Summary: The editor-in-chief of Bible Study Magazine discusses who Jesus was, why it matters, and how he expects us to respond.
During my second year of college I had the opportunity to study abroad in London. While in London, a small group of friends and I decided to visit Paris for about five days. The first day we were in Paris we visited the Eiffel Tower. We reached the Eiffel Tower just before sunset. It was a beautiful evening with perfectly clear skies. It was honestly the most gorgeous sunset I have ever seen. While we were looking at this gorgeous sunset I could not help but begin to talk about God and all the wonderful things He created. Well, my comments began a discussion between my friend and I about Jesus, His life and the impact He had on the world. Our rather in-depth discussion prompted my friend to ask a very funny, but legitimate question. He said to me, "So Jesus Christ, that’s His name, right? So what was His Mom’s name, Mary Christ? And if He had a brother, would His name be like Joe Christ? Mary Christ, Jesus Christ, and Joe Christ?" I laughed, and then answered his question, "Actually His brother’s name was James." Then he chuckled about "James Christ." I soon explained to him that "Christ" is a title. And it could have easily been said, "Christ Jesus". Kind of like "King Albert". I also explained to him that Jesus’ name would have most likely been "Jesus of Nazareth" or "Jesus the son of Mary."
Maybe you are here and are in the same place as my friend. Maybe you just found out that Jesus’ last name was not "Christ". That’s okay. Many people are exactly where you are. Most people are exactly where you are.
So Jesus was His name. "Christ" was His title. He was a poor man, a peasant, from what one of my teachers refers to as "back-water Galilee" from a little town called Nazareth. He had an ordinary name, "Yeshua" in Hebrew, but He was no ordinary man. How did one man go from being just another Jesus to "Jesus Christ"? From a teacher to savior of the world? From a man from nothing to God?
It is my aim tonight to explain to you, in the best of my ability, first of all what it meant for one man to be Christ and savior. And to also explain to you how one man came to be equated with God Himself.
However, before we can go any further, I must first explain some important terminology that is often used in reference to Jesus. What does it mean for Him to be "Christ Jesus"? The word Christ is derived from the Greek word Christos which is derived from the Hebrew word for messiah. It originally meant, "Anointed one." The term is primarily used in the Old Testament in reference to a king being "anointed" during a procession prior to him taking throne as king over Israel. With this knowledge in mind, my question is how did a peasant come to be thought of as a king? Furthermore, how did a peasant sentenced to death by crucifixition under Roman law come to be thought of as a king?
"Christ" also has a second meaning, having to do with being a "prophet". In the Old Testament, prophets were usually "anointed" by God in some way or another to do their ministry. So when people referenced Jesus, were they using this meaning of the term, or both meanings?
Many Jews during Jesus’ lifetime were looking for a "Christ" or "Messiah". Some Jews even believed that there would be two Messiahs: a priestly one and a kingly one. As you can imagine, with all these people looking for a "Messiah", there were many who claimed they were it and many people who followed these self-proclaimed Messiahs. Most of these Messiahs attempted to overthrow the Roman government or certain powers they believed were evil and wrong. However, most did not even remotely succeed. These people and their ideas about the "Messiah" were slightly off base. They believed the restoration the "Messiah" was going to bring to Israel was either about reformation of Jewish practice, or reclaiming the holy land.
So, when Mark opens his book by stating "beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God," He is making a profound claim. He is saying that there is "good news." The term "good news", otherwise known as "Gospel," was used in reference to the birth of a new Caesar as well. When Mark says that the "good news" is not Caesar, or anyone else, but is Jesus, he is making an astonishing claim. He also terms Jesus "Christ", meaning the "anointed one." Furthermore, he calls Him the "Son of God," also a term that was used in reference to Caesar. "Son of God" on the Jewish and Roman side is chalked full of kingly meaning. From the very beginning of Mark’s book, he gives us, the reader, the inside scoop. We are told exactly who Jesus is.