Read the series so far.
The Gospel of Mark is profound from the very first verse. It reads, “the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”1 But first, a reminder about what this study is all about:
1. We’re looking at what the Gospel of Mark says about the Lord Jesus Christ, from beginning to end.
2. Then, we’re seeing if the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity makes sense of all this evidence (hint—it does).
As we move along in this study, the point is not to produce an exegetical commentary on the Gospel of Mark. The point is to simply take in evidence about who Jesus Christ is, and consider what this information says about Jesus in light of the Trinitarian definition of God. Because I’ve heard tell that a picture is worth a thousand words, we’ll use a nifty chart to summarize our findings as we mosey our way through the text.
Remember, we’ll be using this orthodox definition of the Trinity from James White’s excellent book The Forgotten Trinity:
Within the one Being that is God, there exists eternally three co-equal and co-eternal persons, namely, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit 2
This definition captures five important facts about the Trinity, and as we go along, we’ll be charting out how the evidence supports each one:
- Each Person is fully and completely divine3
- Each Person has always been co-equal,4
- Each Person has been around forever,5
- Each Person is, in some way, distinct from the others, and yet
- Each Person is, in some way, one with the others6
Now, onto the text!
Who Is the Messiah?
The evidence for God’s tri-unity is apparent from the very first verse in this wonderful book. Ἀρχὴ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ. This is the “beginning of the Gospel about Jesus the Messiah.” It’s easy for many Christians to forget that the word “Christ” is not a last name, like say, Fred Flintstone. It’s a title.7 It says something about who Jesus is, in the same way that “Sylvester the Cat” describes a long-suffering puddycat with a lust for bright yellow birds. This word “Christ” is not a name—it’s a title. What does this title mean?
It means “Anointed” or “Chosen One.” It means “Messiah.” This title refers to a very specific individual who was prophesied about in the Scriptures. Anybody who has read the Bible knows the Jews were expecting the Messiah. Jesus, for example, asked, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ,” (Mk 8:29). Peter believed Jesus was the Messiah (ὁ χριστός).
The Samaritan woman whom Jesus met at the well also had the same hope. “The woman said to him, ‘I know that Messiah is coming’ (the one called Christ); ‘whenever he comes, he will tell us everything,’” (Jn 4:25). Again, the woman used a title to describe this Messiah who, ironically, she was talking to (ὁ λεγόμενος χριστός). This Messiah was called “Christ.” Who was calling Him “Christ?” The Samaritan community was.
Even the apostate Jewish leaders were expecting this man to come on the scene. Remember, for example, what they asked Jesus at His trial. “Again the high priest questioned him, ‘Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?’” (Mark 14:61). The word has the article in Greek, because it’s a title (σὺ εἶ ὁ χριστὸς). Sylvester the Cat. Tweety the Bird. Jesus the Christ.
Consider a few passages from the Old Testament which speak of this coming χριστὸς, this Anointed One. All of these passages should be familiar to the average Christian, but perhaps you never considered them from a doctrinal standpoint.
We read, “The kings of the earth form a united front; the rulers collaborate against the LORD and his anointed king,” (Psalm 2:2). Who on earth is this “anointed king?” The word means “Christ” or “Messiah.” Whoever He is, the leaders of the pagan world are united again both Him and God Almighty. They seek to “tear off the shackles they’ve put on us,” (Ps 2:3). The Lord and His Anointed One are both binding the kings and rulers of the world.
The Anointed One is then described as the Lord’s king, who rules from Zion (Ps 2:6). More than that, He is God’s Son (Ps 2:3), a sentiment which God repeats at Jesus’ own baptism in the Jordan River (Mk 1:11). This Anointed King will have all the nations as His inheritance, “the ends of the earth as your personal property,” (Ps 2:8). He will dominate and destroy all evildoers who refuse to acknowledge His reign, breaking them “with an iron scepter,” (Ps 2:9). The rulers of the earth are warned to “do what is wise,” and “submit to correction! Serve the LORD in fear! Repent in terror!” (Ps 2:11).
It is clear this Anointed King is the instrument who will carry out the Lord’s wrath and rule over the world as His representative. He did not warn the rulers of this earth to serve Him, but “the LORD.”
His identity is surely no secret; the disciples explicitly identified Him as Jesus when they quoted this very passage in the Book of Acts (4:26). In that passage, Luke quoted the Septuagint translation exactly (κατὰ τοῦ κυρίου καὶ κατὰ τοῦ χριστοῦ αὐτου). The word for “anointed” is the same title all the Gospels give to Jesus; the same title Mark just gave Him in the very first verse of this book—τοῦ χριστοῦ.
We can also turn our gaze to the precious passage from the Psalms, which even Jesus quoted from: “Here is the LORD’s proclamation to my lord: ‘Sit down at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool!’” (Ps 110:1). Who is God speaking to here? Who is David’s “lord”? Why is this “lord” given the enormous privilege of sitting at God’s right hand? This is a privilege even the holy, pure and undefiled angels in heaven would never think of grasping for (cf. Rev 4).8
He is the Lord’s anointed King whose dominion extends from Zion and who will rule in the midst of His enemies (Ps 110:2). He is “an eternal priest after the pattern of Melchizedek,” (Ps 110:4). He sits at God’s right hand and executes judgment against nations, kings and rebels, “he fills the valleys with corpses; he shatters their heads over the vast battlefield,” (Ps 110:6).
He is the King whom loud voices from heaven will praise, and say, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever,” (Rev 11:15). The title is rendered τοῦ χριστοῦ αὐτοῦ, His Messiah.
How does this survey about the idea of a coming Messiah help us understand the doctrine of the Trinity? It’s simple, really. Just consider what the Old Testament teaches us about the Christ from these two passages:9
- He is distinct from the LORD. The kings and rulers of the earth are united together against both the Lord and His Anointed. It is their shackles they seek to escape from, not His. The Messiah sits at the God’s right hand. It is Messiah’s kingdom which will be established.
- He is co-equal and divine. He does not worship the Father in heaven, but sits at His right hand. This is a privilege no angel can ever claim. Even Michael the archangel shrinks from directing rebuking Satan (Jude 9), yet David’s Lord sits beside God Almighty in heaven! He and God share the shackles which bind men to their authority and jurisdiction.
- He is eternal. He will reign “forever and ever.”
We can begin filling out this chart as follows:
Already, the false modalist view of God begins to run into serious problems when we see the clear distinction between God and His Messiah. Likewise, the Arian Jesus cannot simply be an angel or a created being, because He does not worship God from a position of inferiority (cf. Rev 4), but sits beside Him as a joint object of worship (cf. Rev 5:13).
As we go along, this chart will simply continue to grow, and the precious doctrine of God’s tri-unity will continue to unfold before our eyes. No Christian could ever exhaust the deep well of learning and study the Scriptures offer us about the Father, His dear Son, and the Spirit, who make their home in the heart of every true believer (Jn 14:23). May every Christian be stirred to know more about His God.
1 There is some uncertainty and hand-wringing in certain quarters about whether the phrase υἱοῦ θεοῦ is in the original text of Scripture. The UBS-5 encloses it in brackets. The Textus Receptus and Byzantine Text include it, along with a genitive article.
2 This definition is from James White, The Forgotten Trinity (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 1998), 26.
3 Athanasian Creed, clause 15.
4 Ibid, clause 26.
5 Ibid, clauses 8, 21-23.
6 Ibid, clauses 3-6.
7 I believe the genitive Χριστοῦ is functioning in simple apposition to Ἰησοῦ. See also Mark L. Strauss, Mark, in the Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014), 60.
8 Actually, Satan and a whole bunch of angels did try to grasp for this privilege, but that’s another topic. And, yes, I take the 24 elders to be angelic beings, not representatives of the church in heaven.
9 So much more could be said about the prophesies of the Messiah that I almost feel criminally negligent for being so brief here. I hope readers can forgive me.