Mark captured Peter’s stories because he wanted us to know about Jesus. What he said. What he did. Whom he met. Where he went.

But not just because Jesus was a larger-than-life personality (though he was certainly that). And not just because Jesus said and did interesting things (though “interesting” is an understatement where Jesus of Nazareth is concerned). Mark repeated Peter’s stories because—like Peter—Mark came to believe that Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah, the Holy One of God.

For that reason, Mark starts his gospel with this ringing affirmation:

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

From the very opening of his story, Mark wants us to know who Jesus is, that he is the Christ, the Promised One, the Savior of Israel, the long-foretold Deliverer of God’s people. For his original audience, for the people of his day, the identity of Jesus was essential. Jesus as story-teller was good. Jesus as miracle worker was better. But Jesus as Messiah was best of all.

For hundreds of years, the Jewish people had endured invasion, humiliation, enslavement, and ruinous taxation. They had been second-class citizens in their own country. They were required to bow and scrape, kneel and grovel before one foreign invader after another. Babylonian. Assyrian. Macedonian. Egyptian. Syrian. Roman. Different empire … same song. Different tyrant … same tyranny.

So, for hundreds of years, the Jewish people had anticipated a time when God would notice their plight and send his Deliverer … the One who would throw off the foreign yoke, throw out the foreign armies, free his chosen people, give them back the Promised Land, and grant them peace and prosperity.

He’d done it before. When they were slaves in Egypt, God sent Moses. When the Midianites oppressed them, he commissioned Gideon. When the Philistines threatened, God called Samson. When the Babylonians carried off the Jewish people, God raised up Daniel and Ezra and Nehemiah.

But God had been silent in recent centuries. In the era just before Jesus appeared on the scene, there had been a plethora of enemies but a paucity of Saviors. One invader after another raped Israel, plundered Israel, enslaved Israel, ruled Israel. And the people of Israel had prayed to God for another Moses, another judge, another king, another Deliverer. “Save us!” they cried to God. “Send us your Messiah. Bless us with the Chosen One, the Anointed One, the Christos!”

Though Israel prayed long and hard, those were famine years, lean years—decades of want and surrounded by centuries of need.

Jewish historians recorded that dozens of individuals came to Israel during these years of drought claiming to be the Messiah. They offered hope, only to deliver disappointment and disillusionment. They made promises, but kept them with ashes and dust. They roused the rabble and gathered armies in the desert but to little effect.

Jesus of Nazareth was one of those who came to Israel claiming to be the Messiah. But Mark wants us to understand that Jesus was not like the messianic pretenders who preceded him. He was not a false Christ making empty promises.

Mark presents Jesus as a powerful, competent, wise, miraculous figure who was able to heal and cast out demons, calm storms and multiply loaves, amaze the crowds with his teachings and confound the Pharisees with his logic. Mark presents Jesus as a larger-than-life, bigger-than-normal figure, whom everyone was watching … everyone was evaluating … everyone was measuring against the Messianic standard.

Mark’s Jesus was a man who could draw large crowds, a popular persona who might be dangerous had he used his popularity to whip up a following. He was a man of supernatural power who could have used his power to create a fanatic entourage. He was a man of such captivating words, he could have used his speeches to mold an army from the crowds that gathered around him.

All of this set Jesus apart. He was a man to be reckoned with. A man with a crowd at his beck-and-call. A man with spiritual power at his fingertips. The crowds knew it. The Pharisees knew it. Even the demons knew it.

Previous Article in Series

Next Article in Series