You Can’t Go Home

Do you remember this Bon Jovi song?

Who says you can’t go home?
There’s only one place they call me one of their own
Just a hometown boy born a rolling stone
Who says you can’t go home?
Who says you can’t go back?
I been all around the world and as a matter of fact
There’s only one place left I wanna go
Who says you can’t go home?
It’s alright, it’s alright, it’s alright, it’s alright, it’s alright

I don’t know that I agree with Jon. I think there comes a point when “home” doesn’t feel like home anymore. I moved to Columbia, TN, in 1998, when I was entering 5th grade. I went away to college at Harding University in 2007. It was my home for about 9 years. It hasn’t been my home for just as long now.
It’s weird going “home.” My parents still live there. A lot of my classmates are still there. My best friends from high school are still around there. But it’s not home.
I’ve always been able to relate to the story of Jesus in Mark 6:1-6 when he goes back to Nazareth, his hometown.

Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed.
“Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing? Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.
Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.

Jesus grew up in a small working-class town. He was the son of lower-middle-class, blue collar parents. He was trained as a carpenter / construction worker. He was the older brother to all these other siblings. This is how he was known by those people back home.

I can imagine that a lot of them still remember the scandal surrounding his conception and birth. These people back home remember seeing him grow up and learn the family trade. This was a time when there wasn’t a lot of “upward mobility” or changing occupations. You did what your father/family did. But at some point Jesus left home. He left his family, his business, and his town behind. I don’t know how long he was gone, where he went, or what he did. I wish we knew, but we aren’t told. But when Jesus came back to Nazareth, everything was different – and nothing had changed.

Most young adults experience this same feeling. You go off to college, meet new people and have new experiences. You begin to see the world in a whole new way and realize that it’s a LOT bigger than you ever could have imagined from your small town bubble. You’ve grown and changed, but the people back home haven’t.

You can still drive all the backroads without thinking about it. You still have all the memories and all the feels. But it’s not home anymore. Maybe you come home and want to hang out with all of your old friends and share your college experiences with them. They sound interested at first but then move on to the same old gossip about people you don’t really know anymore.

Notice again how the people of Nazareth reacted to Jesus. They started out amazed and impressed. But that soon evolved into belittling and patronizing. Isn’t this just the carpenter? Just Mary’s son? Just the brother of James, Joses, Simon, and Judas? Where did he learn all these things? Who does he think he is?

They still see him as he was in the past. Hometowns can be that way – always looking to the past and hardly ever looking toward the future, focusing on how things were, not on how things are or could be. To them, Jesus is still just a carpenter and the illegitimate child of a scandalous relationship.

But Jesus doesn’t get sucked into that sort of thinking. He refers to himself as a prophet. And Jesus realizes a great truth – prophets tend to be least effective among their own families and towns.

Because the people of Nazareth didn’t believe in him or take him seriously, Jesus couldn’t do the same type of miracles as he had been doing elsewhere in the region. Some of the teens in our Wednesday night class made a great point – maybe faith is not the product of miracles, but miracles are the product of faith. We often think that if we could just see a miracle for ourselves, then we would believe in God. But that’s not the way it works. Some people even saw the miracles and still didn’t believe. Faith is not the result of seeing miracles. Witnessing miracles is a result of faith in Christ. Not that you’re guaranteed to see miraculous healings at the hospital if you simply believe hard enough, but rather you begin to see the everyday miracles of life and love and beauty. You will begin to realize that every healing is miraculous, every person is a walking miracle of existence.

I think this story of Jesus’ hometown tells me something about spreading the gospel. I believe it’s important to begin with your friends and family, your neighbors and your hometown. But I also believe it’s really difficult to be a minister (evangelist, prophet, pastor, etc.) among your hometown crowd. Jesus and his disciples are constantly on the move. Very rarely will the gospel call you back to your comfort zone. The man with the legion of demons in Mark 5 is the only person I can think of who was tasked with taking the gospel message back to his friends and family. Everyone else is told to go – go out into the world, go outside your comfort zone, leave the nest, venture out into the unknown. Where your family is, there is your home. And we’ve got family all across the globe.

Follow God’s call wherever he takes you.

Regional Rabbi Allegedly Controls Storms, Demons; Thousands of Pigs Killed

Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to be a journalist for the local Galilee Times newspaper in the days of Jesus…

Regional Rabbi Allegedly Controls Storms, Demons; Thousands of Pigs Killed

Earlier today, reports poured in from around the Sea of Galilee. This lake, a hub of fishing and other industry in this rural area, has lately been at the epicenter of some amazing claims. The latest witness reports indicate that a stronger than usual storm sprang up overnight, stirring the entire lake into chaos. Several fishing vessels were caught in the middle of the intense gale and were nearly capsized. According to several witness accounts, a Rabbi named Jesus of Nazareth allegedly stopped the storm as quickly as it had arisen.

Peter, one of Jesus’ disciples and appointed spokesman for the group, told reporters, “The storm came on us more suddenly than I’ve ever seen. One minute it was clear sailing. The next, everything was pitch black, and our boat started being tossed around like a child’s toy. With the waves breaking over the boat and the downpour of rain, we couldn’t bail out the water fast enough.” Peter and his brother Andrew were professional fisherman on the lake before becoming disciples of Jesus.

“I’ve seen my fair share of storms over the years,” Peter continued, “but nothing like this. I thought for sure we were going to die. But then I noticed Jesus in the back of the boat asleep on a cushion! I thought, Who could sleep at a time like this? So me and my buddies woke him up. Then Jesus made his way to the front of the boat, looked out at the storm, and – I swear – he shouted, ‘Shut up! Calm down!'”

According to Peter and the others in the boat, the wind immediately stopped, the waves calmed down, and the clouds vanished. “We were all terrified,” said Peter. “I mean, who does that? We still don’t know exactly how that happened. We’re still in shock.”

The story then takes a bizarre turn. Once safely through the storm, their boat made land at the local gentile cemetery on the other side of the lake in the region of the Gerasenes. As the sun was dawning and the disciples were making landfall, a local madman ran out to them yelling and screaming. After a brief conversation with Jesus, the Rabbi from Nazareth apparently cast out a “legion of demons” from the man. These demons then possessed a herd of pigs grazing at a nearby farm. Witnesses say the pigs turned mad and rushed off the side of the hill into the lake, drowning.

Our reporters caught up with the man, who wished to remain anonymous, after the fact. They found him well mannered and articulate. They asked him for his account of what happened. “The last few years have been a blur for me,” he began. “Once I felt the darkness take hold, I was powerless to stop it. I heard voices screaming in my head that no one else could hear. They told me to hurt myself. They wanted me to kill myself but I resisted that as much as I could. I didn’t know how much longer I could hold out, though. My family didn’t want me around. No one in town would take me in. I began living in the graveyard about a year ago. Local officials would try to bind me, but no matter what ropes or chains they put on me, I would somehow break through them.”

The owners of the nearby pig farm who lost their entire herd offered some of their own comments on what happened. “Yeah, he was crazy all right. No one wanted to go near there. We thought we were far enough away. Guess we thought wrong. Everyone had just kind of come to accept the crazy man in the cemetery. We figured he wouldn’t be around much longer, anyway. Seemed as good a place as any for him to die. But then that Jesus character showed up and ruined everything.”

According to the man’s testimony, the demons were terrified of Jesus. They thought he would send them to “the abyss” and destroy them. They begged to be sent out of the man and into the pigs.

“We heard all this shouting and commotion,” said the pig farmer. “It was coming from the graveyard. Next thing we knew our pigs – about 2,000 of them, mind you – got this crazy look in their eyes. They grew restless and out of control. They broke straight through the fencing, ran down the hill, and to the last one they all drowned in the lake. There was nothing we could do. That was our entire livelihood – gone in an instant.”

The farmers ran back into town to tell the others what had just happened. A large number of the townsfolk came out to the scene of the incident.

“I’m not sure which was more upsetting,” said one local man, “the madman sitting there, still and calm, or the image of 2,000 pig carcasses floating in the lake. We were all shocked and horrified.”

All the townspeople urged Jesus and his disciples to leave.

“He had caused enough damage for one day. We may never recover from this,” said the pig farmer, visibly distraught.

Our reporters asked for one last statement from the previously-madman. “They asked him to leave. I tried to go with him! The last thing I wanted to do was stay around here, with the people who would just have soon seen me dead as healed. I wanted to go with him so badly, but he wouldn’t let me. He told me to go back home and tell everyone what the Lord has done for me. So I’m here to tell everybody that Jesus of Nazareth is unlike anyone I’ve ever met. Everyone was powerless to help, until he came ashore. There’s something special about him. Others may be afraid of him, but I owe my life to him. I’ll do whatever it takes to help those farmers recover, so long as they all know that Jesus has true power from on high.”

We may never know what really happened on the lake last night or on the shore earlier this morning. These claims are outlandish, some would even say blasphemous. But with so many corroborating witness accounts, it is difficult to dismiss the fact that something amazing did indeed happen. The Galilee Times will keep following the trail of stories left behind from Jesus, the Rabbi from Nazareth.

(For the full story, see Mark 4:35 – 5:20)

Is He Ignorant or Just Plain Evil?

Are you familiar with Godwin’s Law? Back in the early 90s, American lawyer and author Mike Godwin developed a law of civil discourse. Basically, Godwin observed that the longer an argument raged on, the more likely it would be that at least one party would compare the opposing party to the Nazis and/or Hitler.

How much more true are his findings thirty years later!

There’s something interesting that happens when we disagree with someone. When we think someone is wrong and we are right, then they must be 1) ignorant, because anyone who truly knew the all the facts would come to the same conclusion as us, or 2) blatantly evil, because if they know the facts and still disagree with us they must have some inherently corrupt worldview or agenda.

We have come to believe that no reasonable person would be X. We are reasonable people, so we believe X. That person doesn’t believe X; therefore, they must not be a reasonable person – either ignorant of the facts or unreasonably evil.

This happens All. The. Time.

There’s even an entire TEDTalk about it! It happens to be one of my favorites. You should watch it if you’ve never seen it before:

The “ignorant or evil” discourse took on a whole new level during the 2016 presidential election season. People simply refused to engage in civil discourse and public disagreement in a heart of tolerance and understanding. We all just went off the deep end and viewed “the other” as either uneducated ignoramuses or (sometimes literally) Nazis. This Psychology Today article reveals some deep insight into the American psyche over the last few years.

If we have friends supporting the wrong candidate, we might charitably classify them as “ignorant” (unless we’ve secretly believed they were crazy all along). We can write some off as blind, knee-jerk partisans; their party’s candidate could engage in any kind of wrongdoing and they would still support him or her. (We might privately chalk that up to a special kind of stupidity.) But more and more, it seems, true believers skip the preliminaries and go straight to regarding anyone who supports the wrong candidate as just plain evil. After all, how can they possibly abide the lack of integrity, the poor judgment, the unwillingness to be transparent, etc., unless they are as bad as their candidate?

Of course, this is nothing new. Not even a little bit. As I’m combing through the Gospel of Mark once again, I’m finding all sorts of new insights that I never noticed before. I want to draw your attention to Mark 3:20-35. There are two groups wanting to stop Jesus. The first is his family, those closest to him, who grew up with him, who think that Jesus is wrong and needs to stop. The second group is comprised of the professional haters out there, those who have seen Jesus from a distance, who bash him on Twitter and spread rumors about him in 4-Chan, but would never confront him face-to-face. In doing so, they completely dehumanize him. Check it out.

Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.
And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebul! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.
So Jesus called them over to him and began to speak to them in parables: “How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come. In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house without first tying him up. Then he can plunder the strong man’s house. Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.”
He said this because they were saying, “He has an impure spirit.”
Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.”
“Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked.
Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”

Did you see that? Jesus’ detractors were using the ignorant or evil arguments against him! His family thought he had gone off the deep end. He’s out of his mind. He’s completely lost it. He’s just ignorant, otherwise he would know not so say or do these things.

But the extreme haters equated Jesus, not with the Nazis since they wouldn’t be around for another 1900 years, but with Satan, or Beelzebul, the Prince of Demons. He’s evil! He’s in league with Satan. He’s sold his soul to the Devil.

You see, if Jesus is in fact wrong, those are really the only conclusions we can come to. He’s either a lunatic, out of his mind, or he’s a liar, operating for the Father of Liars.

But Jesus isn’t wrong – the others are. His family is in fact ignorant of who he really is. And the teachers of the law are the ones more in league with Satan and his demons. Brilliantly, though, Jesus doesn’t answer false rhetoric with more false rhetoric. He doesn’t call his family ignorant – he redefines family as those who do the will of God the Father. And he doesn’t call the teachers of the law evil – he just points out the logical inconsistencies of their arguments and drops the mic.

As the TEDTalk above points out, being wrong feels just like being right – unless and until we know we’re wrong. Jesus is trying to point out how the others are wrong about him, but in a loving way to his family and in a logical way to his haters. He doesn’t get baited into arguments about things that don’t matter. Love doesn’t do that. Love gives opportunities for wrongs to be made right rather than keeping a record of wrongs.

It wouldn’t be until after his resurrection that his mother and brothers truly came to believe in Jesus as God’s Son, not Joseph’s. His mother became a prominent matriarch among the early church, and two of his brothers (James and Jude) wrote letters that would be preserved in the New Testament canon to this day.

I think there’s a TON that we can learn from Jesus that is just as applicable to us in the digital age as it was in the iron age. Don’t take the bait. Don’t feed the trolls. Haters gonna hate – don’t play their game. And above all – speak (or text) the truth in love. Remember who the true enemy is. *Hint* They’re not on the other side of that keyboard (Ephesians 6:12). And remember who your true family is. *Hint* They’re in every nation and every political party across the globe (Revelation 7:9).

Who Are These Guys?

If you want to win the gold medal for basketball in the Olympics, you can’t get much better than the 1992 USA “Dream Team.”

This group of men would go down in history as “the greatest sports team ever assembled.” After a disastrous 1988 run at the Olympics – losing to the USSR and settling for bronze – the USA recruited professional players for the first time ever. This hall-of-fame lineup included Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, John Stockton, Charles Barkley, Scotty Pippen, Patrick Ewing, and Carl Malone. They were a force to be reckoned with, to put it lightly.

Needles to say, the Dream Team put the US back on top by winning the gold medal in 1992. And it wasn’t even close – the closest game happened to be the gold medal game against Croatia and was won by 32 points (117 to 85).

The sheer dominance of this team, their performance and teamwork, cannot be understated. They took the world by storm and are now a thing of legend. They were the best of the best of the best.
If you want to assemble a team to begin a world-changing movement that would alter the course of history as we know it, you can’t get much worse than the Twelve.

In Mark 3 we see that Jesus is amassing a following. His movement is growing and gaining momentum. He could have stayed in the spotlight and enjoyed being the sole leader of this revival. But he knew that wouldn’t work in the long run. Countless others have tried that. And when the leader dies or leaves, the movement dies with him.

Jesus, as a Rabbi, chose twelve men to be his disciples. These men would spend all their time with Jesus. They would eat with him, sleep by him, travel with him, and hang on his every word. The goal of a disciple was to teach like his rabbi, speak like his rabbi, eat like his rabbi, interact with people like his rabbi – even, and this is true, relieve himself like his rabbi. The Rabbi-Disciple relationship was one in which the disciple was becoming more and more like his rabbi every day.

Jesus knew the importance of his mission and the sheer scope of what he was trying to do. You would think he would try to assemble the “Dream Team,” right? I can imagine him going to the synagogues, the Temple, the places of learning and religious devotion to recruit the brightest and best young men with the most potential. I mean, that’s what we would do.

But of course, that’s not what Jesus did. He looked out at the crowd that had gathered and made his selection then and there.

Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. He appointed twelve 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)

We don’t know much about these men, but we do know some things. We know from the start that these were not the religious elites. They weren’t already disciples of another Rabbi, which means they hadn’t made the cut when they were younger.

These weren’t just the worst players in the NBA. These were the guys that got cut from their high school teams.

James and John were fishermen. Their father, Zebedee, owned his own fishing business with several boats and other hired men. Simon/Peter and his brother Andrew were probably business partners with James and John. They were uneducated blue-collar workers. How were they going to change the world?

Matthew, also called Levi whom we met earlier, was a tax collector for the Roman government. The other man named Simon came from a group of assassins and guerrilla warriors known as the Zealots. The Zealots hated Rome with a passion. They were commonly regarded as terrorists whose sole purpose was to drive the Roman army out of their territory. Simon would have tried to kill tax collectors like Matthew.

We don’t know a lot about Judas Iscariot, but he was probably from a wealthy family. He was the one in charge of the money. He had problems with greed. He didn’t like the way Jesus was going about his mission, and so Judas would betray him to the Jewish officials.

Nobodies. Fishermen. Tax Collectors. Assassins. Swindlers and Conmen.

Are these the men with which Jesus was to inaugurate the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth? Are these really the guys who would help Jesus overthrow evil, defeat death, and bring about a whole new world order?


Twelve disciples. One Rabbi. Three years.


He Did What, Now?

Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. (Colossians 2:20-22)

One thing that amazes me about Jesus is how he straight up doesn’t care about cultural, societal, and even religious norms. Jesus doesn’t operate under the “We’ve never done it that way” banner. Jesus doesn’t care about how we’ve always done it. He came to show us a new way, a better way.

Norms are based on fear – go along to get along, just keep your head down and go with the crowd. I heard this in a presentation recently by some folks from a group called Axis: “The problem today isn’t unanswered questions. The problem is unquestioned answers.” We get ourselves into trouble as a society when we don’t bother questioning the way things have always been – who’s in and who’s out, what’s trendy and what’s taboo. Jesus simply doesn’t play by the same rules. Just when you think you’ve got him figured out, he flips the script.

At the end of Mark 1, we’re briefly introduced to a man. We don’t now much about him. All it really says is that he’ “a man with leprosy.” I wish I knew more – How long did he have the disease? Did he have a wife and kids? What did he do before he got leprosy? How far along was the disease? How bad of condition is he in?
But we do know a couple of things. 1) He had leprosy, or a really bad, really contagious skin disease. 2) He wasn’t supposed to be around people. 3) Nobody who was “clean” was supposed to touch someone with leprosy for fear of catching the disease themselves or being declared “unclean” for a period of time.
There was no cure for leprosy. True leprosy, in fact, isn’t a skin disease per se. It’s a nerve disease. Leprosy affects your sense of touch. You begin to lose feeling in your skin and muscle tissue. It can manifest as a skin disease because lepers will often cut themselves and not know it. The wound then becomes infected and the infection can spread through other parts of the body. Lepers were relegated to their own communities outside of the towns and villages. They were essentially quarantined until they died.
Imagine losing all sense of feeling and not being able to hug your wife and kids, not being able to shake hands or high five or experience human contact in any form. I would go crazy!
So this man breaks all the rules and makes his way to Jesus. “If you are willing,” he said, “you can make me clean.”
Jesus could have just said the word – but he didn’t. Jesus “reached out his hand and touched the man.” Jesus, you aren’t supposed to touch him! Everyone knows that. Ew…go wash your hands, right now.
Jesus didn’t have to touch the man. Jesus wasn’t supposed to touch the man. But the man needed to be touched. You see, Jesus always placed people before norms and traditions (and even Laws).

The next story Mark tells is of a paralyzed man whose friends lowered him down through the ceiling of the house where Jesus was teaching. Only true friends will cause vandalism on your behalf.
So there’s this paralyzed man with a newly made spotlight on him, front and center for all to see. Again, Jesus could have just said the word and the man would have been healed. But Jesus says the unthinkable: “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
The gasps would have been audible. The teachers of the law were only saying what everyone else would have been thinking. “Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
The problem is there is no “proof” of sins being forgiven. Anyone could just say it. That doesn’t make it true. Jesus proves the point, though, by saying the word and healing the man. Everyone is shocked, and they rightly conclude, “We’ve never seen anything like this!” Yes, because Jesus doesn’t do or say what we expect him to do or say.

It gets worse.
Mark then tells the story of Jesus’ encounter with a man named Levi (also known as Matthew). Levi was a tax collector or, as his fellow Jews would call him, a traitor. Tax collectors had literally sold out to the enemy – Rome. The Roman army was occupying the territory of Israel and was using Jewish taxes to pay for their occupation. For a Jew to collect taxes from other Jews to support the occupying army was absolutely reprehensible. You’ll notice that they are even given their own category – “sinners and tax collectors.”
So Jesus goes up to Levi at his tax booth. You would think that Jesus is going to encourage Levi to stop taking money from the Jews to support the Romans, that he should be ashamed of himself, and that he’s on the fast track to hell. But that’s just what we would do, not what Jesus does.
Jesus simply says, “Follow me.”
And Levi does!
That night they throw a big party at Levi’s house, inviting all the other “tax collectors and sinners” to join them. You’ll also notice that parties broke out wherever Jesus went.
This caught the attention of the Pharisees who questioned why Jesus was doing this. What Rabbi in his right mind would be caught dead eating with “those people?”
Jesus simply responds, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
I think Jesus is really throwing shade at the Pharisees, because they would know the passage from Isaiah – “There is none who is righteous, no not one.” We’re all sick in need of healing. We’re all sinners in need of forgiveness. The difference is that the tax collectors and sinners acknowledge their own brokenness and accept Jesus’ ability to fix them. You’ve heard it said, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But I tell you, “If you don’t know you’re broken, you can’t ever get fixed.”
Here’s the really interesting part about all this.
Where were lepers supposed to go in order to be declared “Clean” again? The Temple.
Where were people supposed to go in order for their sins to be forgiven? The Temple.
Where was the one place “tax collectors and sinners” were prohibited from going? The Temple.
Jesus is the meeting point between heaven and earth, like the Temple was supposed to be. In Jesus, God dwelled among his people. Jesus embodied everything the Temple was supposed to be. Instead of being made unclean, Jesus makes the unclean clean again. Jesus forgives and takes away people’s sins. And if tax collectors aren’t welcome at the Temple, then Jesus will take the Temple to them!

This shouldn’t be much of a surprise. Not soon after Mark wrote his gospel account, the Temple in Jerusalem would be completely demolished by the Roman army. There hasn’t been a Temple in Jerusalem since the year 70. But just as Jesus took the job of the Temple upon himself, so we, his church, become the living, breathing Temple of God wherever we gather.

Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?
(1 Corinthians 3:16)

So what does this mean for us? We should be a place where people are made clean, where the broken are made whole, where sinners find forgiveness and acceptance, where the sick are made well, where the poor and the outcast are full members, and where all the wrong people are united under the one Lord Jesus Christ.
Want to be like Jesus? Touch the untouchable. Forgive the unforgivable. And throw parties with all the wrong people. In other words, be the Temple of God wherever you go.

Who Is This Guy?

We just finished the Christmas season. One of my favorite Christmas hymns is “What Child Is This?” From his conception and birth there was something different about the one they called Jesus. But who is he? What makes him so special?


I believe that is the most important question you will ever have to answer. And believe me – everyone has an answer for that question. Every single person in the world has their own answer, even if it’s “I don’t know.”

So who is Jesus to you?

You might give the good Sunday school answers: Savior, Messiah, Christ, Lord, King, Son of God, Holy, Perfect, God with Us, Prince of Peace, Friend, Brother, The Word.

He is indeed all this and more. However, do we really understand what those titles and roles actually mean? Probably not. It’s like when you first began to be curious about your dad’s job. When you were young, you probably asked your dad what he did. And he probably told you, but you as a four-year-old had no idea what a proctologist or a regional manager or a vice president of finances was. But you would tell your friends just to impress them.

Hopefully in the coming weeks we will begin to actually understand what those titles actually mean.


There’s an interesting conversation Jesus has with his disciples right in the middle of Mark’s Gospel. He asked them, “Who do people say that I am?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” (Mark 8:27-28)

Who is Jesus from a worldly point of view today? If you were to ask the average Joe off the street what they thought about Jesus, what might they say?

He’s a good teacher. He’s a myth. He’s a prophet. He’s a religious zealot who got himself killed. He’s a Jewish rabbi who became a legend. He’s a nobody.

Basically any answer you would get could start with the word “just.” He’s just ________________. But as we take a look through the Gospel of Mark, we will see that Jesus isn’t just anything. He isn’t even just the Savior, the Messiah, the Son of God. He’s all that and more. Jesus is more than we can ever really grasp. That’s why people had such a hard time figuring him out. Even his closest disciples and friends – even his own family – didn’t really know what to make of him.


So who is Jesus? We’re going to dive into Mark’s Gospel to find out. But since Mark isn’t too patient in his writing, he spoils the whole thing right off the bat.

The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God…
(Mark 1:1)

Every word of that sentence is loaded. “The beginning” automatically takes our minds back to Genesis 1 – “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Mark wants us to know that something new is happening. Creation 2.0 is underway.

“The good news” is a very specific phrase that Mark is using. Our word “gospel” comes from the Old English phrase “good spell,” meaning a good word/news. It’s rooted in the Greek word evangelion, from which we get the word “evangelism.” This was a very familiar concept in the Roman world. Whenever a Roman general was victorious in battle, they would send messengers into the surrounding territories to tell the “good news” about the victory over their enemies. Or if a new emperor took the throne, messengers would go throughout the empire proclaiming the “good news” about the new Caesar, often hailed as a “son of the gods.” Mark uses that word intentionally, signaling that a great victory has been won and a new king is on the throne.

“About Jesus…” Did you know that wasn’t his name? Jesus comes from the Greek-ified (or Hellenized) version of the Hebrew name Yeshua. In English that would be the name Joshua. It was a super common name back then, and it’s still a super common name in our culture. But it’s a powerful name. It means “YHWH saves.” His name is his mission.

“The Messiah” is a term that means “anointed one.” This refers to an anointing ceremony that would set a person aside (sanctify) for a specific purpose – to become king or to achieve a specific task for God and his people, etc. This word is also translated “Christ.”

“The Son of God” is a phrase taken directly from Psalm 2, which was a coronation song in Israel commemorating the crowning of a new king in Jerusalem. In the middle of Psalm 2 God says, “You are my son, today I have become your Father.”

Mark makes it clear from the very beginning who he thinks Jesus is. He’s stating his thesis, and everything to follow is meant as evidence to back up his thesis. This gospel account is crammed full of people trying to figure out who Jesus is, and inviting the reader along on the journey of discovery.

Take the first chapter, for instance. That’s where we will begin. Grab your Bible or Bible app (or click on this link) to read Mark 1:4-39. Try and spot all the times we’re told who Jesus is or what he is doing. There’s also one big question asked about Jesus in chapter 1.

Who is Jesus according to Mark 1?

  • One more powerful than John the Baptist, who will baptize with the Holy Spirit (1:7-8)
  • God’s Son, with whom God is well pleased (1:11)
  • Rabbi, calling his disciples (1:16-20)
  • The Holy One of God (1:24)
  • Exorcist (1:27)
  • Healer (1:30-34)
  • Traveling preacher/miracle worker/exorcist (1:39)

What big question is asked about Jesus in Mark 1?

“What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to impure spirits and they obey him.”
(Mark 1:27)

When he commanded the demon and drove it out, the people had never seen anything like that. They were completely astonished at Jesus’ authority. You see, it’s one thing to claim to be the Messiah, the Son of God. It’s another thing to back it up with actions that others can see and report on. (We’ll get deeper into that in chapter 2.)


Mark’s gospel also focuses on what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. We are introduced to Jesus’ first disciples in chapter 1 – Peter, Andrew, James, and John. These two sets of brothers were also professional fishermen. Jesus, a rabbi, called them to be his disciples – and they dropped everything to follow him. The rabbi-disciple relationship was quite unique. We don’t really have anything like that in the US. A disciple was a student, the rabbi was a teacher. But the goal wasn’t just to learn what the rabbi knew. The goal was to live as the rabbi lived and to do what the rabbi did.

Disciples of Jesus should strive to BE LIKE JESUS. Not necessarily to perform miracles and drive out demons. But there are things we can learn from Jesus and imitate in our own lives as his followers. Here’s what I see from chapter 1.

Jesus was baptized. His disciples were baptized. He commands others to baptize and be baptized. You should do it, too. In my understanding, the journey of discipleship doesn’t really begin until you commit your life to Christ in the waters of baptism.

So often the biggest hinderance in sharing our faith with others is the fear that we don’t know enough. I would disagree with that. Jesus’ first message was as simple as it comes – “The time has come. The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” You don’t have to deliver a doctoral level thesis paper in order to share your faith with someone. Invite them to church. Tell them what God has done in your life. Let them know that Jesus loves them and that they can experience grace and forgiveness. Keep it simple.

Jesus invested in his disciples. He chose them, he called them, and he shared his life with them. He also took time for people like Peter’s mother-in-law who was sick with a fever. Jesus took her by the hand and healed her. Jesus was never too busy, never too rushed, never too hurried to stop and spend time with people who needed him. Take time for the people who matter most to you. Invest in those relationships.

Even in the hustle and bustle of his life, Jesus made time to spend with God. He had to get up very early in the morning to do it, but he prioritized it. Jesus knew that he couldn’t make it through the day without spending time in prayer and worship with God. For so many of us, time is our most precious resource. We just don’t have enough of it. So make sure that God and others are getting the “first fruits” of your time.

The disciples found Jesus praying alone and kind of told him off. “Everyone is looking for you!” But Jesus didn’t take the bait. He could have gone back to the crowd, amassed a following, grown in his popularity and celebrity status. But he didn’t. He kept his mission small. I can’t help but think of our culture today. If it could be summed up by one phrase, I think “everyone is looking for you” would be a really good one. We are expected to be available 24/7 via text, Snapchat, or DM. If we get a notification, we better check it and respond immediately. Jesus tells us not to take the bait. If you always give in to the notion that “everyone is looking for you,” then you are giving other people way too much control over your life.

For an excellent introduction to the Gospel of Mark, check out this video by The Bible Project.