Summary: "Who do you that I am?" asks Jesus.
Who is Jesus? That is the title of one book on my bookshelf. Next to it is, Who was Jesus? Then there are The Jesus I Never Knew, Jesus the Jewish Theologian, The Jesus Quest, A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus, The So-called Historical Jesus, I Believe in the Historical Jesus, What They Are Saying About Jesus, plus a few others. Some books are of a devotional nature. Others have the exalted goal of revealing the real Jesus behind all the religious trappings the church has placed on him. Others expose the books that expose what the church has done with Jesus!
But as our text makes clear, speculation about who Jesus is began during Jesus’ life. It is a matter that Jesus considered to be of utmost importance, and it is the subject of Mark’s gospel. We noted this in the first sermon on the gospel. Mark writes his gospel to answer the question: Who is this Jesus of Nazareth? We’ve noted through the gospel how he raises the question sometimes directly and sometimes subtly.
He raises it through his own statement introduction: The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God (1:1).
He raises it through prophecy:
3 “a voice of one calling in the desert,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him’” (1:2,3; cf. Isaiah 40:3).
He raises it through scriptural allusions: the feeding of the five thousand alludes to the one who comes as the new Moses, the new Joshua and the new David. The healing of the deaf and mute alludes to the prophecy in Isaiah that foretold of the day of the Lord when the deaf would hear and the mute speak.
He raises it through the testimony of John the Baptist: 7 …“After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8 I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit” (1:7,8).
He raises it through the testimony of God at Jesus’ baptism:
10 “As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased” (1:10,11).
He raises the question through the response of those who see and experience his power,
23 Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out, 24 “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”
25 “Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!” 26 The evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.
27 The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey him” (1:23-27).
11 Whenever the evil spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God” (3:11).
41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” (4:41)
6 When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. 7 He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?” (5:6,7)
He raises it through the perplexed and even hostile reaction of people:
5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
6 Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, 7 “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (2:5,6).
21 When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”
22 And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebub! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons” (3:21,22).
3 Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him (6:3).
Mark is asking his readers, “What’s your response? Which option do you choose? What label will you place on Jesus, or will you accept him for who he is really is?”
He raises it through all the miracles. By the very authority in which Jesus performed his miracles, Mark is saying, “Don’t you see that he is more than just a miracle-worker?”
Finally, Mark raises it through the conjectures about Jesus’ identity: