The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
—Mark 1:1 (HCSB)
If you read the Bible purely seeking an inspirational thought for the day, then today’s reading may disappoint you. What’s inspirational about these passages? These are the kinds of verses we tend to pass through quickly to get to the “good stuff.” These aren’t verses you want to cross stitch and hang on your wall.
But as Paul reminds us in 2 Timothy 3:16, all scripture is God-breathed and useful. Every verse. So when we come across verses like these, it’s good to ask, “Why is this in here? What did God want me to know? What did the writer want the people of his day to know?”
Each Gospel writer told the story of Jesus with a purpose—to convince a particular audience to put their faith in Jesus.
Luke, a Gentile companion of Paul, wrote to other Gentiles. In fact, it’s possible that Luke’s Gospel was written as part of Paul’s defense documents when he was on trial in Rome. So Luke is very particular with details like these historical references. Luke roots the story of Jesus in very real history—with names, dates and places. Jesus came to affect that history, the course of His time and the course of our time, our day.
Luke tells us later in Acts that John Mark was an early traveling companion of Paul’s, but had a falling out with Paul and spent the later part of his life in ministry with Peter. Most scholars believe that Mark’s Gospel is really Peter’s account of Jesus. If so, that explains the opening verse of his Gospel.
Peter, the man of action, isn’t a historian; he’s an evangelist who gets right to the point: Jesus, the Son of God. If you remember, when Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” it was Peter who answered boldly, “You are the Christ, the Son of God” (Matthew 16:16).
Let’s think like Luke and look at Peter’s confession, rooting it in real history: Jesus Christ, Son of God. “Christ” isn’t Jesus’ last name—it’s the title also translated “Messiah.” The Greek word is christos or “anointed.” It was used to describe the high priests and sometimes the kings of Israel, those who were anointed by God for a holy task.
Through the prophets, God made it clear that one day the true High Priest and King of Israel would appear. By the time Jesus arrived in history, expectations regarding the Messiah had reached a fevered pitch. When would God send His Messiah to overthrow Rome and establish His kingdom?
Son of God. Roman coins bore a graven image of Caesar, with the inscription “divi filius”—son of god. Caesar was said to be divine. The confession of the day was, “Caesar is Lord.”
Caesar appointed Pilate, Herod, and the other rulers (listed in Luke 3). In their day and time, they appeared to be in control of history. But Mark and Luke tell us that history was being rewritten. We live in the year 2013, marking history not from the reign of Tiberius Caesar or Pontius Pilate, but from the reign of Jesus, the Christ, the Son of the Living God.
The Good News we call “the gospel” is that He’s in the world—the One who can remake history, yours and mine. The One who can free us from the powers that be and their expectations of us. The One who’s appointed by God to the holy task of saving and remaking the world, including this day.
- Who are the people in power over your life? Government officials, employers, teachers, parents, coaches? How much confidence do you have in them? What do they demand of you?
- Do you think about Jesus as being involved in your own place in history? What does He expect of you? How much confidence do you have in Him? If you believe He’s at work in your life, what evidence do you have? Why is that good news?
- How would letting Jesus be in charge of this day change it? How would it challenge the powers that be in your life?