centurion present at his execution.

The disciples had witnessed Jesus heal the sick, cast out demons, forgive sins, and even calm a violent storm, and all this was done with great authority. Yet among them and others, rather than faith in the Son of God, his powerful miracles produced confusion, fear, and the question – Who is this man?

This ironic storyline is threaded throughout Mark, and it leads to the stunning conclusion – Until his crucifixion, no one could recognize who he was, and no one acknowledged him as the “Son of God” with the sole exceptions 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.”

In contrast, the men of Israel proved incapable of understanding his identity or mission, including members of his immediate family. After casting out one demon, amazed, the crowd “began to discuss among themselves saying: What is this?” Even his closest disciples remained clueless – (Mark 1:10-11, 1:24-34, 5:7).

Following his 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 calmed the storm than they were during it. Even a display of the power of that magnitude was insufficient to open their eyes – (Mark 1:27, 4:41).

Later, 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.” The idea of Israel’s Messiah being crucified by her enemies was inconceivable to a devout Jew. Jesus reacted 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 the Cross did one man finally recognize him, and ironically, none other than the 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 see or comprehend. Only when he was crucified did someone begin to understand who Jesus was, the “Son of God.” There is no Christianity without Christ, and there is no saving faith or knowledge apart from Christ Crucified.

Writing to the Philippians, Paul presented Christ’s submission to the shameful death on the Roman cross as the paradigm for Christian behavior. The Son of God had “poured himself out, taking the form of a slave,” and humbled himself by becoming “obedient as far as death, even death upon a cross” – (Philippians 2:6-11).

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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[Download PDF copy from MEGA NZ]

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