Thursday, April 30, 2015

Jesus’ Full Revelation!

Then the high priest stood up before the others and asked Jesus, “Well, aren’t You going to answer these charges? What do You have to say for Yourself?” But Jesus was silent and made no reply. Then the high priest asked Him, “Are You the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” Jesus said, “I AM. And you will see the Son of Man seated in the place of power at God’s right hand and coming on the clouds of heaven.” . . . Very early in the morning the leading priests, the elders, and the teachers of religious law — the entire high council — met to discuss their next step. They bound Jesus, led Him away, and took Him to Pilate, the Roman governor. Pilate asked Jesus, “Are You the King of the Jews?” Jesus replied, “You have said it.” Mark 14:60-62, 15:1-2 (NLT)

Jesus’ full revelation of His true identity comes at His trial before the Jewish high council (also called the Sanhedrin) and Pontius Pilate (the Roman governor). At His trial, Jesus declared openly that He is the “I AM,” the “Messiah,” “the Son of God,” the “Son of Man,” the coming Judge, and the “King of the Jews” (Matthew 26:62-64; Matthew 27:11; Mark 14:60-62, Mark 15:1-2; Luke 22:66-71; Luke 23:1-3; John 18:33-37).

At the very beginning of Mark’s Gospel, Mark declared Jesus was the Messiah and the Son of God (Mark 1:1). Jesus’ declaration as the Messiah and the Son of God was already acknowledged by the demons and unclean spirits (Mark 1:24; Mark 3:11; Mark 5:7), by God the Father (Mark 1:11; Mark 9:7), and by Jesus’ disciples (Mark 8:29-30). Until the question of the high priest, Jesus had repeatedly silenced all announcements as the Son of God and the Messiah. But at His trial, Jesus’ veil is removed and the secrecy of Jesus’ identity was disclosed in light of His coming suffering on the Cross. Jesus for the first time openly and publicly acknowledged that He was indeed the “I AM,” the “Messiah,” “the Son of God,” the “Son of Man,” the coming Judge, and the “King of the Jews” (Luke 22:66-71). The “I AM” means Jesus is Lord (Mark 14:62; see also Exodus 3:14). Jesus identified Himself with God by using a familiar title for God found in the Old Testament: “I AM” (see Exodus 3:14). The high priest recognized Jesus' claim as God and immediately accused Him of blasphemy (Mark 14:63-64). For any other human this revelation of divinity would have been blasphemy, but in this case Jesus’ revelation was true.  Jesus is God and that faith in Him brings everlasting life and forgiveness of sins (John 3:36; John 20:31; 2 Corinthians 5:21). Furthermore, Jesus revealed He is the Messiah and a King. He was not a political or military figure, the kind Rome would be anxious to eliminate but the Suffering Servant to bear the sins of humanity (see Isaiah 52:13–53:12). Moreover, Jesus revealed that He would sit in the place of power at God’s right hand or literally “at the right hand of the Power” (Mark 14:62; see also Psalm 110:1). Thus, Jesus’ revelation predicted His resurrection and ascension to heaven (Luke 24:50-51; Acts 1:9-11; see Philippians 2:9; Hebrews 1:3) and His triumphal coming on the clouds of heaven (see Daniel 7:13-14) to judge the world. At Jesus’ second return from heaven, roles will be reversed, and those judging Jesus as the Son of Man will be judged by Him. Jesus assured His judges that He was also the coming Judge of all humankind.

At daybreak all the elders of the people assembled, including the leading priests and the teachers of religious law. Jesus was led before this high council, and they said, “Tell us, are You the Messiah?” But He replied, “If I tell you, you will not believe Me. And if I ask you a question, you will not answer. But from now on the Son of Man will be seated in the place of power at God’s right hand.” They (religious leaders) all shouted, “So, are You claiming to be the Son of God?” And He replied, “You say that I AM.” “Why do we need other witnesses?” they said. “We ourselves heard Him say it.” Luke 22:66-71 (NLT)

Only Luke’s Gospel records the direct question in Luke 22:70. The religious leaders asked Jesus, “So, are You claiming to be the Son of God?” And Jesus replied, “You say that I AM” (Luke 22:70, NLT).  Jesus’ direct answer, which literally was: “You say that I AM.” The reaction to Jesus’ reply makes clear that His answer was a strong affirmation that He was the Messiah (Christ), the Son of Man, and the Son of God (Luke 22:66-71; Luke 23:1-3). Some theologians argue that Jesus never claimed to be God. In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus in effect agreed that He was the Son of God when He simply turned the high priest's question around by saying, “You are right in saying I AM” (Luke 22:70). The Jewish religious leaders knew what Jesus was talking about, and this is why they condemned Him for blasphemy. (Matthew 26:66; Mark 14:64). Yet, the religious leaders were sure Jesus’ revelations were false and that He was guilty of blasphemy, and the penalty for blasphemy was death (Leviticus 24:10-16).

Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, “Are You not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against You?” But Jesus remained silent. The high priest said to Him, “I charge You under oath by the living God: Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God.” “Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Matthew 26:62-64 (NIV)

In Matthew’s Gospel, when the high Priest stood up and demanded Jesus to tell the Jewish religious leaders whether He is “the Messiah, the Son of God” (Matthew 26:63 TLB). Jesus said, “Yes, it is as you say” (Matthew 26:64 NIV). In essence, Jesus positively affirmed to the religious leaders He is the Messiah (Christ) and the Son of God (Matthew 26:64). Then, Jesus goes on to say, “In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Matthew 26:64 NIV; see also Psalm 110 and Daniel 7:13).

During His revelation, Jesus called Himself “Son of Man.” “Son of Man” is a Messianic title found in Daniel 7:13-14. By quoting Daniel 7:13-14, Jesus affirmed that He was the majestic Son of Man who would be justified and exalted by God. The term coming on the clouds of heaven (Matthew 26:64) could refer either to the coming destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 or to Jesus’ second coming at the end of history. Jesus also revealed He has the right to sit “on the right hand of the power of God” (Luke 22:69), a clear reference to Psalm 110:1, another Messianic passage. At “God’s right hand” means Jesus is at the right hand of the Power (see Psalm 110:1). Jesus saw beyond the sufferings of the Cross to the glories of God’s throne (see Philippians 2:1-11; Hebrews 12:2). That Jesus is seated at the right hand of the God is a truth that is often repeated in the New Testament (e.g., see Hebrews 1:3; Hebrews 8:1; Hebrews 10:12; Hebrews 12:2; 1 Peter 3:22; Acts 2:33; Acts 5:31; Acts 7:55-56; Romans 8:34; Ephesians 1:20; Colossians 3:1). This is the place of honor, authority, and power; and by claiming this honor, Jesus was claiming to be God. Remarkably, Jesus’ sacrificial death and resurrection confirmed Him as the Son of God and Messiah sent from God the Father (Mark 15:39; Romans 1:4; Philippians 2:9-11).

Interestingly during His revelation, Jesus never confessed to being a Prophet. Jesus is described by many titles in the Holy Scriptures: Son of God (Mark 1:1; Mark 15:39), Messiah (Christ) (Mark 8:29-30; John 20:31), God (Isaiah 40:3; John 1:1-5, 14; Colossians 2:9), Lord (Romans 10:9), Prophet (Matthew 21:11; John 7:40; see also Deuteronomy 18:15), Rabbi or Teacher (John 3:2); Son of David (Matthew 1:1; Matthew 9:27); Second Adam or Last Adam (Romans 5:12-21; 1 Corinthians 15:21-22, 45-49) and King of the Jews (Matthew 27:37). Indeed, Jesus was the Prophet that Moses predicted at Deuteronomy 18:15. As a Prophet, Jesus preached God’s word and performed miracles like those of the great Old Testament prophets (e.g., see Matthew 13:57; Luke 7:16; Luke 24:19; John 6:14). (NLT). Just as the revelation that Jesus is the “I AM,” the “Messiah,” “the Son of God,” the “Son of Man,” the coming Judge, and the “King of the Jews”, so Jesus’ role as Prophet confirmed that His authoritative words are the authentic word of God, which must be heard and obeyed. (NLT)

The disciples saw Jesus do many other miraculous signs in addition to the ones recorded in this book (Gospel of John). But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in Him you will have life by the power of His Name. John 20:30-31 (NLT)

Then Peter stepped forward . . . and shouted to the crowd, “Listen carefully, all of you, fellow Jews and residents of Jerusalem! . . . God raised Jesus from the dead, and we are all witnesses of this. Now He is exalted to the place of highest honor in heaven, at God’s right hand. . . . So let everyone in Israel know for certain that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, to be both Lord and Messiah!” Acts 2:14, 32-33, 36 (NLT)

Life Application Study Bible (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005).
NLT Study Bible (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2008).
Ryrie Study Bible (Chicago, IL: Moody, 1995).
Zondervan NIV Study Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008).
Edwards, James R. The Gospel According to Mark (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2002).
Loyd, Melton, Ph.D., Professor of New Testament. Due West Campus: Erskine Theological Seminary, 2015.
Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary (Victor Books, 1989).

Thursday, April 23, 2015

What Did Jesus Call Himself?

Jesus and His disciples left Galilee and went up to the villages near Caesarea Philippi. As they were walking along, He asked them, “Who do people say I am?” “Well,” they replied, “some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say You are one of the other prophets.” Then He asked them, “But who do you say I am?” Peter replied, “You are the Messiah (Christ).” But Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about Him. Then Jesus began to tell them that the Son of Man must suffer many terrible things and be rejected by the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but three days later He would rise from the dead. Mark 8:27-31 (NLT) 

In Mark 8, Jesus and His disciples traveled to Caesarea Philippi (Mark 8:27). The region of Caesar Philippi is the northern most area of the Holy Land. Then, Jesus asked His disciples: “Who do people say I am?” (Mark 8:27). The disciples gave Jesus common opinions of the day as to His identity (Mark 8:28). The disciples told Jesus that some called Him: “John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say You are one of the other prophets” (Mark 8:28, NLT). Up until Mark 8, Jesus had been avoiding His true identity to the people. Then, Jesus asked the disciples, “But who do you say that I am?” (Mark 8:29). Peter answered Jesus as the self-appointed spokesman, “You are the Messiah (Christ)” (Mark 8:29; see also Matthew 16:16; Luke 9:20).  Messiah is the Hebrew word for the Greek word “Christ.” The term “Christ” means the “Anointed One.” The key term was “Christ.” The name “Jesus Christ” means Jesus the Messiah. Jesus commanded His disciples to tell no one about His true identity as the Messiah. Once again, Jesus invoked the Messianic secret to shield His true identity during His public ministry (Mark 8:30).

Then at Mark 8:31, Jesus began to teach His disciples about the Son of Man and the coming suffering and rejection of the Son of Man (Matthew 16:21; Mark 8:31; Luke 9:22). After Peter’s true confession of His identity, Jesus does not identify Himself as the “Christ.” Instead, Jesus identified Himself as the “Son of Man.” Jesus has many titles in the Holy Scriptures: Son of God (Mark 1:1; Mark 15:39), Messiah (Christ) (Mark 8:29-30; John 20:31), God (Isaiah 40:3; John 1:1-5, 14; Colossians 2:9), Lord (Romans 10:9), Prophet (Matthew 21:11), Rabbi or Teacher (John 3:2); Second Adam or Last Adam (Romans 5:12-21; 1 Corinthians 15:21-22, 45-49) and King of the Jews (Matthew 27:37). Jesus is God incarnate (in the flesh) and the fullness of God dwelt within Jesus (John 1:1-5, 14; Colossians 1:19; Colossians 2:9; Titus 2:13). Moreover, Jesus is not just a Messenger from God but Jesus is God (John 1:1; John 20:28; Romans 9:5). However, “Son of Man” was Jesus’ most common title for Himself during His public ministry on earth (e.g., Mark 2:10; Luke 19:10). The first time that Jesus is referred to Himself as the “Son of Man” occurred at Mark 2:10 with the healing of a paralytic man (Mark 2:3-12).

The title “Son of Man” is used fourteen times in Mark's Gospel, and only from the mouth of Jesus. Twelve of these references are found after Mark 8:29 when Apostle Peter confessed Jesus as the Christ of God (see Mark 2:10, 28; Mark 8:31, 38; Mark 9:9, 12, 31; Mark 10:33, 45; Mark 13:26, 34; Mark 14:21, 41, 61-62). Overall, Jesus used this title Son of Man for Himself approximately eighty-one (81) times in the New Testament Gospels. The title “Son of Man” is used three different ways by Jesus. In three instances, Son of Man occurs in an apocalyptic context, as used in Daniel 7 and 1 Enoch 37-69, where the Son of Man comes in judgement. Also, the Son of Man refers to Jesus’ earthly authority and power to forgive sins (Mark 2:10) and supersede the Sabbath (see Mark 2:28; Luke 6:5). The most predominant usage of the Son of Man concerns Jesus’ pending suffering as God’s final sacrifice for human sin (see Mark 8:31; Mark 9:9, 12, 31; Mark 10:33, 45; Mark 14:21, 41). Thus, Jesus’ title as the Son of Man is not merely indirectness for “the human one.”

The “Son of Man” was Jesus’ favorite designation of Himself during His public ministry on earth. In the Gospels, no one else called Jesus the “Son of Man” except Jesus Himself. Outside the four Gospels, Apostle Paul never called Jesus the Son of Man and Jesus’ disciple never called Jesus “Son of Man.” However, Stephen in the book of Acts called Jesus the “Son of Man.” As Stephen was dying as a martyr in the book of Acts, Stephen sees a vision of the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God (Acts 7:55-56). Obviously, Stephen was referring to Jesus. In Acts 7:56, Stephen beheld the ascended Son of Man standing beside the throne of God to receive him into heaven. Also in book of Revelation, the Apostle John had visions of the Son of Man as Judge of the world (see Revelation 1:13; Revelation 14:14-16).  

Prophet Daniel:  “As my vision continued that night, I saw someone like a Son of Man coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient One and was led into His presence. He was given authority, honor, and sovereignty over all the nations of the world, so that people of every race and nation and language would obey Him. His rule is eternal — it will never end. His kingdom will never be destroyed.” Daniel 7:13-14 (NLT)

From the Old Testament, “Son of Man” is used in the apocalyptic sense as seen in Daniel 7:13-14 where the Prophet Daniel envisioned a “the Son of Man” at the end of days appearing before the throne of God. In the book of Daniel, the Son of Man is like a representative of a purified of Israel or a representative of Israel. In Daniel 7:13-14, the Prophet Daniel envisioned an exalted and heavenly Messianic figure “like a Son of Man” (that is, having human form). His exact identity is not specified, but His role is clear: The Most High God has appointed Him to rule an eternal, universal kingdom that will be over all other nations (Daniel 7:14). Also, this heavenly Figure represented His own people, the holy people of the Most High. These holy people will also share in this Son of Man’s Kingdom over all peoples and nations (Daniel 7:22).

The Old Testament book of Ezekiel also used “son of man” in a similar sense (e.g., Ezekiel 2:1-8). In the book of Ezekiel, the term “son of man” is used ninety-three (93) times emphasizing the Prophet Ezekiel’s humanity as he was addressed by the transcendent God. Son of Man comes from the Aramaic word “Barnasha.” “Barnasha” in Aramaic is a synonym for man as first seen in the book of Ezekiel. Yet, Jesus is the ultimate Son of Man who combines within Himself the human aspect of the title with the exalted heavenly aspect (see Daniel 7:13-14; Revelation 1:13-20). By obeying where Adam failed, Jesus became the first member of God’s new community of faith. All other children of Adam find hope in Him.

According to the Old Testament, this Messianic figure “like a Son of Man” comes in the end times with the clouds of heaven and He is given great authority, glory and sovereign power (Daniel 7:13-14). Jesus also understood Himself as that One who would return to earth in the clouds of heaven (see Mark 8:38; Mark 13:26; Mark 14:61-62; Revelation 1:7). That He comes “with the clouds of heaven” indicates His heavenly origin (Daniel 7:13; see also Exodus 13:21-22; Exodus 19:9; Acts 1:9; 1 Thessalonians 4:17).

One reason Jesus preferred the title “Son of Mas” was because Son of Man was not an inflammatory title such as “Christ” or “Messiah.” The dominate view of the Christ in the first century was that the Christ would be a military and political conqueror that will return the Jews to power and punish the Jews’ enemies (Daniel 9:25-26). Because popular Jewish ideas associated with the term “Christ” were largely political and national, Jesus seldom used Christ to refer to Himself. In the Gospels, Jesus did not want to identify Himself with the normal Jewish understanding of Christ. The title “Son of Man” was largely free of the political and military meanings associated with the Christ. Yet, Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah predicted by the Old Testament (Matthew 1:17).

Also in the New Testament, Jesus appeared to have taken the Jewish apocalyptic notion of the Son of Man as a Warrior Figure that will appear at the end of age to destroy evil. Generally speaking, in Jewish apocalyptic literature there is a Figure that is sometimes called “Son of Man” and sometimes the Son of Man appears as a Warrior Ram. The Son of Man appears at the end of age to engage the forces of evil in the final battle of history. Generally in Jewish literature, the Son of Man generally preceded the Messiah and at other times the Son of Man is usually identified with the Messiah. Either way, the Messiah then sets up His Kingdom on earth. Thus, Jesus’ Jewish audience hearing Jesus referring to Himself as the Son of Man would probably have associated Jesus’ reference to Himself as the Son of Man with a fiery apocalyptic Warrior or military Figure that engage the forces of evil in the final battle of history.

“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give His life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45 (NLT)

The true authority of the “Son of Man” is revealed in Jesus’ humiliation, suffering, and death. The “Son of Man” includes severe suffering as its primary revelation (e.g. see Mark 10:45). Jesus came into this world as a Suffering Servant and Redeemer who would suffer and die for human redemption (salvation) as the Prophet Isaiah clearly predicted at Isaiah 52:13-53:12 (see also Romans 3:25; 2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus often used “Son of Man” to describe Himself as the Suffering Redeemer envisioned by the Prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 52:13–53:12 see also see e.g., Matthew 12:40; Matthew 16:21-28; Matthew 17:9, 12, 22; Matthew 20:18, 28; Matthew 26:2, 24, 45; Luke 9:21-27; Mark 8:29-31; Mark 9:9, 12, 31; Mark 10:33-34, 45; Mark 14:21, 41). Jesus often combined the common Jewish understanding of the Son of Man with another Jewish tradition found at Isaiah 52:13–53:12 concerning the “Suffering Servant.” At Isaiah 52:13–53:12, the Prophet Isaiah envisioned a Suffering Servant that does not fight back against His enemies and He is slayed like a Lamb (see also John 1:29, 35-36; Hebrews 4:15; 1 John 3:5). Thus, Jesus combined the notions of Son of Man and Suffering Servant and identified His true identity of coming to destroy the power of evil (see also Mark 3:23-27). As the Son of Man, Jesus came to deliver people from the power of sin and evil (1 Peter 2:22, 24). Jesus does not destroy evil with another evil. Instead, Jesus willingly absorbed the power and forces of evil into His pure body through His sacrificial death on the Cross that we may die to sin and live for righteousness (see also Mark 8:31; Mark 9:31; Mark 10:33-34; Romans 5:6; Romans 6:3-14). When Jesus was ridiculed and dead for humanities’ sin, Jesus did not perform the law of revenge (see Romans 12:17-21). As the Son of Man, Jesus destroyed the powers of evil not by meeting evil with another evil. Instead, Jesus soak up evil in Himself and this is the only way evil dies as one does not return evil. This is what is meant that Jesus died for our sins and died in our place (2 Corinthians 5:21). The only way to destroy evil is not returning evil! Jesus disarmed and destroyed evil by not returning evil and this is grand paradox of the Son of Man. Jesus also calls His followers to humility, obedience, and suffering to obtain victory over sin and evil (see Matthew 5:39-42, 44-45; 1 Thessalonians 5:15; 1 Peter 3:9). Following Jesus requires self-denial, complete dedication to God, and willing obedience to Him (Luke 9:23; John 14:15-21).

Life Application Study Bible (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005).
NLT Study Bible (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2008).
Zondervan NIV Study Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008).
Edwards, James R. The Gospel According to Mark (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2002).
Loyd, Melton, Ph.D., Professor of New Testament. Due West Campus: Erskine Theological Seminary, 2015.
Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary (Victor Books, 1989). 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Messianic Secret

A man with leprosy came and knelt in front of Jesus, begging to be healed. “If You are willing, You can heal me and make me clean,” he said. Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” He said. “Be healed!” Instantly the leprosy disappeared, and the man was healed. Then Jesus sent him on his way with a stern warning: “Do not tell anyone about this. . . .” But the man went and spread the word, proclaiming to everyone what had happened. As a result, large crowds soon surrounded Jesus, and He could not publicly enter a town anywhere. He had to stay out in the secluded places, but people from everywhere kept coming to Him. Mark 1:40-45 (NLT)

During His public ministry on earth, Jesus healed many diseases, casted out all kinds of evil spirit, and performed many other miracles. Yet, after these miraculous events, Jesus would often caution and warn the people whom He just healed or performed a miracle to keep silent about who He is or what He had done (see e.g., Matthew 8:3-4; Matthew 9:29-31; Matthew 12:15-16; Matthew 16:20; Matthew 17:9; Mark 1:23-25, 34, 44; Mark 3:11-12; Mark 5:42-43; Mark 7:36; Mark 8:29-30; Mark 9:9; Luke 4:41; Luke 8:56; Luke 9:21; John 6:15). On three separate occasions, Jesus commanded evil (unclean) spirits to silence as these evil spirits recognized Jesus’ true identity as the Son of the Holy God (Mark 1:25, 34; Mark 3:11-12). Also, Jesus ordered silence after four miracles (cleansing of the leper at Mark 1:44; raising of a dead girl at Mark 5:43; healing of a deaf-mute at Mark 7:36-37; healing of a blind man at Mark 8:26). Moreover, Jesus twice commanded His disciples to silence upon their recognition of Him as the Messiah (Mark 8:29-30; Mark 9:9-10). Twice Jesus withdraws from the crowds to escape His detection as the Messiah (Mark 7:24; Mark 9:30). These various people who personally eye witnessed Jesus’ miracles and healing often wanted to make a Messianic claim of Jesus but Jesus would often say “No.” But ironically, the command to silence by Jesus as to His identity as the Messiah often resulted in the opposite: the more Jesus commanded for silence, the more people kept talking about Jesus’ miracles and healing (see Mark 1:45; Mark 5:20; Mark 7:24, 36-37). The people needed a miracle, they were desperate, and they needed Jesus’ help (Mark 1:34). Jesus’ authoritative teaching, healing, actions and bearings all revealed Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah and the Son of God.

Jesus told the crowd not to tell anyone, but the more He told them not to, the more they spread the news. They were completely amazed and said again and again, “Everything He does is wonderful. He even makes the deaf to hear and gives speech to those who cannot speak.” Mark 7:36-37 (NLT)

Why did Jesus want to silence the people and not reveal His true Messianic identity? The Holy Scriptures teaches about Jesus’ great popularity with the people (e.g., see Matthew 4:23-25; Mark 1:28, 45; Mark 3:7-8; Luke 7:17) coupled with His growing opposition from the religious leaders (e.g., see Mark 2:6-7 16, 24; Mark 3:2; 6, 22). Jesus’ full revelation early in His ministry as the long awaited Messiah could have triggered a crisis before Jesus had completed His ministry on earth (Matthew 8:4; Matthew 16:20; Mark 5:19, 43; Mark 7:36; Mark 8:26). Bible scholars commonly called Jesus’ command for silence about His true identity as Messiah the “Messianic secret.” Scholars have given two reasons for explaining why Jesus wanted to hide His true identity during His public ministry.

First in the first century, the Roman government would not tolerate anyone making a Messianic claim. Often, there were others in the first century claiming to be the Messiah and these self-appointed Messianic claims invoked rebellion against the Roman government. So, the quickest way to stop Jesus’ true Messianic ministry was for people to tell a Roman informant or solider that Jesus claimed to be the “Christ” or the “Messiah.” If a Roman official heard the term “Christ,” these Roman officials would have thought of Jesus as a military leader leading an open rebellion against Rome. If Jesus had publicly used “Messiah” of Himself early in His public ministry, He would have ignited political aspirations in His hearers to appoint Him as King to drive out the Roman occupiers. This is precisely the importance of the Jews’ action at Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:1-9; Mark 11:1-10; Luke 19:29-38; John 12:12-15). Messiah is the Hebrew word for the Greek word “Christ.” The key term was “Christ.” The name “Jesus Christ” means Jesus the Messiah. There are many titles given to Jesus in the New Testament – Son of God (Mark 1:1; Mark 15:39), Son of Man (Mark 8:31), Prophet (Matthew 21:11), Rabbi or Teacher (John 3:2) and King of the Jews (Matthew 27:37). However, the title Christ is the most politically explosive and politically dangerous title given for Jesus. Because of the false concepts of the Jewish people, who looked for an exclusively national and political Messiah, Jesus did not want to precipitate a revolution against Rome. Other titles given to Jesus, such as Son of God or Prophet would not have any political references or meanings. So, if Jesus said He was the Christ or if the people proclaimed Jesus were the Christ and the Rome informant heard, Jesus would have been arrested immediately. Thus, early in Jesus’ public ministry, Jesus did not openly claim to be the Christ. Ironically, there is only one place in the Gospel that Jesus openly claimed to be the Christ and this is found at Mark 14:61-62 and this is significant Bible passage. Jesus’ self-revelation and admission as Christ eventually lead to His death. The Roman government had no toleration for the Christ. Therefore, Jesus invoked His Messianic secret to allow the continuation of God’s plan of redemption through His sacrificial death on the Cross (Luke 24:21; Romans 3:24-25).

Second, the Gospel writers reveal that everyone in the whole Judean countryside, all the people of Jerusalem, the Galilean region and Gentile regions were talking about Jesus and Jesus was gaining popularity and fame among the people (e.g., see Matthew 4:23-25; Mark 1:28, 45; Mark 3:7-8; Luke 7:16-17). Essentially, Jesus is a “Rock Star”! Jesus’ miracles, authoritative teachings, casting out of evil spirits, and healing help propelled Jesus’ notoriety among the people. Also, the people were hopeless and suffering and Jesus provided the people salvation. The word “saved” in both the Old Testament and the New Testament means rescue, restoration, and wholeness. Jesus brought the people restoration, mercy, and healing. Sadly, the people did not want to follow Jesus as a faithful disciple but only to get a quick miracle, food, or healing.

Then, calling the crowd to join His disciples, He said, “If any of you wants to be My follower (disciple), you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow Me. If you try to hang on to your life (soul), you will lose it. But if you give up your life (soul) for My sake and for the sake of the Good News (Gospel), you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul? If anyone is ashamed of Me and My message in these adulterous and sinful days, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when He returns in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” Mark 8:34-38 (NLT)

Following Jesus as His disciple means placing Jesus first and foremost above all else, even one’s own life (e.g., see Exodus 20:3; Matthew 6:33; Mark 8:34-38; Mark 10:17-23). Jesus said if anyone wants to be His disciple, then one must put aside selfishness, self-centeredness, and self-love and follow Jesus wholeheartedly (Mark 8:34). Anyone who insists on placing oneself first before Jesus will lose life. Only those who “love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind” will find true life, happiness, and peace (see Deuteronomy 6:4-6; Matthew 22:37; Mark 12:29-30; Luke 10:27). Jesus is God incarnate (in the flesh) and the fullness of God is within Jesus (John 1:1-5, 14; Colossians 1:19; Colossians 2:9; Titus 2:13). The good promise is the one who abandons his or her life for God (God the Father, God the Son (Jesus) and God the Holy Spirit) will find life (Mark 8:34). Following Jesus is not about getting but empting; not about securing but abandoning all for the sake of God’s glory, honor and love.

Even more, Jesus rejected the widely held Jewish view of the Messiah’s Kingship (see e.g., John 18:36; Luke 24:21). During His public ministry, Jesus did not want to stir up the popular, but mistaken, Jewish expectations of a wonder-working Messiah that would arise as King of the Jews and deliver the Jewish people from Roman oppression and bondage and so usher in the Kingdom of God (see Luke 1:68; Luke 2:38; Luke 21:28; Luke 24:21). In the first century, the dominate view of the Christ (Messiah) was that the Christ would be a military and political conqueror. Possibly with the Messianic secret, Jesus wanted first to show by His words and deeds that the true meaning of a Messiah (in contrast to many popular first century notions of a Messiah) (see Matthew 12:17-21).

Jesus had a quiet ministry as God’s Servant to bring justice, hope, repentance, forgiveness of sins, and salvation to all people as Christ the Lord (Matthew 1:21; Luke 2:11; John 3:17; John 4:4-42; John 8:3-11; Acts 5:31). However while Jesus was in Gentile (non-Jewish) territory, Jesus encouraged the man healed of many evil spirits to “tell how much the Lord has done for you” (Mark 5:19). This statement from Jesus was in marked contrast to Jesus’ exhortation to silence after He performed a miraculous healings (e.g. see, Mark 1:34, 44). In Gentile territory, there was little danger that about His identity as Messiah would insight a riot by the people.

Then, the eleven disciples left for Galilee, going to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him — but some of them doubted! Jesus came and told His disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations (people), baptizing them in the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:16-20 (NLT)

Nevertheless, once Jesus’ mission from God was completed, Jesus commissioned His disciples (faithful followers) to go and tell the entire world of His identity (Matthew 28:16-20; see also Acts 1:8). Jesus’ divine mission was to be the final sacrifice for human sin. By His sacrificial death and His resurrection, Jesus provided redemption for all people (see Matthew 20:28; Romans 3:24-25; Titus 2:14). Complete human understanding of Jesus’ identity was the Messiah would only be possible after Jesus’ resurrection (Mark 9:9-10). After Jesus’ sacrificial death and resurrection, Jesus commissioned His disciples to tell everyone what they has experience. Jesus’ finished work demonstrated His true and full identity as the Messiah!

“So let everyone in Israel know for certain that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, to be both Lord and Messiah!” Acts 2:36 (NLT)

The early Jewish church following Jesus’ death and resurrection did not hesitate to call Jesus the Messiah (Matthew 16:16; Acts 2:36; Ephesian 1:1). The Apostle Peter’s first sermon at Pentecost openly acknowledged Jesus the Christ (see Acts 2:36; Acts 4:33). Jesus’ sacrificial death and resurrection confirmed Him as the true Messiah sent from God the Father (Romans 1:4; Philippians 2:9-11).

Therefore, God elevated Him (Jesus) to the place of highest honor and gave Him the Name above all other names, that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:9-11 (NLT)

Zondervan NIV Study Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008).
Butler, Trent. Holman Bible Dictionary (Broadman & Holman Pub., 1991).
Elwell, Walter A. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, Second Edition (Grand Rapids, MI:  Baker Book House Company, 2001).
Edwards, James R. The Gospel According to Mark (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2002).
Loyd, Melton, Ph.D., Professor of New Testament. Due West Campus: Erskine Theological Seminary, 2015.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Who Is Jesus? Jesus Is An Authoritative Teacher and Healer.

Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the Good News of the Kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. News about Him spread all over Syria, and people brought to Him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed, and He healed them. Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis (Ten Cities), Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed Him. Matthew 4:23-25 (NIV)

After Jesus preached His initial sermon (Mark 1:14-15) and called His first four disciples (Mark 1:16-20), what follows in the Gospels is a series of stories that paints the theological portrait of Jesus not only as the Son of God but as a Preacher, Teacher and Healer (Matthew 4:23-25; see also Mark 1:35-39; Luke 4:42-44). The chronological connections of these stories are very loose because the Gospel writers do not provide a day by day account or travel log of Jesus’ public ministry. For example in Mark’s Gospel, Mark will say “sometimes later” and no one knows the exact time. This is common in all four Gospels because the writers do not give us a clear chronology of Jesus’ day to day activities. Instead, the Gospel writers paints Jesus’ theological portrait with their series of stories about Jesus’ public ministry. All four Gospels in the New Testament portrays Jesus as a traveling Preacher, Teacher and Healer that travels from one small village to another and Jesus is accompanied by His disciples (faithful and genuine followers) (Matthew 4:23-25).

Jesus preached the Good News (also called the “Gospel”) of the Kingdom (Luke 4:43-44). The Good News has come to everyone who wanted to hear this lifesaving message. The Gospel is that the Kingdom of God has come – the presence, reign and rule of God came to earth with Jesus. Also, the Gospel is that God is with us and God loves and cares for us (John 3:16; see also Luke 17:20-21). The prerequisites (or requirements) for entrance into the God’s Kingdom included repentance (Matthew 4:17; Mark 1:15), righteousness (Matthew 5:20), and wholehearted faith (dependence, allegiance, and belief) in God (Matthew 18:3; see also John 3:3).

Jesus and His companions went to the town of Capernaum. When the Sabbath day came, He went into the synagogue and began to teach. The people were amazed at His teaching, for He taught with real authority — quite unlike the teachers of religious law. Mark 1:21-22 (NLT)

Beginning with Mark 1:21, Jesus and His disciples came to the town of Capernaum and on Saturday (Sabbath) morning and they went into the Jewish place of worship — the synagogue (see also Luke 4:31). The town of Capernaum was Jesus’ headquarters or base of operation during His public ministry in the Galilee region (Matthew 4:13-14). Jesus moved from Nazareth, His hometown, to Capernaum (Matthew 4:12-13). Capernaum is located about 20 miles farther north of Nazareth and situated on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee. When the Sabbath day came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach (Mark 1:21). Jesus customarily went into the synagogue on the Sabbath Day (Saturday) (Luke 4:16). Jesus was a good Jew and the synagogue was His institution. The synagogue was the center of Jewish worship and could be organized anywhere by ten married Jewish men. Thus, Jesus’ custom of regular worship sets an example for all God’s people.

Mark summarizes Jesus’ ministry by saying “and He was teaching them” (see also Mark 1:21; Mark 2:13; Mark 10:1; Mark 14:49). Throughout Jesus’ public ministry, Jesus was custom to teaching the people (Mark 10:1). Although Mark records far fewer actual teachings of Jesus than the other Gospel writers, there is a remarkable emphasis on Jesus as Teacher. The words “Teacher,” “teach” or “teaching,” and “Rabbi” are applied to Jesus in Mark’s Gospel thirty-nine (39) times. As Jesus was teaching, the congregation was astonished and amazed at His sermon (Mark 1:22; Mark 6:2; Luke 4:32; see also Luke 2:46-48). Gospel writer Mark frequently reported the amazement and astonishment that Jesus’ teaching and action produced during His public ministry (e.g., see Mark 2:12; Mark 5:20, 42; Mark 6:2, 51; Mark 7:37; Mark 10:26, 32; Mark 11:18; Mark 12:17; Mark 15:5). Jesus taught with real authority. He was forthright and confident. Unlike other synagogue teachers, Jesus did not try to prove His sermon points by quibbling and quoting like the religious teachers. Other religious teachers in the synagogue often quoted from well-known rabbis to give their teaching more authority. However, Jesus did not have that need because Jesus is God (e.g., see John 20:28; Romans 10:9; Colossians 1:19; Colossians 2:9). With the fullness of God dwelling in Him, Jesus knew exactly what the Holy Scriptures said and meant as He is the ultimate authority! As God, Jesus taught and spoke as One with divine authority as Jesus’ authority was Himself (Matthew 7:28-29; Matthew 9:6, 8; Mark 1:22; John 7:46). Even more, Jesus’ life was authentic and true. There was no discrepancy in what He said and what He did. Jesus was real! Jesus preached and His life and teaching matched perfectly with no inconsistency. The people observed Jesus’ genuineness and authenticity as His life, teaching and preaching produced “good fruit” (Matthew 7:15-20).

Suddenly, a man in the synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit began shouting, “Why are You interfering with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are — the Holy One sent from God!” Jesus cut him short. “Be quiet! Come out of the man,” He ordered. At that, the evil spirit screamed, threw the man into a convulsion, and then came out of him. Mark 1:23-26 (NLT)

In the Jewish synagogue, there was one with “an unclean spirit” (Mark 1:23). This person’s life was controlled and driven by evil and he was suffering and bondage. This scene revealed the powerlessness of the synagogue with the presence of an unclean spirit. Even in the synagogue, this man life was controlled by evil and he was suffering. People with unclean (evil) spirits are not happy people. Such evil spirits could cause mental disorders and other violent behaviors (Matthew 8:28-34; Mark 5:1-20; Luke 8:26-29), bodily disease (Luke 13:10-16) and rebellion against God (Revelation 16:14). The unclean spirit recognized Jesus (Mark 1:24). Jesus authoritatively said to the unclean spirit to “be quiet” and to “come out of the man” (Mark 1:25, 34). This is one of many exorcisms in Mark’s Gospel. There were people in the first century casting out unclean spirits with special charms, special water, and many other long and struggling methods to drive out the evil spirits. However, these people struggled to gain power over evil spirits. In Mark, Jesus simply said “be quiet” and “come out of him!” (Mark 1:25). Jesus simply authoritatively spoke with no necessities of potions, magic charms, etc. and no effort. Jesus’ Word was His authority. The evil spirt immediately responded to Jesus’ Lordship and Kingship (Mark 1:26). Jesus healed not just their physical sickness, but also their spiritual sickness as well. There is no sin, sickness, pain or problem too great or too small for Jesus.

Amazement gripped the audience, and they began to discuss what had happened. “What sort of new teaching is this?” they asked excitedly. “It has such authority! Even evil spirits obey His orders!” The news about Jesus spread quickly throughout the entire region of Galilee. Mark 1:27-28 (NLT)

At Mark 1:27, all were amazed and all began to discuss “who was Jesus.” Jesus’ teaching was not based on scribal authority and unclean spirits obeyed Jesus’ authority (Mark 1:28). Jesus’ fame spread throughout Galilee (Luke 4:36-37). By days end and because of the fame of Jesus, people were bringing their sick, the lame and people filled with evil spirits to Jesus (Mark 1:32-34). There was hopelessness and despair of the people. Jesus healed all kinds of disease and casted out all kinds of evil spirits. Jesus would not let the demons to speak because they recognized Jesus.

Life Application Study Bible (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005).
Ryrie Study Bible (Chicago, IL: Moody, 1995).
Zondervan NIV Study Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008).
Loyd, Melton, Ph.D., Professor of New Testament. Due West Campus: Erskine Theological Seminary, 2015.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Following Jesus

One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon (Peter) and his brother Andrew throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow Me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” And they left their nets at once and followed Him. A little farther up the shore Jesus saw Zebedee’s sons, James and John, in a boat repairing their nets. He called them at once, and they also followed Him, leaving their father, Zebedee, in the boat with the hired men. Mark 1:16-20 (NLT)

Mark 1:16-20 gives the first account of Jesus’ call of His first four disciples, who were commercial fisherman (see parallel references at Matthew 4:18-22; Luke 5:2-11; John 1:35-42). These four fishermen were common and ordinary working men and they worked in the very popular fishing industry of the first century. In the first century world, most people ate fish and the fishing industry was very expensive and burdened with heavy taxation from the Roman government. The fishing industry was strenuous and physically demanding work. The men who worked in the fishing industry were not very religious and did not recognize the Sabbath laws or the laws of clean and unclean. Also, fisherman bargained with other fishermen and they often were around all kinds of wicked and dishonest people.

One day as Jesus was walking along the shores at the Sea of Galilee, Jesus called four ordinary fishermen while working. First, Jesus saw Simon (Peter) and his brother Andrew fishing with nets and Jesus said to the two men, “Come, follow Me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” (Mark 1:17 NLT). Another translation said, “Come, follow Me! And I will make you fishermen for the souls of men!” (Mark 1:17, TLB). At once, Simon and Andrew immediately left their nets and followed Jesus (Mark 1:18). A little farther up the shoreline, Jesus saw Zebedee’s sons, James and John, in a boat mending their nets (Mark 1:19). Once again, Jesus He called the two brothers while working, and immediately James and John left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed Jesus (Mark 1:20).

Mark uses the term “following Jesus” or “following Me” nineteen (19) times in his Gospel. One of the fundamental purposes of Mark’s Gospel is to help readers understand and accept the call to follow Jesus. “Following Jesus” describes what it means to live in an intimate relationship with Jesus. The Gospels reveal that the call to discipleship is definite and demands a response of total commitment or allegiance to Jesus with a genuine heart devoted to Him above all else (e.g. see also Matthew 4:18-22; Luke 5:27-28; Luke 14:25-27; Luke 18:28-30). Following Jesus requires right heart motives and not selfish reasons (Mark 8:34). Jesus asks for lifelong allegiance (Luke 9:57-62) as the essential means of doing the will of God (Matthew 12:49-50; John 7:16-18). Most important, following Jesus means genuine repentance (turning from sins and turning to God) and belief (faith and trust) in Jesus (see Mark 1:14-15). In essence, being a disciple is a matter of following Jesus with a willing, obedient, and repentant heart (e.g., see Matthew 4:17; John 13:34-35; John 15:9-17). To follow Jesus for our own selfish purposes would be asking Jesus to follow us.

Even more, those who follow Jesus are promised entrance into God’s eternal Kingdom (see John 3:15-21; John 11:25-26). Also, followers of Jesus receive God’s forgiveness for their sins (1 John 4:9-10; see also Mark 2:7, 10; Romans 3:23-26; Romans 5:9-11; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21), and membership into God’s family (John 1:12-13). Followers of Jesus are saved from judgment and condemnation (Ephesians 2:8-9) and obtain eternal life (Titus 3:3-8). Amazingly, becoming a genuine follower of Jesus takes us way from a life of egotism, self-centeredness, and narcissism to a life of honest love of God and love of others (Matthew 22:34-40; Mark 12:28-31; Luke 10:25-37; John 13:34-35). As followers of Jesus, we actually become better people and God works all things for our good (Romans 8:28)

These four ordinary men – Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John – called by Jesus did not make excuses or hesitate when called by Jesus. Immediately, these ordinary men left at once and followed Him. Jesus told called these four ordinary men to leave their fishing business and become “fishers of people” (Matthew 4:19) and to help others find God. Jesus was calling these four ordinary men away from their productive business to be productive spiritually by seeking people for God. The God of the universe was fully in Jesus (Colossians 2:9).

When first following Jesus, these four men did not fully understand Jesus’ mission and role as Messiah, Son of God, and King of Israel until after Jesus’ death. These men’ faith often wavered or faltered during Jesus’ earthly ministry. Despite their wavering faith and lack of understanding during Jesus’ earthly ministry, these men became powerful witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection and the saving acts of God. Most important, their lives were transformed by God's Holy Spirit. After Jesus' ascension to heaven, these men were filled with God’s Holy Spirit and empowered to continue Jesus’ ministry to the world.

When looking at these four ordinary men who left all to follow Jesus, Christians today would call these four men heroes for following Jesus. In the first century, these men would have been looked upon as shameful and disgraceful. In the first century, a man’s first loyalty was his family in obedience to the Fifth Commandment (see Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 5:16). In the first century Jewish world, the Fifth commandment was taken very serious. In that culture, families had no other means or social network to survive without family support. In Rome society, children and older adults were sometimes abandoned if no families were available for care and support. In Jewish society, caring for one’s family were held in high esteemed. So these first disciples who abandoned their families and followed Jesus would have been considered shameful and disgraceful.

Also at this point in Jesus public ministry, who was Jesus? Nowhere at this point had Jesus obtained the level of rabbinic authority although later in the Scriptures Jesus was considered a Rabbi (e.g., see Matthew 26:25, 49; Mark 9:5; Mark 10:51; Mark 11:21; John 1:38, 49; John 3:2, 26). In the first century, one became a rabbi after two significant events. First, one had to apply for admission to the rabbi and the rabbi had to accept the student as his disciple. Second, the rabbi then taught his disciples the oral interpretations of the Law which his disciples memorized. The disciples did not follow the rabbi but the disciples followed the content of the rabbis’ teaching. The first century Jewish world was an oral society and teaching was often passed down through oral communication and then memorized. The Talmud was the written version of the oral interpretation of the Law. Thus, the rabbis passed the oral interpretation of the Law from one disciple to another disciple. Rabbis even taught their students certain ways to prayer as noted in the Gospels with the disciples asking Jesus for a special prayer.

In many respects Jesus differed from the traditional rabbis. In the Gospels, the disciples do not first come to Jesus but Jesus takes the initiative of first calling the disciples. Jesus’ calling of disciples was the very opposite of the way first century rabbis called disciples. Jesus called the disciples to “Follow Me” (Luke 5:27). In the first century, disciples of the rabbis could select their rabbis. Also, Jesus called His disciples during their ordinary fishing duties. As indicated above, a fisherman’s job was very strenuous work and Jesus sought these disciples while working their very strenuous fishing jobs. Also, Jesus’ call to become His disciple is opening ended with the statement “follow Me”. Jesus did not tell these four men to come and follow a particular interpretation of the Law or a body of teaching but to come follow Him as a Person. Jesus’ calling of His disciples were very uncommon in the first century Jewish world. Thus, Jesus’ call of His first disciples was considered radical and not typical of first century rabbis calling their disciples.  Yet Jesus’ calling of these disciples would also be considered a disgraceful event because these first four men left their families and their responsibilities to follow Jesus.

Most important, Jesus’ call of His first disciples reveal the Kingdom of God involves ordinary people taking radical steps towards God. God’s Kingdom is present in everyday and ordinary life. God’s Kingdom arrived in the Person of Jesus (see Matthew 4:23; Mark 1:14-15; Luke 4:18-21, 42-43). For these fishermen, the Kingdom of God came in the ordinary daily activities of life even in the pit of working. The incarnation (advent) of Jesus reveals God is omnipresent every day. The Kingdom of God also has a future and not-yet-realized dimension that awaits Jesus’ second return (Mark 14:25, 61-62). The ultimate judgment of evil, the final establishment of justice, and the extermination of disease, poverty, and even death will find their fulfillment when Jesus returns in glory (see Mark 13:24-27), judges the world (Mark 8:38; Mark 13:26; Mark 14:62) and resurrects the dead (1 Corinthians 15:12-57; 1 Thessalonians 4:13–5:11). Thus, the Kingdom of God arrived at the first advent (incarnation) of Jesus and will be finalized at Jesus’ second return.

Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to Him those He wanted, and they came to Him. He appointed Twelve -- designating them apostles -- that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons. These are the Twelve He appointed: Simon (to whom He gave the name Peter); James son of Zebedee and his brother John (to them He gave the name Boanerges, which means Sons of Thunder); Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Him. Mark 3:13-19 (NIV)

Mark 3:13-19 gives Mark’s account of the choosing of the Twelve (see parallel references at Matthew 10:2-4; Luke 6:12-16; Acts 1:13). The four lists of the Twelve in the New Testament are sometimes called “disciples” and “apostles”. The exact names of the Twelve disciples in the New Testament are not consistent but varied in Matthew 10:2-4; Mark 3:13-19; Luke 6:12-16; Acts 1:13. In the early church, the names and identities of the Twelve apostles were not important. Instead, the early church emphasized there were Twelve apostles appointed by Jesus to represent the Twelve tribes of Israel. Thus, Jesus did not choose Twelve disciples for practical reason but as a connection with Israel (Matthew 19:28), showing the connection between the old religious system and the new one based on Jesus' new covenant. Many people followed Jesus, including women (e.g., see Mark 15:40; Luke 8:1-4; Luke 23:49; Luke 24:10; John 19:25). However, the Twelve received the most intensive training from Jesus. We see the impact of these men and women throughout the rest of the New Testament. Peter, James and John dominated the story.

Most important, Mark 3:14 also gives another definition of discipleship. The disciples were called to be with or follow Jesus so they would preach and have authority to “cast out demon”. So there are three things to be a disciple (1) intimate fellowship or association with Jesus Himself; (2) to preach the Kingdom of God – Jesus came preaching the Kingdom, and (3) to cast out demons (e.g., see Matthew 10:1,5-15; Mark 6:7-13; Luke 9:1-6). Such good tasks were not limited to the Twelve apostles (Luke 10:1-24).

At Mark 3:14, Jesus called the Twelve men “apostles.” The difficult question is what was the place of the Twelve apostles in the life of the early church and that answer is not clear from the reading of the New Testament. There were differing meanings of the role of the apostles in the New Testament. The word “apostle” basically means a person who is sent on a mission as a messenger or authorized representative (Mark 6:30). In the New Testament, the term “apostle” primarily meant that group of people within the early church who were eyewitnesses of the historical Jesus and traveled with the Lord Jesus from the time He was baptized by John the Baptist through His resurrection until the day He was ascended to heaven (Acts 1:21-22). Jesus originally gave the title “apostle” to His closest circle of friends, the Twelve (Luke 6:12-16).

Apparently Jesus’ disciples first included “a great multitude of disciples” (see Luke 6:17; Acts 1:15). Jesus formed certain smaller and more specifically defined groups within that “great multitude.” These smaller groups would include a group of “seventy” or “seventy-two” (Luke 10:1, 17), the “Twelve” (Matthew 11:1; Mark 6:7; Luke 9:1), and perhaps an even smaller, inner group within the Twelve, consisting especially of Peter, James, and John — whose names (with Andrew) always figure first in the lists of the Twelve (see Matthew 10:2; Mark 3:16-17; Luke 6:14; Acts 1:13).  Peter, Andrew, James, and John’ calling stories are especially highlighted in the Gospels (see Matthew 4:18-22; John 1:35-42), and these inner circle of men (Peter, James and John) accompanied Jesus on certain significant occasions of healing and great revelation (see Matthew 17:1; Mark 13:3; Luke 8:51). The New Testament frequently uses the term “disciple” to refer generally to all those who come to Jesus in faith, having heard and believed the Good News (Gospel), and obey His teaching with allegiance and faithfulness (e.g. see Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 6:1-2, 7).. Essentially, the words “apostle,” “believer,” and “disciple” are synonymous.

After the first Easter, the term apostle was expanded by the early church to include not only to the Twelve, but to a wider circle of authoritative people that had eyewitness and proclaimed the resurrected Jesus (e.g. see Acts 14:4,14; Romans 16:7; 1 Corinthians 4:9; Corinthians 15:5-9; 2 Corinthians 11:13; Galatians 1:19; Galatians 2:7-9). For instance Paul was considered an apostle by the early church (see Romans 1:1) and apostle also applied to larger groups of people including Barnabas (see Acts 14:14), James the Lord’s brother (Galatians 1:19) and possible Andronicus and Junias (Romans 16:7). The Gospels clearly show that the word “disciple” or “apostle” can refer to others besides the Twelve (Mark 4:10). These disciples included a larger company of people from whom He selected the Twelve (Mark 3:7-19; Luke 6:13-17). This larger group of disciples or followers included both men and women (see Luke 8:1-3; Luke 23:49) from all backgrounds of life and they represented a wide range of life experiences. Even the Twelve included a variety of people: fishermen, a tax collector, and a Zealot. Jesus was no doubt especially popular among the poor, outcast and religiously unclean. However, Jesus was also popular with people of great wealth and of theological training (e.g., see Luke 19:1-10; John 3:1-3; John 12:42; John 19:38-39). Nevertheless, these initial Twelve men chosen by Jesus were considered authorized representatives of Jesus. Importantly, the disciples or apostles of Jesus are to do the same things that Jesus did - casting our demons, preaching, and healing. The disciples are to continue Jesus’ good work on earth (Matthew 10:1; Mark 3:14-15).

Then Jesus went out to the lakeshore again and taught the crowds that were coming to Him. As He walked along, He saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at his tax collector’s booth. “Follow Me and be My disciple,” Jesus said to him. So Levi got up and followed Him. Later, Levi invited Jesus and His disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. (There were many people of this kind among Jesus’ followers). But when the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees saw Him eating with tax collectors and other sinners, they asked His disciples, “Why does He eat with such scum?” When Jesus heard this, He told them, “Healthy people do not need a doctor — sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.” Mark 2:13-17 (NLT)

Mark 2:13-17 gives the call account of Levi the tax collector by the sea (see parallel references at Matthew 9:9-13; Luke 5:27-32). Jesus spent a lot of time during His public ministry by the Galilean sea. The sea was where unchurched people were present. As with the four Peter, Andrew, James and John, Jesus told Levi (also known as Matthew) to “follow Me” and Levi immediately rose up and followed Jesus (Mark 2:14). Jesus’ calling of Levi was a radical action. In the first century, tax collectors were considered notorious sinners. Fishermen were on the outer edge of religious society and tax collectors were considered scum (Mark 2:16). These tax collectors were Jews and unjustly stole money through tax collection for the Roman government from other Jews. When Jesus called Levi, He added to His closest circle a notorious cheat and theft. Levi would go on to write the Gospel of Matthew.

Mark goes on to say that Jesus shared a meal with Levi’s tax collector associates and other sinners (Mark 2:15). In this first century culture, a meal was a sacred occasion. For Jesus to eat with these people was to open His life to their sin and wickedness. Essentially, Jesus’ eating with sinners and tax collectors crushed religious first century standards. The religious authorities were amazed at Jesus’ association with tax collectors and other sinners (Mark 2:16). However, Jesus spent time with whoever needed or wanted to hear and accept His message — poor, rich, bad, and good. Jesus heard the religious authorities’ discussion about this sharing a meal with tax collectors and sinners and said “Healthy people do not need a doctor — sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners” (Mark 2:17 NLT). Jesus’ statement is a clear and simpler answer of why Jesus came into the world and His statement unleashed a religious fire storm.

Then, calling the crowd to join His disciples, He said, “If any of you wants to be My follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow Me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for My sake and for the sake of the Good News (Gospel), you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul? If anyone is ashamed of Me and My message in these adulterous and sinful days, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when He returns in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” Mark 8:34-38 (NLT)

Life Application Study Bible (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005).
NLT Study Bible (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2008).
Zondervan NIV Study Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008).
Butler, Trent. Holman Bible Dictionary (Broadman & Holman Pub., 1991).

Loyd, Melton, Ph.D., Professor of New Testament. Due West Campus: Erskine Theological Seminary, 2015.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Jesus’ First Sermon

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the Gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the Gospel.” Mark 1:14-15 (RSV)

Empowered by the Holy Spirit and passing the test of pure evil (Mark 1:9-13; Luke 4:14), Jesus gives His first sermon in Galilee. Jesus proclaimed, “The time promised by God has come at last . . . .  The Kingdom of God is near (arrived)! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!” (Mark 1:14-15 NLT). These first words spoken by Jesus give the theme and centerpiece of Jesus’ preaching and teaching (see also Matthew 4:17). Jesus’ teaching and preaching focused on the Kingdom of God, the need for repentance, and belief (trust) in the Gospel of God (Mark 1:14-15). More than a hundred references to the Kingdom of God appear in the New Testament Gospels, many in Jesus’ parables (e.g., see Matthew 13:24, 31-33, 44-47; Matthew 20:1; Matthew 22:2; Mark 4:11; Luke 8:1).

The Gospel is called “the Gospel of God” because the Gospel comes from God and reconciles (unites) us to God through wholehearted faith in Jesus (see 2 Corinthians 5:17-21; see also Romans 1:1; Romans 15:16; 2 Corinthians 11:7; 1 Thessalonians 2:2, 8-9; 1 Peter 4:17). Also, the Gospel is “the Gospel of the Kingdom” because faith (trust) in Jesus brings you into God’s Kingdom, into God’s family, and brings eternal life (John 1:12-13; John 3:15-16). Gospel is the usual New Testament translation of the Greek word “euangelion.” The word Gospel simply means “Good News.” The Gospel is the Good News that God's unique Son (Jesus Christ) has come into the world to bring salvation (Matthew 1:21). Through belief (faith or trust) in God’s Son and repentance, our sins can be forgiven, we can be reconciled to God, and declared God’s child (e.g., see John 1:12-14; John 3:16; Ephesians 2:5, 8-9; 2 Corinthians 5:11-21). Even more, the Gospel is God’s proclamation victory over sin, death, and hell (see 1 Corinthians 15:1-8, 51-52; Galatians 1:1-9). The Gospel is the power of God’s Holy Spirit to raise the dead, to bring new life, and release bondage from sin (Romans 1:16-17; Romans 15:13; 1 Corinthians 2:4-5; 1 Thessalonians 1:5). Most important, JESUS IS THE GOSPEL OF GOD! In Jesus is the fullness (totality) of God with all God’s powers and attributes (Colossians 1:19; Colossians 2:9).

With the arrival of Jesus, the Kingdom of God had come (Mark 1:15). The only response to the arrival of God’s Kingdom was to first repent and second trust (believe) in the glorious Good News (Gospel) of the Kingdom of God. Like the Old Testament prophets and John the Baptist, God’s unique Son Jesus also preached the necessity of repentance (Matthew 3:2; Matthew 4:17; see also e.g., Hosea 3:4-5; Joel 2:12-17; Amos 5:4-6, 14-15). Repentances mean wholeheartedly turning our hearts and minds away from sins and genuinely seeking God. God always grants forgiveness when there is honest repentance.

Next, the idea of God’s Kingdom is central to Jesus’ teaching and preaching. What does “Kingdom of God” mean? The basic meaning of Kingdom of God means the reign or rule of God. The Old Testament contains no specific references to the Kingdom of God. However, the Kingdom of God takes its initial shape from Israel’s understanding of God as King (e.g. see 1 Samuel 12:12; 1 Kings 22:19; Psalm 5:2; Psalm 47:2, 7-8; Psalm 146:10; Isaiah 52:7; Revelation 4:9). In the Old Testament, God is spoken of as ruling and reigning (e.g. see Psalm 103:19; Daniel 4:17, 25-37). As Creator of the world, God is exalted above all creation and rules in majesty. The arrival of Jesus ushered in the eternal and heavenly reign of God throughout all the earth.

The proclamation of God’s Kingdom by Jesus meant “the time has come” (Mark 1:15). The Apostle Paul calls this moment the “fullness of time” or “just the right time” (Romans 5:6; Galatians 4:4; Ephesians 1:10).  In Greek language, there are two words for time. The first is “chronos” which means progressive time, quantity of time, or chronological time. Second, mean “kairos” which means “critical or opportune moment” and this form of time requires an immediate action or an immediate response to a significant moment in time. So when Jesus said “the time has come,” Jesus was declaring the right “kairos” has come and you most do something now (Mark 1:15). The rule or reign of God’s Kingdom had now come into the human world and the Kingdom will also arrive at the second coming of Jesus (e.g., Matthew 25:1-46). So the Kingdom of God is the rule (reign) of God which He extended over human lives through the ministry of Jesus (Mark 1:15); and the Kingdom of God is also is God’s rule which will be consummated or made complete in the future.

From then on Jesus began to preach, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.” Matthew 4:17 (NLT)

Then, Jesus follows with two requirements of the Kingdom of God:  (1) repent and (2) believe in the Gospel (Mark 1:15). Entrance into God’s Kingdom require repentance (forsaking and turning one’s heart and minds from sin) and belief in the Gospel of God, which is Jesus! In His preaching, Jesus invited people to enter the Kingdom of God. We must make the Kingdom of God our first priority and seek the Kingdom ahead of everything else and turn from evil (Matthew 6:33). Righteous living (turning from evil and seeking God) was also the continued central teaching of Apostle Paul and the other Apostles (e.g., Romans chapters 12 through 15; 1 Peter 1:13-25).

For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God, and others will approve of you, too. Romans 14:17-18 (NLT)

Throughout the Gospels and other books of the New Testament, there are direct references to the “Gospel of God,” “the Gospel of the Kingdom,” or the “the Kingdom of heaven” (e.g., see Matthew 3:1-2; Mark 1:14-15; Luke 9:1-2). Jesus prophesied this same message shall be taken to the ends of the world (Matthew 24:14; Mark 13:10) and Jesus commissioned His disciples (faithful followers) to continue the message of the God with the help of the Holy Spirit (see Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-18; Acts 1:3-8). Clearly, the early church proclaimed the same message Jesus Christ preached, that is, “the Gospel of the Kingdom of God” and the need to turn away from sin and turn to God (see Acts 8:12; Acts 19:8; Acts 20:25; Acts 28:23, 30-31). 

I have had one message for Jews and Greeks alike — the necessity of repenting from sin and turning to God, and of having faith in our Lord Jesus. Acts 20:21 (NLT)

Spirit Filled Life Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1991).
Zondervan NIV Study Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008).
Butler, Trent. Holman Bible Dictionary (Broadman & Holman Pub., 1991).
Edwards, James R. The Gospel According to Mark (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2002).
Kelber, Werner. Mark’s Story of Jesus (Houston, TX: Fortress Press, 1979).
Loyd, Melton, Ph.D., Professor of New Testament. Due West Campus: Erskine Theological Seminary, 2015.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Baptism and Temptation of Jesus

One day Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee, and John baptized Him in the Jordan River. As Jesus came up out of the water, He saw the heavens splitting apart and the Holy Spirit descending on [into] Him like a dove. And a voice from heaven said, “You are My dearly loved Son, and You bring Me great joy.” The Spirit then compelled Jesus to go into the wilderness, where He was tempted by Satan for forty days. He was out among the wild animals, and angels took care of Him. Mark 1:9-13 (NLT)

At Mark 1:9, Mark tells us Jesus came from Galilee and He was baptized by John the Baptist (see parallel at Matthew 3:13-17; Luke 3:21-22). Jesus’ baptism marked the beginning of His public ministry on earth. Jesus began His public ministry in AD 27 when He was approximately 30 years (Luke 3:23; see also Numbers 4:3). Prior to the beginning of His public ministry, Jesus worked in a small-town carpenter's shop and waited for God’s divine timing before beginning His ministry. Before His public ministry, Jesus spent most of His life in Nazareth (Matthew 2:23; Luke 4:23). Nazareth was Jesus’ hometown (Matthew 21:11; Matthew 26:71; Luke 2:39; Luke 4:16; John 1:45-46). Although Jesus was born in Bethlehem just outside Jerusalem, He was brought up in the city of Nazareth in Galilee (Matthew 2:22-23; Luke 1:26; Luke 2:39). Nazareth was a small town in the Galilean region (northern Israel) located about between the Sea of Galilee and the Mediterranean Sea.

You know what happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee, after John began preaching his message of baptism. And you know that God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. Then Jesus went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. Acts 10:37-38 (NLT)

The account of Jesus’ baptism by John created controversy in the early church as seen in early church writings. The early church had to wrestle with this issue of Jesus’ baptism. In the early church, some argued that Jesus was just like any other human with sins. Christians understood baptism not a baptism of ritual cleansing but a baptism that marked a newness of life, a turning from sin and an acknowledgement for forgiveness of sins (Matthew 3:8). If baptism is a sign of new life and acknowledgement for forgiveness of sins, the early church wanted to know why Jesus had to be baptized. The four Gospels do not answer this controversial issue regarding Jesus’ baptism but simply gives Jesus’ baptism as a statement of fact (Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22; John 1:31-34). Also, Matthew’s Gospel states Jesus’ baptism fulfilled “all righteousness,” which means to accomplish God's mission or will (see Matthew 3:15). The Holy Scriptures amply confirmed that Jesus was sinless and holy (e.g. see John 1:29, 36; Acts 3:14; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; 1 Peter 1:19; 1 Peter 2:22; 1 John 3:5). Although Jesus did not need forgiveness of sins, He was baptized to begin His Messianic ministry to bring the message of salvation to all people through faith. Also, by allowing John to baptize Him, Jesus identified Himself with sinful humanity whom He came to seek and save. Jesus’ baptism completely identified Himself with humanity’s sin and failure.

Immediately, after Jesus came out of the water, the heavens opened and the Holy Spirit appeared (Mark 1:10; see also Isaiah 42:1-2). The Holy Spirit normally was not discussed much with Mark’s Gospel. However, the Holy Spirit is heavily associated with Luke’s Gospel and the Book of Acts, which is also written by Luke. Luke emphasized the Holy Spirit not only in His Gospel (e.g., Luke 1:35, 41, 67; Luke 2:25-27; Luke 3:16, 22) but also in the Book of Acts, where the Holy Spirit is mentioned fifty-seven times. Yet, Mark prominently mentioned the Holy Spirit. With Jesus’ baptism, the Holy Spirit came upon or into Him and anointed Him for His public ministry (see Luke 4:18, 21; John 1:32-33). Also, the Holy Spirit came upon Jesus to empower Him for His missionary work as Messiah (the “Anointed One”) (Acts 10:37-38; see also Isaiah 61:1-3). At Jesus’ baptism, all three Persons of the Trinity were present: (1) God the Father spoke, (2) God the Son was baptized, and (3) God the Spirit descended onto Jesus (Mark 1:10-11). As a side note, all faithful followers (disciples) of Jesus are also anointed with the Holy Spirit through their genuine love, faith, and obedience to Him (John 14:15-17; John 15:26-27; John 16:13; 2 Corinthians 1:21; 1 John 2:20).

During the baptism, God spoke directly from heaven declaring Jesus as His unique and beloved Son (Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22). Also, the Gospel writers recorded God’s voice from heaven addressing Jesus at the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17:5; Mark 9:7; Luke 9:35) and in the Temple area during Jesus’ final week on earth (John 12:28-29). Jesus’ declaration as God's divine Son is the foundation of Mark’s Gospel (e.g. see Mark 1:1, 11; Mark 3:11; Mark 5:7; Mark 9:7; Mark 12:1-11; Mark 13:32; Mark 14:61-62; and Mark 15:39). Mark did not write his Gospel about just any man. He wrote his Gospel about Jesus – the very Son of God who came from heaven to die for the sins of the world!

Based on this scene in Mark, only Jesus sees and hears God’s glorious voice speaking from heaven. Mark gives no account of John the Baptist or the people seeing and hearing God’s voice because Jesus is central to this scene in his Gospel. For Mark, John the Baptist was just a vessel, an instrument, or messenger as Jesus is central to his Gospel. However, John’s Gospel records both Jesus and John the Baptist hearing God’s voice and seeing the Holy Spirit descend onto Jesus as a dove (John 1:29-34). God’s declaration from heaven reminds us of Psalm 2:7 and Isaiah 42:1.

The Spirit then compelled Jesus to go into the wilderness, where He was tempted by Satan for forty days. He was out among the wild animals, and angels took care of him. Mark 1:12-13 (NLT)

One of the most fascinating features of Jesus’ baptism and temptation is the Holy Spirit’s compelling of Jesus into the wilderness. Immediately (Mark’s favorite term), Mark notes “the Spirit then compelled Jesus to go into the wilderness” (Mark 1:12 NLT). Matthew and Luke’s Gospels said “Jesus was lead out” into the wilderness (Matthew 4:1; Luke 4:1). But Mark’s Gospel said Jesus was “cast out” or “compelled” into the wilderness to be tempted and tested. Compelled reflects Mark's forceful style, while the other Gospel writers use "led"). The Greek word is “ekballō,” which may be translated “lead.” Mark translate the Greek word “ekballei” or “ekballō” as a forceful thrust of Jesus into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit. Thus, the same Holy Spirit that endowed and equipped Jesus for His Messianic ministry also “casted” or “compelled” Jesus out into the wilderness to be tempted and tested. This is Mark's way of showing the intensity or immediacy of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus had no time to bask in the glory of the heavenly voice or the presence of the heavenly dove. Instead, Mark shows Jesus’ active ministry in first century Galilee. As typical with Mark’s Gospel, Mark’s account of the temptation is the briefest of the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke). Matthew and Luke give more details surrounding Jesus’ testing and temptation in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1–11; Luke 4:1–13).

Since we have a great High Priest, Jesus the Son of God, who has gone into heaven, let us hold on to the faith we have. For our High Priest is able to understand our weaknesses. When He lived on earth, He was tempted in every way that we are, but He did not sin. Let us, then, feel very sure that we can come before God’s throne where there is grace. There we can receive mercy and grace to help us when we need it. Hebrews 4:14-16 (NCV)

Jesus was tempted and tested for forty days in the wilderness (Matthew 4:2; Mark 1:13; Luke 4:2). However, Jesus did not sin but remained faithful and obedient to God (Hebrews 2:18; Hebrews 4:15). The forty days of testing and temptation recalled the experiences of Moses (Exodus 24:18; Exodus 34:28) and Elijah (1 Kings 19:8) as well as the forty years of Israel’s temptation (testing) in the desert. The Lord God led Israel into the wilderness (desert) forty years. Jesus was subjected to a similar test as Israel and showed Himself to be the true Israelite who lived “on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 8:3). Although Israel of the Old Testament failed when they were tested, Jesus succeeded victoriously by triumphing over evil and temptation. The second picture of the wilderness scene was that of the “last Adam” (1 Corinthians 15:45). The first Adam was tested in the beautiful Garden and failed. However, Jesus as the “second Adam” won the victory over evil and temptation through obedience and faith in God (Romans 5:12-21). Jesus was faithful and demonstrated His qualification to become Savior of the world. As the One who remained faithful and obedient to God in temptation and testing He became the Model for all believers when we are tempted and tested to remain faithful and obedient to God.

Moreover, the Scripture referenced that Jesus “was with the wild beasts” (Mark 1:13). This reference that Jesus “was with the wild beasts” is only recorded in Mark’s Gospel. Some biblical scholars comment that because there is no parallel in the other three Gospels that Jesus was “with the wild animals” or “wild beast” is Mark’s deliberate allusion to Nero’s persecution of Christian in Rome. During Christian persecution in the AD 60s, Roman Emperor Nero draped Christians with the skins of wild animals and the Christians were treated like a sport. Roman athletics would fight the Christians as wild animals until their death. Thus, this reference to the “wild beast” or “wild animals” is similar to Christian persecution by Nero and is a deliberate allusion to Mark’s audience who were suffering unjustly at the hands of Nero. Yet, Mark also said “angels took care of Him” as a reference of encouragement (Mark 1:13 NLT). God will take care of His people during times of suffering, trials and mistreatment in the wilderness.

Implicit in Mark’s Gospel is the question of unjust suffering. Mark wrote His Gospel message to Christians living in Rome and their only crime was their faith in Jesus Christ. Even today, some people that believe and follow Jesus are subjected to mistreatment and injustice and their only crime is faith in Jesus. As Mark tells his story of Jesus, Mark’s audience was suffering even though they are following God. In Jesus Himself, Jesus had a most glorious experience with a declaration of being God’s Son. Then immediately, Jesus is in the wildernesses facing temptation, testing and suffering. Many Jewish sources believe that the wilderness was a place of abandonment by God as the wilderness is a place in testing and temptation. Also, the wilderness alludes to the book of Numbers and Israel’s testing in the wilderness. Thus, Mark’s Gospel shows the readers Jesus’ highest point (God’s declaration and empowerment of the Holy Spirit) and Jesus’ lowest point (Jesus’s testing and temptation in the wilderness). Mark shows his readers that they too will experience highpoints and low points as genuine followers (disciples) of Jesus. As Jesus was tested during the wilderness testing and temptation, we must follow His example of continual trust, dependence and faith in God and God’s Holy Spirit.

God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him. James 1:12 (NLT)

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