We have heard Jesus’ identity attested to by John the Baptist, the ancient prophets, the Holy Spirit, even the Father Himself at Christ’s baptism. We have witnessed the emergence of Jesus on the stage of human history, but we have not yet had a single word uttered from the mouth of Jesus Himself until here. In this passage, Jesus speaks, and we find that He speaks in a way that is different from the way that we speak. We find that Jesus speaks as God speaks.
He begins by announcing that the time has come, the right time, the decisive time in history, and that the Kingdom of God is near. The word Jesus uses for “time” is not the ordinary word we use for clock time or calendar time. Jesus uses a word for time which means “the decisive time.” A whole new time is breaking into the history of the world, a time which we have not seen since Adam sinned in the Garden of Eden. God’s time is a timeline governed by the Kingdom of God, a time when the rule and reign of God is joyfully received.
The world, then as now, had forgotten who was in charge, but Jesus comes as the embodiment of the divine, sovereign right over all creation. By this very identity, He will divide the whole human race in half. The prophet Simeon understood this when he held the child Jesus in his arms and said, “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against” (Luke 2:34f). Jesus divides the whole human race into two groups, groups that have nothing to do with Eastern and Western, black or white, rich or poor. This is a division of the human race that cuts across everything we can imagine, dividing those who accept and rejoice in the reign of God from those who do not. Jesus therefore says, “Repent and believe the good news.” To repent means to renovate our whole way of thinking and living. It is not just being sorry for our sins. We must be gutted out and rebuilt from the inside out. To believe means to act in a way which is consistent with the truth. It is a way of living. Repent and believe. Christ embodies the kingdom of God, God’s divine rule over the world, and so He speaks as God speaks when He calls us to acknowledge that reality and rejoice in it.
Jesus then comes upon two fishermen, Simon Peter and his brother Andrew, and He says to them, “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Through the preached word Jesus calls us today in the same way He called those first disciples so many years ago. He did not call them to a bunch of rules and regulations. He called them to Himself. Jesus exercises the authority to make us precisely what He has called us to be. “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” The translation here literally means, “I will create you fishers of men.” He is not limited by our natural abilities or expected aptitudes. The Holy Spirit requisitions everything for His good and His glory. Jesus, like a great alchemist, is in the business of turning base things into priceless gold. As Paul would later express in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” Christ embodies the creative power of the universe, and so He speaks as God speaks when His words create a new powerful reality in our lives.
And then, in verses 21-28, we find that those who hear Christ speak are “amazed” because He teaches as one who has authority. The reason that those first century hearers were so amazed is that it had been a long time since anyone had spoken with this kind of authority. Their own teachers always quoted the earlier great teachers of the Law. If they thought back even further, the great prophets always spoke in the Name of God, not of their own authority. Even Moses and Abraham had not spoken this way. The last time the human race heard words spoken with this kind of authority was in Genesis when God created the world: “Let there be light – and there was light.” Now, that is authority! Jesus does not speak descriptively, as we do. He speaks authoritatively, as God does. When God speaks, things happen. His word is His deed. We write reams of books describing and defining light. But God said, “Let there be light…and there was light” (Genesis 1:3).
So when a leper comes to Jesus and says, “If you are willing, you can make me clean,” Jesus says, “I am willing. Be clean!” (Mark 1:41). For Jesus, there was no difference between teaching with authority and casting out a demon with authority, because in both cases His words and His acts have equal power. In the midst of His teaching, a man possessed by an evil spirit cries out, “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are – the Holy One of God!” (Mark 1:24) Jesus’ response is “Be quiet! Come out of him!” He shuts down the accusations of this demon, this member of Satan’s dominion. Satan is known in the Scriptures as the “accuser of the brethren” (Rev. 12:10), and his job is to accuse us before God. This is Jesus’ first encounter in His public ministry with one of Satan’s operatives, and He says that there will be no more accusations. The word of Christ triumphs over the word of the accuser. Satan, the chief prosecutor, has been sacked, and there is no longer any basis for his accusations against us. He has no more authority in our lives because Christ has already publicly dismissed him. Christ embodies the victory of God over all the powers of Satan, and so He speaks as God speaks when He expels Satan with authority.
Jesus creates men and women anew with His calling. He embodies the Kingdom of God. By His presence, He divides the whole human race. He speaks with God’s creative power, and He demonstrates his authority over Satan! Who is this Jesus? In this passage, we see the beginning of a revelation about Christ’s identity through His own words and actions. Mark chooses not to spell it out for us. Instead, he lets Jesus’ words and deeds speak for themselves. Jesus speaks as God speaks, for He is the very Son of God!