The Bible has many verses that answer the question “Who is Jesus?” One of the most succinct is Mark 1:1 – “The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”
This verse presents 3 names that tell us much about the identity of the biblical Jesus, arguably the most influential person in the history of the world. Basic Bible doctrine begins with a correct understanding of the person of Jesus.
1. Jesus is a man – his humanity.
Throughout his gospel account, Mark goes to great lengths to describe the humanity of Jesus. Consider these verses that describe his human emotions and limitations:
Compassion (1:41, 6:34)
Deep distress (3:5)
Troubled & sorrowful (14:33-34)
Jesus got tired (4:38) and hungry (11:12). He experienced the full range of human emotions and was regularly frustrated by his disciples’ behavior and lack of faith (4:40, 8:33, 9:19, 10:13-16).
Mark makes it clear that Jesus was a man. He has a human name and throughout the book of Mark, his humanity is undeniable and unmistakable. Yet the Bible teaches us that he was the only perfect man to ever live, for even though he was “tempted in every way, just as we are” he was “without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).
2. Jesus is the Christ – his royalty.
This Jesus is also named “Christ”, the Greek form of the Hebrew word “Messiah”, which means “anointed one” – a reference to his office as King. Take note – the word “Christ” is not his last name. In Bible times, people didn’t have last names. Rather, this is his royal title.
It would make more sense to say it like this, “Jesus, The Christ”, or “Jesus, The Messiah”, or “Jesus, The King”.
The equivalent to this name/title combination “Jesus Christ” would be “Barack The President”. Many times in the New Testament the order is reversed – “Christ Jesus” is the same as saying “President Barack”, with the title preceding the name.
This “gospel” (or “good news”) which Mark is telling us about, then, concerns a man named Jesus who bears the title of Jewish royalty, The Messiah. The concept of Messiah would have much significance to the Jews in Mark’s audience, for the Messiah was the long awaited King who would come to save Israel from her enemies and establish an eternal kingdom for his people. The Messiah’s coming and reign were predicted throughout the Old Testament, the sacred writings of Judaism.
3. Jesus is the Son of God – his deity.
who is jesus The third name given to Jesus is both the most important and the most misunderstood. When we say that someone is a “son”, we immediately think of the word in its obvious human sense – a male descendant, an offspring. This everyday concept of “sonship” is far removed from the Biblical phrase “Son of God”.
What did Mark mean by calling Jesus the Son of God? What did people in Jesus day understand Jesus to mean when he called himself the Son of God? To answer that question, let’s look at an incident recorded in John 5.
One Sabbath day in Jerusalem, Jesus healed a man who was an invalid for 38 years. When the Jewish religious leaders heard about it, this was their reaction:
“So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jews persecuted him. Jesus said to them, ‘My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.’ For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.” (John 5:16-18)
The key phrase is found in verse 18 – Jesus was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.
The Jewish leaders were infuriated with Jesus – He healed a man on the Sabbath, which they viewed as a violation of their interpretation of Old Testament restrictions regarding working on the Sabbath. But his actions did not upset them nearly as much as his words – by calling God his own Father, he was claiming to be the very Son of God, and this meant that he was claiming equality with God. He was claiming to be God in human form.
Make no mistake about it – these 3 characteristics of Jesus (his humanity, his royalty and his deity) are the bedrock of biblical Christianity and one of the basic doctrines of the Bible.