Who Do You Say I Am? Part One: Jesus the Sovereign (Mark 1-2)

#41 in 66 in 52: A one-Year Journey Through the Bible, October 15, 2023, GLYNWOOD BAPTIST CHURCH, JAMES JACKSON, LEAD PASTOR

Good morning. Please open your Bibles to Mark 1.

This  morning, we start a series of messages going through the gospels. This is like a series within a series. We are still rocking through the bible chronologically, but for the next several weeks we are going to be looking at Jesus.

In Matthew 16, Jesus was walking with his disciples in a region called Caeserea Philippi, and he turned to his disciples and asked them, “Who do people say I am?” In other words, what’s the word on the street? And they responded with what the talk of the town was: Some say John come back to life. Some say Elijah. Some say Jeremiah or one of the prophets.

Then Jesus made it personal: But what about you? Who do YOU say I am? And that’s the question I want us all to wrestle with over the next several weeks: Who do you say Jesus is? What do you believe about Jesus, and more importantly, is your behavior consistent with your belief?

So we are going to be in Mark this morning, one of the four gospels. The word “gospel” literally means “Good News.” It’s a combination of two Greek words—eu, which means “good” (eulogy, euphemism) and angellion “message.”

The question that comes up for a lot of people when they open the Bible is, “Why do you need four gospels? The story is the story, right?”

Well, yes and no. The story is the story, in that there is only one Gospel—one good news. But each of the four gospel writers—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John came from different backgrounds. You can think of them as four distinct views of the one good news. Each had a specific audience. And each emphasized some details from the life of Jesus and ommitted others in order to make the point they were trying to make.

As we continue in this series, we’ll spend more time on what makes each gospel distinctive. And I know some of you are a little frustrated with the reading plan because it doesn’t have us in any one gospel, but instead tells the same story from multiple gospels in one day’s reading, and it can get a little repetitive. So as you are going through these next few week’s, I hope you’ll keep your listening guide today as a cheat sheet. There’s a really good infographic on the back of the listening guide that will help you understand what’s distinctive and unique about each gospel, but you can remember it this way: [advance each one]

  • Matthew: A Jew, writing toJews, about Jesus the Messiah
  • Mark: A Roman, writing to Romans, about Jesus the Son of God
  • Luke: A Gentile, writing to Gentiles, about Jesus the Savior of All
  • John: A Disciple, writing to the Church about Jesus the Word made Flesh

So this morning, we’re going to begin with Mark—A Roman, writing to Romans, about Jesus as the son of God.

Now, if you were here last week, we talked about Ceasar Augustus proclaiming himself to be god in 9 BC. He also added a new month to the calendar and named it after himself—August, Here’s a denarius from the time of Jesus—It says “Augustus Divus” (not diva). That means Augustus the Divine.

Augustine proclaimed that

Never will another gospel surpass the gospel that was announced at his birth. He is not only Lord of the Empire, but Lord of the Earth and of the calendar and of time itself.”

So how much more “in your face” could Mark be with verse 1:The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

What Mark is setting up here is a question every single one of us have to answer, and that is, who am I going to acknowledge as the authority in my life? On the one hand, you have Rome. The Emperor. Remember Mark is is writing to Jews living in Rome. This is a group of people that understands authority. They understand abusive and oppressive authority. Any one of them could probably reach into their pockets (I don’t know—did togas have pockets?) and pull out one of these coins with Ceasar’s image on it—Caesar is Lord.

Now, the Romans were actually tolerant of Jews. Their official policy was to allow freedom of religion for any religion that was already established. So as long as Christianity is still seen as an offshoot of Judaism, they were kind of grandfathered in.

Only now, Mark is raising the stakes. In these first chapters, he’s going to show how the gospel of Jesus Christ supersedes the gospel of Caesar. He’s going to show that Jesus has authority in every area of life. There’s seven areas where Mark shows Jesus authority in these first two chapters. Let’s look at them together.

First, Jesus has authority to call disciples. Look at Mark 1:16-20: [Read]

One of the things that has always fascinated me about Jesus is how He was able to get a bunch of big, burly, professional fishermen to drop everything and follow Him. I don’t think it would have worked with me. But with Jesus, not only did it work, it worked “immediately.”

  • Verse 18: And immediately they left their nets and followed Him.
  • Verse 20: And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him.

What was it about Jesus that He could get four big burly fishermen to leave nets, their boat, their livelihood, and in the case of James and John even their own father to follow him?

Maybe you’re thinking, well, Jesus must have been this big, burly, manly man himself, and that’s why they followed him. And you might be right. But notice that in the next chapter, Jesus finds Levi—a tax collector– a guy who is probably as opposite from these fishermen as you can get. And Levi does exactly the same thing.

So it wasn’t just that Jesus appealed to rough outdoorsy types. There was something about him that drew introverted accountant types also.

Why did they trust Jesus? Because Jesus had authority. The Greek word is ex-oo-SEE-ah. It means the power to do as one pleases. Ability. Strength, Influence. Privilege. The power of him whose will and commands must be obeyed.

We could stop right there and ask again—Is this what Jesus is in your life? Have you acknowledged His authority to do as He pleases in your life? Do you believe He has the ability and strength to do what God’s Word says He can do? Do you see hom as the One whose will and commands must be obeyed.

Jesus’ authority comes out of who He is. He isn’t elected Lord. He isn’t Lord because you accept him as your savior and Lord. He is the Son of God. He is Lord whether you accept him or not. And Mark is going to show that Jesus has authority in seven areas of your life.

We’ve already seen that Jesus has the authority to call you as His disciple. Imagine you are interviewing for a job in a big office building. You walk in and there’s a custodian mopping floors in the lobby. He looks at you and says, “congratulations; you’re hired.” He doesn’t have the authority to do that. But the head of the company does. That’s how it is with Jesus—he has the absolute authority to call you to follow him. Just like Peter, Andrew, James, John, Matthew, Philip, Thomas, Simon, Bartholomew, James, Thaddeus, and Judas.

But you still have to accept the job. You aren’t giving Jesus the authority, but you acknowledge His authority by leaving everything behind to follow him.  

2. Authority in His teaching (1:21-22).

Verse 21 says they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching. 

22 And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes. 

The people in the synagogue were used to hearing the scribes recite the law. But their authority didn’t come out of who they were. It came out of what they had studied. But Jesus teaching was different. We don’t know what he says here, but we can get a pretty good idea by flipping over to Matthew 5. In verses 21-48, Jesus is teaching about anger. And he starts off in pretty safe territory—“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But then look what happens in verse 22:  22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother[a] will be liable to judgment; 

Whoa! “But I say to you?” Who gets to do that? A teacher with exousia.

And he keeps doing it. Adultery, divorce, taking oaths, retaliation, love for enemies. The pattern is “You’ve heard this, but I say this.” —

Unlike the scribes, Jesus authority wasn’t based on human interpretation of God’s Word. It was based on Himself—he WAS the word. Everyone who listened to Jesus acknowledged His authority.

So let’s make the question personal. Have you submitted yourself to Jesus’ teaching? Again, His teaching is authoritative, but are you submitting to it?

In a couple of hours, I leave for New Orleans for my next doctoral seminar. When I payed my tuition, it hit me that I’ve paid nearly a thousand dollars to listen to this professor. By paying my tuition and registering for this class, I have acknowledged that this professor’s teaching is authoritative. But, unless I do the work and complete the  reading and then adjust my behavior based on what I’ve learned, I haven’t submitted to his teaching.

See, it isn’t just knowing that Jesus is a great Teacher. It’s letting Him teach you. That’s when His teaching has authority.

But Jesus wasn’t just a master communicator. It wasn’t just what He said. It’s how he backed it up with His action. Look what happens next:

 23 And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, 24 “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” 25 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” 26 And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him. 

Notice how the demons always get it right about Jesus? In Mark’s gospel, Jesus is recognized as God twice—once by the demons, and once by the centurion at the foot of the cross.

Jesus had authority over the demons. But for now, just know that Jesus demonstrates that He has power over the evil spirits. He commands them to come out, and they come out.

And the crowd is amazed about this. Verse 27 says,

27 And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” 28 And at once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee.

In our modern world, people don’t often take the idea of angels and demons and spiritual warfare seriously. But there really is a spirit world. There really are angels and demons and spiritual warfare. There really is a glorious heaven and a terrible hell, and whether or not you submit to Jesus’ authority in your life determines which one you are going to spend eternity in.

 And yes, there really are demons that are actively trying to trip you up and lead you astray.

But let me be super clear about this: Jesus has authority over the spirit world. Satan had to get God’s permission to mess with Job. If you are a Christian, there is a limit to how much Satan can mess with you. We know from 1 John 4:4 that the one who is in us is greater than the one who is in the world. So yes, its all real and the devil is powerful.

But Jesus is more powerful. Jesus has authority because of who He is. Satan only has the authority that God has given him, and it’s a very short leash.

I’m going to move through the next three pretty quickly, because I really want to spend more time on the last one.

4, Jesus had authority over sickness.

In verses 29-31, Jesus healed Simon Peter’s mother in law. Word must have gotten out, because according to verse 33, that evening “the whole city was gathered together at the door. And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons.

Now, I think its important to understand here that just because Jesus has authority over sickness, that doesn’t necessarily mean that he is going to cure every disease. Notice verse 34: Jesus healed “many” who were sick. It doesn’t say “all.”  Jesus authority means that sometimes he heals someone, and sometimes he uses that sickness or long-term diagnosis or whatever to bring glory to His heavenly Father.

Number five, Jesus has authority over nature. Jump over to Mark 4 and you have the story of Jesus calming the storm. There’s a fierce storm on the Sea of Galilee, Jesus is asleep in the bottom of the boat, the disciples are freaking out, they wake Jesus up, Jesus rebukes the wind, and the storm stops. And just note what the disciples say about Him: “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” (Mark 4:41).

Jesus has authority over every storm. Both the literal ones (he promised way back in Genesis that He would never flood the world again) and the spiritual ones. Jesus has authority over every storm in your life.

Back to Mark 2. Verse 23 says that one Sabbath, Jesus and his disciples were walking through the grainfields and plucking heads of grain. And the Pharisees all started pointing their fingers, saying,

“Harvesting! He’s harvesting on the Sabbath! See, if he was really the Messiah, he wouldn’t be breaking the Sabbath!” And Jesus reminds these guys that the Sabbath is about a day of rest, and not a day of stress. If you are so worked up and nervous that you are going to accidentally break a law, then you aren’t resting. And so Jesus shows He has authority over the Sabbath. Not only that, but He is the source of Sabbath. In Mtthew 10, Jesus says, “Come to me, all who labor, and I will give you rest.”

Make it personal again— Does your relationship with Jesus rest you or stress you? If you are constantly living in fear that you aren’t working hard enough to please Him, then you are doing it wrong. He came to set us free.

Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me.”

A yoke was a rabbi’s teaching. So many of the rabbis of Jesus’ day had a yoke of legalism. Of burdening people with the minutiae of the law.

A lot of people think that’s what following Jesus is all about today. You’ve got a checklist of laws you have to obey.

You’ve got a time clock of hours you have to pray.

You’ve got a quota of people you have to save.

And you have to have the plan of salvation memorized and you have to have family worship at least six times a week and you have to show up and you have to give and you have to go and you have to do and you have to not cuss and you have to not drink and you have to not go see bad movies and you have to and you have to and you have to.

And Jesus said, I know you guys are weary of that. I know you are heavily laden down with that. In The Message, Matthew 10 reads like this:

I know you are burned out on religion. But follow me, and I’ll show you real rest. I’ll teach you the unforced rhythms of grace, and you will find rest.

The law says do, and through and through,

it chains us up and binds us.

The cross says “done”—God’s only Son,

By grace, through faith, unwinds us.

The last one is the most important one. Jesus has authority to forgive sin. In Mark 2, Jesus was back in Capernaum teaching, and a group of guys lowered their paralyzed friend through the roof and literally dropped him in front of Jesus. And Jesus looked at him and said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.” And this freaks the Pharisees right out. They say, “This is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic— 11 “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” 12 And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”

You see, the evidence that your sins have been forgiven is that there is a change in your life.

This is the key to my truck. And the cool thing about this key is that it doesn’t just unlock the door, but it also starts the engine. And submitting to Jesus authority in your life is like that key. Salvation is the key that will unlock the prison doors that hold you captive, but it is also the ignition key that sets your life in motion. It will also bring peace and joy and meaning to your life. It will give you direction and focus and hope. Salvation is the key that can get you set free and turned on at the same time!

But only if you put the key in Jesus’ hands. Does Jesus have authority over your life?




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