Friday, 26 February 2010

Who Jesus is

Mark's gospel begins with the bold declaration that he wants to show us that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.

Mark then leads us through the near three-years of Jesus' ministry, showing us all that Jesus revealed of himself and also showing us the disciples' extreme slowness to perceive what it was all pointing to: this great verdict about the true identity of their teacher. The demons know it, and tremble; even Gentiles like the Syro-Phoenician lady understand far more quickly. But these Jews, with their deeply faulty preconceptions about the work of the Messiah and the manner of his first coming, cannot get it.

Eventually we get to the the great initial climax of the gospel, in chapter 8, when Peter finally confesses on behalf of the disciples: "You are the Christ".

But have you ever compared Mark with John? Because John tells us that the whole reason why Peter and the others came to Jesus at the beginning of his ministry was because they were persuaded (by the John the Baptist's testimony, then by each other) that he was the Christ! "One of the two who heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. He first finds his own brother Simon, and says to him, 'We have found the Messiah', which is, being translated, the Christ" (John 1:40-41).

So what is going on here? Is it a contradiction? What does it mean?

Surely this: it was one thing for Peter and the other disciples to believe in Jesus as the Messiah at the start. But it was another when they had seen Jesus irreparably separated from the Jewish religious leaders, rejected by many of his followers, and apparently totally failing to carry out the work which they had, according to their erroneous preconceptions, expected the Messiah to do. This confession now came after they had been forced to face up to the fact that Jesus would not be leading an Israelite army, taking on the Romans, being received by the Jewish leadership, reigning in Jerusalem, restoring the territory controlled under David, etc., etc. It was a confession of true faith: they believed in Jesus because they knew him for who he was, not because he had satisfied carnal sense and belief. It was thus a truly valuable confession of faith: not that of a beginner - many had followed him but were now nowhere to be found - but tried and true. Not flawless, of course - but nonetheless, the real thing.

The lesson is clear. You began trusting Jesus as Saviour. But then you will have had to go through the mill, because that is God's will for us - what do you say now?

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