Titles carry great significance in the Bible. As Mark begins his Gospel account he applies to Jesus three titles, each filled with implications.
First, he identifies Jesus of Nazareth as “Christ” or “Messiah”. This man from the obscure Galilean town of Nazareth is God’s promised, chosen leader for His special people, Israel. He is “Jesus Messiah”, the one who comes to liberate people from sin and place them under God’s unequaled power. Mark ties Jesus into God’s eternal program.
Second, Jesus is “Son of God”. When the Roman Centurion observes Jesus die on the cross, he acknowledges “truly this man was ‘son of God'”. In first century Rome the emperor carried the title ‘son of god’, designating his unique power and position. Mark’s application of this title to Jesus at the beginning of his Gospel sets him in direct opposition to this dictatorial, temporal ruler. Gentile readers would readily recognize the claims being made about Jesus – his power, authority, and prestige as ruler, challenging Rome’s position. Mark invests far more meaning into this expression as God himself (1:11; 9:7) names Jesus as “my son”, and one who is especially loved and affirmed by God.
But it is the third title that is most astonishing. Mark quotes Isaiah 40:3 (1:3) and considers it fulfilled in John the Baptist’s identification of Jesus as specially endowed with God’s Spirit (Mark 1:8). Isaiah initially announced God’s restoration of Israel from exile and the prophet calls upon God’s people to “prepare the way of the Lord [i.e. Yahweh]”. Isaiah deliberately uses the personal name of God. Mark affirms that this prophecy has further fulfillment in the coming of Jesus and the work of John the Baptist. To “prepare the way of the Lord [i.e. Yahweh]” is to prepare the way of Jesus. In other words Mark considers Jesus to be Lord, i.e. Yahweh, in a significant, unique way. Such a claim for a human being is unheard of in Jewish literature.
Application: Jesus is Messiah, Son of God, Yahweh. Our contemporaries resist the claim that Jesus is God and that this places his teachings in a special category. In a world committed to religious pluralism we must hold firmly to the unique claim of Jesus of Nazareth to be God and God’s authoritative, final message to humanity. Affirm this before God today. Let this fundamental conviction guide your decisions. May it dominate your life and so enable you to change your world.