Normally, we think of this concept at Christmas time.
O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here,
Until the Son of God appear.
“Emmanuel” means “God with us,” a title from the Old Testament given symbolically to Jesus. This symbolic name reminds us that God Himself clothed himself in the person of Jesus for us.
Has everyone in your group watched the “Gospel of Mark” video by ReadScripture? Watch it together!
**Update: Hey, my group had a lot of difficulty with this topic. It seemed a little deep for a quick, unfocused glance. My suggestion is that you pause for prayer together, and put on your thinking caps, and walk carefully through the following content. I know you can digest it, and you don’t have to be caught up on your Year of the Bible reading to get it.
Emmanuel means God with us, a title from Old Testament texts like Isaiah and later given symbolically to Jesus. We sing this carol as part of our Christmas celebration, recognizing the scandalous incarnation of Israel’s God in the person of Jesus. This is called the doctrine of incarnation.
Some Biblical critics in the last hundred years or so have claimed that Jesus never identified himself as YHWH. They say that the doctrine of incarnation was a later invention the church, and that we have come to just “read it in” to the text. Could that be true? What do the Gospel writers really say in their writings?
There are many reasons why an author like Mark doesn’t come right out and say, “Jesus was God!” (like John seems to do.) To a Jew, the concept of incarnation was about as mind-blowing and incomprehensible as any idea you can imagine. This is still true today despite 2000 years of Christian doctrine. The Gospel that God “became human and lived among us” (John 1:14) was so scandalous as to be unspeakable for the first Jews and apostles to believe it. It was a reality too sacred and paradoxical for such plain human speech. That’s why Mark’s Gospel, the first of the four to be written, doesn’t speak about incarnation in the kind of plainspeak we might expect it to. Instead, Mark weaves throughout his Gospel a pattern of Old Testament hints and allusions that lead the careful reader to the undeniable conclusion that Jesus was somehow both fully divine and fully human.
Rather than use the kind of systematic language like “Trinity” and “Incarnation” that we are used to, Mark paints a full picture of the identity of Jesus that is only made visible when we step back and take it all in. So, let’s go deep here! Jesus said, “Whoever has ears, let them hear.” (Mark 4:9)
Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray. And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.
What about this story strikes you as odd?
On this quick read, excluding the other stories about Jesus, what do you learn about the true identity of Jesus?
If we stop for a minute and consider that Mark is not simply telling a story, but showing us who Jesus actually is, we find a much deeper meaning to the story.
So, when you read the following Old Testament passage from Job, how does it change, enhance, or deepen your view of Mark’s words?
Then Job answered:
Yes, I know what you’ve said is true, but how can a person be justified before God?
If one wanted to take Him to court, he could not answer God once in a thousand times.
God is wise and all-powerful.
Who has opposed Him and come out unharmed?
He removes mountains without their knowledge, overturning them in His anger.
He shakes the earth from its place so that its pillars tremble.
He commands the sun not to shine and seals off the stars.
He alone stretches out the heavens and walks on the waves of the sea.
Remember, Mark wrote his Gospel primarily to JEWISH people who would have been very familiar with Job’s story. When a person who knows Job 9 hears the story of Jesus walking on the waves of the sea, what does this imply to them about Jesus?
Is it possible that we Gentiles easily misread this story of Jesus’ walking on water by simply taking it at face value, and missing it’s real purpose?
Oh, it gets better…
Think about that for a minute as you read the rest of Job’s passage, starting again in verse 8 and continuing.
He alone stretches out the heavens and walks on the waves of the sea.
He makes the stars: the Bear, Orion, the Pleiades, and the constellations of the southern sky.
He does great and unsearchable things,wonders without number.
If He passes by me, I wouldn’t see Him;
if He goes right by, I wouldn’t recognize Him.
If He snatches something, who can stop Him?
Who can ask Him, “What are You doing?”
Earlier, we talked about what was “odd” about this passage… Do any of those odd things align here with Job 9? How?
The Gospels are clear that Jesus did so many miracles that they could never all be recorded… Can you begin to see why this particular one was chosen to be included?
Clearly, Mark was suggesting something by zooming in closely on this particular miracle. What point does it look like he is making here?
- about his identity?
- about the disciples’ inability to recognize him?
- about how difficult it could be to recognize God even if he walked right past us?
It is amazing how deep this is… Mark is drawing a line from Jesus walking on the water through Job 9 straight back to God. He is not saying it, but he is clearly showing that Jesus is God himself!
Had you ever recognized that before?
How does that change your appreciation for the Gospel of Mark? How does it change your thinking about the other Gospels?
What does Jesus himself say about our ability to recognize him in the following passage?
Don’t you know or understand even yet? Are your hearts too hard to take it in? ‘You have eyes—can’t you see? You have ears—can’t you hear?
How do I know if I have “eyes” but don’t “see?”
What does James, the brother of Jesus, say about that in the following passage?
But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.
So, what does that look like in my daily life? How does that form me after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma? What does that mean for the way I treat my neighbor?
As you close, be sure to pray for each other. Don’t forget to continue reading for next week’s discussion, using the ReadScripture App to keep up! You’re doing great! This is the EASIEST POINT to jump back in with us… We are reading through the Gospels, the narratives of Jesus’ life. You can do it. Only a few more months to go!