“King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ name had become known. Some said, ‘John the Baptist has been raised from the dead. That is why these miraculous powers are at work in him.’ But others said, ‘He is Elijah.’ And others said, ‘He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.’” - Mark 6:14-15
In the original texts of the Scripture, there were no chapter and verse breaks. Instead, one narrative flowed naturally into the next. At the end of last week’s reading, the disciples embarked on their first journey to spread the kingdom of God. They traveled throughout the land preaching, healing, and casting out demons in Jesus’ name. In doing so, they expanded his ministry and his fame to such an extent that word eventually reached Herod’s palace.
For the third time in his Gospel, Mark builds a narrative sandwich. In the first layer, he recounts how Jesus authorized the disciples’ ministry and sent them out to continue his work on their own. The middle layer (the meat and cheese, if you will) describes King Herod’s reaction to the stories about Jesus, including his fear that John the Baptist had come back to haunt him. In the top layer, the disciples are reunited with Jesus, share the works they performed in his name, and continue following him. Even as he shifts between characters and locations, Mark is clearly highlighting one central question: who is Jesus? Who is this man who performs miracles, teaches with authority, controls the forces of nature, and even empowers others to do the work of God? Everyone was seeking an answer – the disciples, Herod, the royal court, and the multitudes who gathered to partake in his ministry.
King Herod was not alone in believing that Jesus was John the Baptist raised from the dead, though he probably had the most to fear if it was true. Others speculated that Jesus was the prophet Elijah, who had been miraculously taken up to heaven in a chariot of fire (2 Kings 2:11-13). Because he did not experience a human death, many Jews believed that Elijah would return to Earth before judgement day. And some people thought Jesus was a prophet like those of the Old Testament, for he spoke with power and authority and was clearly equipped by the Spirit of God to perform mighty works.
Those were not the only theories, of course. Earlier in Mark’s Gospel, we saw the villagers chase Jesus out of town as a disruptor, even after he miraculously healed the demoniac in their midst. And in Nazareth, his own people rejected him as an imposter. By contrast, Jairus and his family, the hemorrhaging woman, the possessed man, and even the legion of demons recognized Jesus as a man with divine authority and power.
Who is Jesus? Is he John the Baptist come back from the dead, Elijah, or one of the prophets? Is he an unwelcome disruptor of the status quo or is he the Son of God, the one who offers healing and ushers in his father’s kingdom? Each and every one of us must answer that question. If Jesus truly is the Son of God, will you choose to worship, surrender to, and follow him?
Reflect and Respond:
Who do you believe Jesus is? How is that reflected in your daily life? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
In our new six-week Bible study on the book of 1 John, you are invited to live and celebrate true life in Christ. Throughout his first letter, John wrestles with the assurance of salvation. How do we know that we are genuine Christians, and how can we recognize authentic faith in others? The Apostle John taught that you can enjoy full assurance through believing in the incarnate Son of God, walking in the light of obedience, and loving God and his children. Embark on this study with us today!
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