And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!
– Mark 15:39
If someone asked you this afternoon, “Who is Jesus?” what would you say?
Jesus is a nice guy who showed us how to love one another.
Jesus is a wise teacher who taught spiritual truths.
Jesus is a Jewish zealot who should have kept his mouth shut.
Jesus is a myth of Christian folklore.
Some say one thing. Some say another. If no one agrees, can anyone know for sure? Best-selling author Reza Aslan says no. All we can do is make an educated guess. What do know, according to Aslan, is that we can’t trust the New Testament gospels to provide an accurate answer.
“If we expose the claims of the gospels to the heat of historical analysis, we can purge the scriptures of their literary and theological flourishes and forge a far more accurate picture of the Jesus of history.” – Reza Aslan, Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth
Modern people like to think they are the first to thoughtfully question what our forefathers blindly presumed. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. From the first moment Jesus stepped onto the scene, people who had the benefit of seeing, touching, and listening to him drew all kinds of different conclusions about his identity. Some said he was John the Baptist. Some said, “Elijah.” Others thought he was one of the prophets.
In the quest to determine Jesus’ identity, humility demands that we start not with what people say about Jesus, whether ancient or modern, but with what Jesus says about Jesus. In other words, our investigation should begin with his declaration. And we have good reason to believe that the declarations Jesus makes about himself in the New Testament gospel is trustworthy and true.
“We have then in the Synoptic Gospels, the latest of which was complete between forty and fifty years after the death of Christ, material which took shape at a still earlier time, some of it even before His death, and which, besides being for the most part first-hand evidence, was transmitted along independent and trustworthy lines. The Gospels in which this material is embodied agree in their presentation of the basic facts of the Christian faith – a threefold cord not quickly broken.” – F. F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?
That’s why we’re beginning a year-long sermon series this Sunday from the Gospel of Mark. Our goal is simple. We want to listen to how Jesus himself answers two critical questions:
Who is Jesus? And what does it mean to follow him?
Don’t presume you know the answer. Come ready to listen and ready to respond. His word is sure. His testimony is right. And his self-revelation demands a response.