Summary: Jesus is not an idea or concept, but a man Peter knew, the Son of God through the Spirit, and the Messiah. Through Jesus, we are adopted as children of God, and filled with the Spirit as Jesus was.


Who is Jesus? The name “Jesus” evokes mental images about God, religion, ethics, or personal faith. Some of those images might be warm and fuzzy, while some might be dark and dreary. Some might be reflections of personal ideals and biases—a Jesus who supports the worldview of the person who believes.

Jesus can even be like a cultural “meme”—an idea or image that spreads through groups of people, taking on new meanings for different religious movements, internet influencers, or the tattoos of superstars or white supremacists. ***Preacher: You could project some internet memes or images of Jesus here.**

Mark portrays Jesus in his gospel, not merely as a symbol of faith or religious ideals, or a cultural icon. In Mark’s gospel, Jesus is “that guy”—the one known by him and the people around him.

How did Mark know Jesus? Mark 14:51-52 has an intriguing detail in his account of the arrest of Jesus in the garden: “A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus. When they seized him, he fled naked, leaving his garment behind.” Mark doesn’t say who that young man was, but it makes sense that it was Mark himself.

Mark knew all of the apostles. Acts 12:12 tells us that when an angel sprung Peter from prison, “he went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying.” His mother was one of the women who had traveled with Jesus, and she had been one of the first to see Jesus after he rose from the dead.

Mark traveled with Paul and Barnabus, but he knew Jesus best through the eyes and ears of Peter. As a Galilean fisherman, Peter’s native language was Aramaic. He could probably understand Greek, the language of gentile Christians in the Roman Empire, but he used a translator when he spoke or wrote. Silas helped him write the letter known as 1 Peter, and there is a strong tradition that Mark translated for Peter when he spoke to Greek-speaking audiences.

A third century historian with access to sources no longer available described how Mark wrote his gospel: “The Elder (probably the apostle John) said this also: Mark, who became Peter’s interpreter, wrote accurately, though not in order, all that he remembered of the things said or done by the Lord. For he had neither heard the Lord nor been one of his followers, but afterwards, as I said, he had followed Peter, who used to compose his discourses with a view to the needs of his hearers, but not as though he were drawing up a connected account of the Lord’s sayings. So Mark made no mistake in thus recording some things just as he remembered them. For he was careful of this one thing, to omit none of the things he had heard and to make no untrue statements therein.” (Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 3.39.15)

Mark’s gospel presents Jesus as Peter knew Jesus. Peter came to know Jesus in real time, gradually comprehending who Jesus was.


Read Mark 1:1-13 (if you have not already read it).

-JESUS WAS A MAN. “The beginning of the gospel about JESUS…”

***A story is told of a woman working at an emergency call center in a large city. A text came in, saying, “I need someone to help me with Jesus. He won’t do what he promised.” The woman was a caring Christian person, and she replied, “I’m so sorry. Sometimes life is hard, but be patient; Jesus our Savior will never let you down.” The man replied, “Lady, I don’t know what your problem is, but Jesus (pronounced Hay-SOOS) owes me a lot of money, and I need it now.”**

Jesus is a common name in Spanish-speaking countries, and it was a common name in Palestine. Jesus of Nazareth was a pretty normal-looking guy, like anybody else in some ways. He couldn’t be in two places at once, and he didn’t teleport from one place to another; he walked the 70 miles from Nazareth to the desert place where John was baptizing. Although he sometimes knew what people were thinking and saying, he did not know everything, for he said he did not know the time of his second coming. When he wanted to talk with his Father in heaven, he got up early in the morning to pray, just like you might.

His name was not chosen at random, however. When an angel appeared to Joseph to tell him Mary was pregnant, he said, “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21) The name Jesus, like the Hebrew name Joshua, means, “Yahweh is salvation.”

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