Mark’s Question: “Who is Jesus?”

I have been reading Mark lately.  I have noticed a trend in the book of Mark.  It starts in Mark 1 and goes through Mark 15.  So from the start of Jesus’ ministry to his death, Mark is asking a question for the reader.  The question is along the lines of “Who is Jesus?”

In Mark 1:27, the crowd asks, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.”  So Mark starts out asking the question about what Jesus is doing.  He is teaching in a new way and casting out unclean spirits.  Exorcism and new-ish teachings were not a new thing in 1st century Palestine.  There were plenty of people casting out demons, teaching new insights about God or teaching from new books.  But Jesus’ seems new and with authority, which is something that the other new religious figures did not have.  So Mark is showing that Jesus is doing something new and the reader has to start thinking about the question, “Who is Jesus?”

In Mark 4:41, the Apostles ask one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”  The Apostles, after a great storm on the sea, wake Jesus up and he calms the storm leading them to ask who he is that he can even control nature.  Mark goes from having the crowds ask who Jesus is to having even his closest friends and followers asking who he is.  He has done something that they have not really heard about before, controlling nature, in a significant way.  So the Apostles ask, “Who is Jesus?”

In Mark 8:27, Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?”  He asks them what they hear people saying about him.  They give him the answers of John the Baptists, Elijah or one of the other prophets.  Then Jesus asks, “But who do you say that I am?”  Peter, speaks for the disciples, saying “You are the Christ.”  At this point we could say, with Peter’s answer, that they Jewish people answer the question to Mark’s question.

In Mark 15:39, at the death of Jesus, the centurion, says “Truly this man was the Son of God!”  At this point, we could say the Gentiles answer the question to Mark’s question.

Mark gives both the Jews and Gentiles an answer to his question in a way that they are going to understand.  The Gentiles are not going to understand the concept of the Christ, like the Jews would.  The Jews most likely would understand the concept of the Son of God, but might be less willing to accept it.

However, Mark also has the demons and unclean spirits give the answer to his question throughout the book (for example see; 1:24 and 5:6).  They have special insight from a different worldly place that Jesus is the Holy One of God.

Mark still asks us the question today, “Who is Jesus?”  What is your answer?

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About Jesse

I am a graduate of Asbury Theological Seminary with a Masters of Arts in Theology focusing on Church History. I am a Third Order Benedictine monk, in the Company of Jesus. I am married to a wonderful woman, we just had a baby Michaela Rose. You can follow me and be alerted of new blog post by following me on Twitter @jtalexanderiv. Or following this blog.
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