Who do you say Jesus is?
When it comes to Jesus Christ, there really is no neutral ground. According to chapters five and six of the Gospel of Mark, there are two opinions a person can have about Jesus, but the two are not created equal. In fact, what we believe about Jesus is a matter of life and death.
Rejected at Nazareth
We read in Mark 6:1-6 about the first of these two opinions:
[Jesus] went away from there and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. And on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. And he marveled because of their unbelief. And he went about among the villages teaching.
Summarizing this story is, “And [Jesus] marveled because of their unbelief.” In other words, within the human heart exists an opinion of Christ that is rooted in unbelief.
Notice the progression of the peoples’ questions, which begins in astonishment and ends in downright vexation: “And they took offense at him.” To the people of Nazareth, Jesus was merely a human teacher to be questioned, and the result of their unbelief was a lack of mighty works being accomplished in their presence.
Received by Jarius
Our second opinion of Jesus comes from Mark chapter five:
And when Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered about him, and he was beside the sea. Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name, and seeing him, he fell at his feet and implored him earnestly, saying, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live…”
They came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and Jesus saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. And when he had entered, he said to them, “Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. But he put them all outside and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him and went in where the child was. Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement. And he strictly charged them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat. (Mark 5:21-23, 35-43)
Unlike the people of Nazareth, who insisted on questioning Jesus out of the hardness of their hearts, Jarius believes that Jesus is able to accomplish great works – in fact, that he is the source of life itself. Jarius has faith that Jesus can raise his daughter from the dead, despite the flagrant unbelief of the other people who are gathered at his house (who are weeping from sadness and laughing at Jesus’ claim that the girl is only asleep).
To Jarius, Jesus was not a teacher worth questioning, he was a Savior worth believing.
A Matter of Life or Death
What’s your opinion of Jesus? Do you resonate more with the people of Nazareth or with Jarius? To you, is Jesus merely a good teacher with some helpful morality to admire, or is he the source of life?
If our final say about Jesus is merely that he was a good teacher, we should take a moment to consider that argument. Jesus cannot possibly be a good teacher, worthy of respect, if he was lying about his identity as the Son of God!
We should consider what is at stake in our opinion of Jesus Christ. The Bible tells us that Jesus is our source of life, just as he was for Jarius’ daughter. And if Jesus is the source of life, if he really is who he says he is, then anyone who rejects him is ultimately choosing death, not only in this life but in the life to come.
If we are not living for Jesus, then we are living for ourselves. Now, it may not seem like living for ourselves is such a bad thing, especially in the present time; doing what we want, when we want to, can actually feel freeing! But it is an elusive freedom. What we don’t realize is that we are slowly becoming more and more hardened to the things that really matter: the things of eternity.
And some day the Bible says that our earthly lives will end and we will stand before Jesus (Philippians 2:9-11). Our humanity and our selfish way of life will be exposed, and what will we have to say for ourselves then? What excuse will we have for living for ourselves? Those of us reading this article won’t be able to plead ignorance about Jesus Christ!
But if we are willing, like Jarius, to believe that Jesus is who he says he is, the Christ and the giver of life, then we will hear Jesus’ response: “Arise!” For the person who takes a chance on Christ, who puts his or her faith in him, the answer is “Yes and amen.” For the person who sees the true condition of his or her soul as dead and unable to save themselves, Jesus is willing to resurrect! Jesus is willing to give new life and new hope.
Jesus is looking for those who recognize their need for his help – not for perfect people, for none exist. No, he is looking to extend undeserved grace and mercy to the person who puts his or her faith in his ability to save. The one who loses his or her life for Christ’s sake actually saves it in the long run (Mark 8:34-35).
Our opinions of Jesus are a matter of life or death. Eternity goes one of two ways; there is no neutral ground where Jesus is concerned. So pray for clarity about who Jesus is. Ask him to reveal himself to you. Give the Bible a chance, open it, and read about him.
For those who seek him will find him, if they seek him with all of their hearts (Jeremiah 29:13).