What’s in the name?
I’m want to invite you to the book of Mark. We are in a new series together we started last week called “The Genius of Jesus.” We’re spending the summer going through the book of Mark to look at the identity of who Christ is and why in the world it matters to us today. Just to kind of draw out the relevance of why I think it’s important we spend time identifying the true nature of Christ and getting to know that, I want us to think about a penny this morning. You guys know what a penny looks like? Who’s on the front of the penny? Are you sure? Just think about these, and you’re right, it is Lincoln.
I’m going to ask just a few more questions. You don’t have to answer all of these out loud, because if you don’t know, I don’t want you to embarrass yourself by saying these out loud. But if you think about the penny, since you know so much about the penny, you know what that looks like. Lincoln’s on the front. What’s direction does he face? What words are written on the front of the penny or what about on the back, the building? Is there a building on there? What words are on the back of the penny? Are there words on the back of the penny? Do I even know the penny? You think about your whole life you’ve dealt with the penny, but probably I’m going to go on a limb and say most of us couldn’t name the words written on the front and back of the penny.
We might be able to get the building on the back maybe. But the idea of our whole life, we’ve dealt with this, but we don’t really know what is on the penny. Now, if I take that same penny and I were to throw it at you today and we know what the penny’s worth today. I took it out, you’d be like, “Don’t touch me with that.” If I were to do the same thing with a hundred dollars bill, wad that up and throw it out there, that’s worth a face punch to get it from your neighbor. That is mine.
The point is you think about the penny and yes, you’ve dealt with a penny your whole life and we may not know exactly everything on the penny. It’s a little bit surprising. You know you’ve seen it. How do you not know everything that’s on the penny? The penny in comparison to other things in this world just don’t have value. When you think about a hundred dollar bill, that has some value. You think about Jesus. Jesus is worthy of our praise.
Jared Wilson once said this in writing about Jesus, he said, “You can look without seeing, but you can’t see without looking.” Understanding who Jesus is is significant to our lives. It’s paramount to the Christian faith and eternity weighs on it. It’s important for us not to just say we’ve looked at Jesus. Everybody has opinions on who Jesus is, and frankly, some of them are just blasphemous.
But we want to get through this study on Jesus so that we can recognize exactly who he is for the way that he identifies himself. And we’re not going to this book of Mark just for information. The information is important because we find truth in that, but we’re not just going out to this book for information. The ultimate goal in looking to the book of Mark is transformation. God’s word isn’t there just for us to get smart. God’s word is there to impact our lives, to make an eternal difference in our relationship to God. And when John, I know we’re in the book of Mark, but when John introduces Jesus in John 1:29 he says this, “The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, ‘Behold, the lamb of God.'”
What John is saying is what Jared Wilson affirmed. You can look without seeing, but you can’t see without looking. And John is saying, just take a moment and pause at this. Behold who he is. And how significant it becomes to our lives. And so this morning we’re going to look at where we started last week in Mark 1. We introduced this to us last week, we said, Mark has really broken down into two halves. The first eight chapters of Mark is Jesus identifying himself, showing why he’s come, what his kingdom is about and why we should trust in him. And in the middle of Mark, Jesus calls us to come and die for him, giving our lives to him.
But before all of those, all of that begins the first 15 verses of Mark, it’s the prologue to understanding who Jesus is. Mark gives this profound pronouncement on the identity of Jesus so that we wouldn’t miss what’s contained in the rest of the pages. And so we want to spend these first two weeks just going through these first 15 verses in the identity of Jesus so we could really see the rich depth of God’s word and why that matters to our lives. So this is how we’re going to do it this morning. We’re going to talk about who Jesus is in identity, and then we’re going to talk about why in the world you should even care. Because just identifying Christ as far as factually presentation, it’s important, but when the rubber meets the road, we need to know why it matters to our lives.
And so in Mark 1, this is the way Mark begins the pronouncement of this gospel. It’s a declaration statement. The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. We said last week, the word “gospel” is a word of victory for Kings. It’s a proclamation of a success, a win. And so this is the victory cry of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. And I told you last week, what we’re going focus on is the title. The title of who Jesus is. And that’s what Mark is delivering to us by the pronouncement of this victory cry, Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
If we talk about Jesus Christ this morning, oftentimes we identify that as a name. His name is Jesus Christ, right? But when the gospel writers are identifying Jesus, not only are they calling them out by name, but they’re identify him in terms of title and position. Jesus’ name, as much as it is a name, is maybe even more so a title of his position and representation of who he is.
And so Jesus when Mark gives this declaration means salvation. Yeshua, the saving one. And Christ carries this idea of annointing. And I think most specifically on the backdrop of this text, it’s in reference to the anointing of a King. So the saving King, the Son of God has come.
Jews anointed their Kings for ministry. When it comes to this idea of Messiah, you’ll see within scripture, they use this term over and over for Jesus. And what’s interesting about this word for Christ or Messiah, anointed one, is that Jesus never used the title for himself. Jesus instead referred to himself as the Son of Man, which is also a claim to deity. But this idea of Christ Jesus, I don’t think he ever use it to refer to himself because so many people during Jesus’s time had such a poor idea of what the Messiah represented, that Jesus didn’t want to confuse the culture by taking on the title and the misconception that they were perceiving with it.
But the idea of this name is important for us to understand because it’s shaping for us the identity of Christ. When you look at Mark 1:11, you remember last week we broke this up for us so we can understand exactly what was happening here. But Jesus Christ is the saving anointed King. And when you go Jesus’ baptism in Mark 1:11, you see in verse 11 as John the Baptist is baptizing Jesus, there’s a pronouncement that’s made.
And the pronouncement that’s made is made by God the Father. And so in this story, it tells us that God the Father speaks from heaven and the Spirit descends. In the Old Testament when they anointed someone for ministry, a priest can be anointed, a King could be anointed. The anointing was a representation of the Spirit of God coming over that person to do the work that God had called them to into this world.
When Jesus goes to the baptism with John the Baptist, Jesus is baptized or he’s anointed in the water, but what we see in this passage, rather than just assuming that the Spirit of God comes in him, we actually see the Spirit of God come upon him. The Spirit descends like a dove. It’s annointing Jesus as King for the work of the ministry he’s called to in this world.
And just so that we don’t miss it, this annointing is one of kingship. When the Father speaks and the Spirit descends, the Father then says from heaven, “You are my beloved Son.” That phrase, you are my beloved Son, it comes from Psalm 2:7. Psalm 2:7 is a kingship psalm. When Israel elected a new King, they would sing Psalm 2 over that King as he was anointed. Israel also knew within the context of that song that that psalm was written so richly at such a depth that a human being could not live up to the standards of Psalm 2. So they also saw it as a messianic Psalm. Something future proclaiming who the Messiah actually would be.
And so when Jesus is being baptized, he’s also being anointed as the King for Israel and the King really of the world. The King of Kings and Lord of Lords called in to this world to conduct the ministry of the Spirit of God descends upon him. And so when John’s making this pronouncement in Mark 1:1, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, he doesn’t want us to miss the identity of Jesus as being the saving King who’s come for the world.
In addition, this title, Son of God, is important to recognize. It’s a claim to deity. He’s the saving King, because he is God. This phrase, “Son of God” was a common term. It was a term Mark borrowed from the culture. It was a term used through scripture. It was a term that the Romans would use to refer to their emperor. And so this term was a common term. But the Jews are also monotheistic. And the claim that they’re attributing here to Jesus is one of deity.
One of the misconceptions that we assume about this phrase, Son of God, is the way that we would read into it in the 21st century culture. If you have a son, that means you actually birthed a child and therefore it’s the son. But we’re walking in air when we assume that 21st century definition to the first century term, the Son of God. Son of God, doesn’t mean that God had a physical kid.
In fact, when you follow the phrase, Son of God, within other references of scripture, we talked about this last week with the idea of bar mitzvah, which meant the son of commandments. The Jewish culture uses that term bar mitzvahs it’s not in the Bible. But the “son of the commandments” that they represent what the commandments are. When a child and Jewish culture reaches the age of 13 they’ve studied the Old Testament, they they could recite long portions of scripture and they have a bar mitzvah to show his maturity into adulthood and he’s called the son of the commandments. The son of the law.
And Acts 4:36 Barnabas is called the son of encouragement. In John 17:12 Judas is called the son of perdition or the son of hell. James and John and Mark three are referred to as the sons of thunder.
And so what this phrase, “son of” is representing it’s equating the identity of someone towards a particular nature. It’s not saying to us that commandments, encouragement, perdition and thunder all have children. But what it’s saying to us is the representation of those characteristics are demonstrated in their lives. And so when it’s using the word Son of God as it relates to Jesus, the identity for us is to recognize that Jesus is the representation of the nature of God.
In fact, when you look at the title that Jesus carried throughout all of scripture, there’s several verses that speak to his deity, but in Hebrews 1:3 it says this, and He, talking about Jesus, is the radiance of his, the father’s, glory and the exact representation of his nature. No one held that characteristic. Except God in the flesh. Jesus is the exact representation of the nature of God in the flesh. And so when this term Son of God is used in reference to Jesus, it’s identifying his deity.
Colossians 2:9 says this, In him all the fullness of deity dwells in bodily form. It’s what Jesus said in John 14:9, he who has seen me, has seen the Father. They’re one and the same in their nature. To look at Jesus, it’s the demonstration in the flesh, of the nature of the Father.
And the gospel of John, in order to elaborate on this title, Son of God, John takes it a little step further and says this, for God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son. This speaks to the uniqueness of Jesus. And the Bible tells us that we can become children of God to those that embrace them. You become the children of God. But not in the way that Jesus was referred to as the Son of God. Because he’s the only one like this.
The uniqueness of Jesus, when you study this phrase, “only begotten son of God,” in the Greek language. The word choice they use here is “monogenes”. Mono means one. Genes where we get the words for genes or genetics. He is the only one that has the makeup of the Father, the nature of the father within him. To look at Jesus is to look at God. God in the flesh, living out his life on earth.
So when Mark makes this claim, he’s making this claim as Jesus being the saving King capable of saving because he is God come in the flesh. And then Mark builds on this idea of the Son of God. If you were to read later in Mark 15 when Jesus is being crucified, there’s a story of a Centurion. A Centurion is a Roman official working for the Roman government in the army. When political leaders during the time of Jesus and beyond, when they would operate in political office, one of the qualifications that they had meet was to refer to the emperor as the son of God. If they were to ever make the pronouncement that the emperor wasn’t the son of God or claimed someone else to be the son of God, they were also told that they would immediately have to leave their posts. They would have to step down from their political position.
In Mark chapter 15 when the Centurion who was standing right in front of him, talking about Jesus on the cross, saw the way he breathed his last, he said, truly this man was the Son of God. Coming from an individual that’s supposed to make this pronouncement about the emperor. He’s now substituted the position of the emperor for the claim of who Christ is. So that we wouldn’t miss the idea of Jesus and his identification.
So when Mark makes this pronouncement in Mark 1:1, it’s going in the face against the Roman culture. And you think about Mark, the context of the audience. Mark is written to the Romans. And Mark is putting his foot down on the declaration of who Jesus is. The beginning of the gospel, the victory cry that Christ has overcome the grave, the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords has won. Jesus Christ, the gospel of him, the Son of God. When loyalty was told to belong to the emperor, his pronouncement of his loyalty as belonged to Jesus as Lord.
From the declaration that Mark makes in verse one, he then gives the demonstration of this in Jesus’ life. And you see it in the baptism, the anointing of the King, the declaration of the Father and the Spirit of God descending on him. To call him and identify him to the witnesses around that Jesus is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. But beyond that, he also went into the wilderness. Mark 1:12 right after Jesus’ baptism. After the father pronounces, “You are my beloved Son,” he says, “In You, I am well pleased.” And this phrase is a reminder to us again was from Isaiah 42.
We talked about this last week, but the Jewish people knew what Isaiah 42 represented. Remember their bar mitzvahs, their sons of the commandment, they studied God’s word. To them the old Testament was the only Testament they could recite long chapters. And they knew Isaiah 42 to Isaiah 53 was considered the Suffering Servant text of scripture. And by the way, they didn’t have chapter divisions back then. Or verse places in the Bible, that didn’t come until the 12th century and the 15th century. And so to know where someone was referring to in the Bible, you had to memorize it. And so when the Jews would hear beginning of Isaiah 42 they would understand in context, this is the Suffering Servant passage of scripture from Isaiah 42 to 53. And so this pronouncement Mark 1:11 is saying, Jesus is God and he’s coming as the suffering servant.
And so what you ,see in Mark 1:12 and on Jesus then goes into the wilderness. And it’s the demonstration in this section, these two verses in Mark. It’s in Matthew 4, that Jesus is demonstrating how he is that sufficient suffering servant for sin. And it says immediately this, this word “immediately” is found all throughout the book of Mark. It’s a phrase that Mark wants to use because he’s writing his gospel to the Romans. The Romans are people of action. And so he says, as Jesus is baptized, immediately he goes into the wilderness to demonstrate himself as a sufficient sacrifice. Immediately the spirit impelled him to go out into the wilderness, which is the desert. And he was in the wilderness 40 days being tempted by Satan and he was with the wild beasts. And the angels were ministering to him. And the idea that Mark is carrying at the end with wild beasts and the angels, is to demonstrate the authority of Jesus, that he has control over the animals and the angels.
What’s interesting within the context is that the Spirit immediately let him out here and He has control over these things. In verse 13 he goes for 40 days and he’s being tempted. There’s different words for being tempted in scripture, but in this passage, this word for tempted means to test or to try. 40 was a significant number in Jewish history. 40 was how many days that the earth flooded. It rain 40 days and 40 nights during the time of Noah. 40 days was the amount of time that Moses went up to the top of Mount Sinai. 40 lasses was the amount of maximum punishment that someone would receive if they broke the law. And in connection to the people of Israel, 40 years was the number of years that they wandered in the wilderness in disobedience to God.
I think what Jesus is demonstrating in this passage is how he is the true Israel. While God called the people of Israel from Egypt, wandering through the wilderness for 40 years. And for 40 years, they were disobedient to God. But Jesus surrenders to the will of the Father. And while Israel faltered for 40 years, Jesus in 40 days demonstrated during the time of testing or trial. It was a sufficient sacrifice.
It’s comparison to the people of Israel who were disobedient as God’s people, and Jesus being the obedient one under the will of the Father. As seen in Matthew 4:1-11. Because when Jesus is in the wilderness and he’s being tempted, he continues to quote from the book of Deuteronomy, which is what Moses writes for the people of Israel as they are wandering in the wilderness during those 40 years. Jesus in this story is carrying the idea of being the anointed King in his baptism and the sufficient sacrifice in the wilderness. That even the angels obey.
And then it tells us, as you look at the story, that the demonstration of who Jesus is, when you see His baptism, you’re seeing the King. And when you see in the wilderness, you’re seeing the suffering servant. It’s a beautiful picture for us in the sufficiency of Jesus. And then it tells us in Mark 14, Jesus begins his ministry and says, “Now after John had been taken into custody, 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, in this good news, in this proclamation, the kingdom is here.'”
When you think in terms of the kingdom, the kingdom should be what all of us pursue. Matthew 6:33, seek first the kingdom of God. Pray in this way, Jesus taught us. Thy kingdom come, Your will be done. When God created mankind, making us in his image, he created us to connect to him in relationship for all of eternity. To delight in His glory. To be worshipers forever. To fill our hearts with him. Man sinned and turned from God and pursued lesser gods or idols.
And rather than give our hearts that were created totally for God, we give our hearts to other things. And in that from the sin, from the garden, the kingdom we were separated from. Bible tells us once having peace with God, we no longer have peace. And the desire for our soul would be to yearn to see that peace again. In fact, I think most of time in our lives, when we experienced the death of someone close to us, we grieve at such an extent within our hearts that we can’t even put words to relate how broken we feel when we experience that in life. Why? There’s no longer any Shalom. There is no peace.
And we need a King big enough to suffice the brokenness of this world to restore what’s been lost. And Jesus comes and he declares that kingdom. And he says in Luke 11:20, the kingdom is in your midst. Jesus comes with the pronouncement of that kingdom. And the offering of that kingdom,
But at the same time that kingdom hasn’t fully arrived. Let me give you an example. In Acts 1:6, the disciples asked Jesus after his death and resurrection just before his ascension, they say, are you going to restore the kingdom? What Jesus is offering is peace. Reconciliation to Him. You see at the end of Revelation is Jesus restores that kingdom. He tells us in chapter 21 that there’s no more pain, no more suffering. That has all been gone away, that God is with his people. Anyone with eyes can look around and see that things are not fully as they should be. Jesus’ purpose in coming was to offer a kingdom. It brings us peace. Then we see reality, where there isn’t peace.
This brings me this last thought I want to share. Luke 2, Jesus in offering this kingdom, coming to earth for that purpose. Luke 2, God shares an interesting statement with Mary. Luke 2 is the passage where Mary takes baby Jesus to the temple. It’s what you did with your first born. You make a sacrifice before the Lord. And Simeon was a prophet who was there. God uses Simeon to give a prophecy into Mary’s life. In Luke 2:35, it’s such an interesting statement that he would say to Mary. You think the time of birth is a time of celebration, time of rejoicing, time to be happy. Time to keep your bad news away if you can. And then Simeon says this to Mary, “The sword will pierce, even your own soul.” What do you do with that?
I think when it comes to God’s will, I’ve said this, I just kind of use it as a rule of operating and it doesn’t work in this verse, but when it comes to God’s will, I don’t want to know everything that God has for me. I don’t want to know because I think it would be too overwhelming and I would do better in a corner, in a fetal position then I went to live out that will for the Lord, it’s too much. I would prefer for God to just light that path each step of the way. I think as people, we go through different seasons of life. And we’re not always ready for the next season until we’ve gone through the season that we’re currently in. And about the time you become an expert at that season, then God changes it up.
I want to know God’s will, one step at a time. But here for Mary, he’s declaring to her something that’s going to happen 30 years from now. At the time of this birth, let me give you some horrible news. “And a sword will pierce even your own soul.” That’s fantastic, isn’t it? What do you do with that? How do you respond to something like that? And why in the world would God want to say something like that to her? Why not just let her figure it out later? If I pause and think about that for just a second and said, you know, I’ve met people in life that when they experience difficult things, they become atheists. Through hardship, they’ve become atheist. While atheism may be what they’ve pursued in life, I don’t think atheism, and I don’t say this to offend anybody, just to think, I don’t think atheism is a step forward. I think it’s a step backward.
In fact that if I didn’t believe that, I shouldn’t be up here today. An atheist may look at a bad and assume there isn’t a God because they can’t see the good. It tends to be why in this circumstance that may turn that way. But unfortunately resorting to atheism only causes more problems because if you deny God’s existence, it gives you no basis for acknowledging good or evil. Let me explain.
If there is no God, there is no moral law giver. And if there is no moral law giver, there is no ultimate good or evil for which to even be upset when bad things happen. And if there’s no good or evil, there is no ultimate basis for morality, worth or value. You are no more special than the dirt on the ground. And there’s no reason to be upset about anything, for there is no universal morality to govern the world. Meaning, if you just evolved and you happen in circumstance, if something bad happens to you, big deal, there’s no morality to govern what’s bad to begin with. And anything that happens to you is no more important than what happens to the dust on the ground because that’s where you came from.
Without a moral law giver, there’s no reason to cry foul in the world when bad things happen. But the reason we cry fowl when bad things happen is because we’re acknowledging that there’s something good for which all things are governed by within the context of our world. And so when you cry out, “There is no God because bad things happen,” your very statement acknowledges the existence of a God.
And so atheism is not an answer to the problem of the world. But rather a step backwards from the solution. But it still wasn’t given an answer. Why in the world would God say this to Mary? Why would he say, “And the sword will pierce even your own soul?” I’m going to give you a thought and I think it is especially important to us to answer the question, why in the world does anything that we shared this morning matter? Why should I care about the identity of Jesus? Okay, he’s the son of God, Jesus Christ, saving King. Who cares? Why does it matter?
I think it matters especially as related to Mary because of this. When you go through adversity in life, the primary question you ask: God, where are you? Do you care? If bad things are happening to me, are you even there? In the midst of her soul being pierced, in the midst of seeing Jesus die on the cross (John 19:35), in that moment, in the depth of experiencing the piercing her soul, Mary had a place to go back to. To say, God didn’t abandon me. In the midst of this pain, God’s right here.
How do I know? Because he already knew this moment would come and he had already declared it to me. And he knew that this moment was going to fall on my shoulders. And I would experience the hardship of what it is. But he cared enough about me in that moment to share with me that I was going to experience this so that I could recognize in the midst of this suffering that God hadn’t abandoned me. That he was still with me, that even though the kingdom hadn’t fully arrived yet and all things been restored, the peace of God rests with me because God is with me in this circumstance. God cares.
The story of Christianity in the midst of hardship, I think is the best answer out of any religious explanation that exist in this world. That God cares enough about you to enter into your suffering. A saving King has come. And just because bad things happen doesn’t mean doesn’t God cares. In fact, the gospel says the exact opposite. That Jesus enters into it and Jesus loves us in it and the King will restore all things.