Think back over the last three years of your life. How have things changed? Do you find yourself in a different job? New relationships? In another town, city, or country? A lot can happen in three years.
Two thousand years ago, over the course of three years, one man turned the world upside down. His presence drew massive crowds from all over the region. Rich, poor, rural, and urban flocked to Him. He challenged traditions passed down from generation to generation. His teaching threatened the very structure of society—so much that He was killed for it. And yet, His death was just the beginning.
No one has changed the world more than Jesus. His life split history in half. He continues to challenge people and change lives. His words still threaten hierarchies. He brings people to their knees. Within three years, Jesus changed the world and has never stopped changing it.
Have you heard the story of His life and read His teachings? Jesus made shockingly bold claims about His identity. Over the centuries, people have called Him everything from a wise teacher to a prophet, a madman, a liar, a revolutionary, and God Himself. But who did Jesus say He was? He actually had quite a lot to say on the matter.
To answer the question “Who is Jesus?” we’ll spend the next six weeks looking at the first half of the gospel of Mark. The word gospel simply means “good news.”
The term refers both to the message Jesus preached and to a genre of literature about Jesus’ life and teaching. A gospel is also a narrative telling of Jesus’ life.
Tomorrow we’ll take a closer look at our author Mark, but first let’s highlight a few key points. First, Jesus and Mark lived in first century Roman occupied Israel. We need to keep their cultural context in mind. Second, Mark didn’t write to twenty- first century readers. This is ancient literature, not a modern biography. The story won’t go in chronological order, but Mark wrote with a clear purpose.
And Mark wasn’t afraid of spoilers—he laid out his intention in the first sentence. He opened with, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (1:1). One commentary explains, “‘Jesus’ is the Greek form of the Hebrew ‘Joshua,’ which means ‘Yahweh is salvation’ or ‘salvation of Yahweh.’” (Yahweh is the personal name of God.) Christ is a title meaning “anointed” or “Messiah” in Hebrew. And if there were any doubt about who Mark believed Jesus to be, he cleared it up by adding, “the Son of God.” We’ll understand more about that phrase as we go.
He’s already told us a bit about who he believes Jesus is. Over these first eight chapters, Mark builds his argument, answering the question, “Who is Jesus?” Tomorrow, we’ll see why Mark was in a unique position to answer this question and write down Jesus’ story.