A bitesize look at the first verse of the Gospel of Mark in the Bible. ‘The beginning of the Good news about Jesus the Messiah, the son of God’ is a direct challenge to the Roman Emperor and Roman religion. We compare the Priene calendar inscription about Emperor Augustus and the papyrus about Emperor Nero with the opening line of the Gospel of Mark.
Jesus …came with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people …They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. And all in the crowd were trying to touch him, for power came out from him and healed all of them. (The Gospel of Luke 6:17-19, New Revised Standard Version).
“Power came out from him and healed all of them.” The same Greek word is used here as in the Mark passage above. Dunamis! Not only run of the mill healings but power-healings! At first glance, the power seems to be some sort of spiritual energy that flows out from Jesus. It seems to be a kind of energy that is detachable from Jesus. What is this power? To answer this question, we do need a little 1st Century Jewish background. After all, Jesus was a 1st Century Israeli rabbi. In the time of Jesus, it was forbidden to use the holy name of God, YHWH (pronounced, Yahweh. There are no vowels in ancient Hebrew!). Whenever YHWH occurs in the Hebrew Bible (The Old Testament) the reader would use a substitute such as Adonai (the Lord), Ha-Shem (The Name) or Ha-Gevurah. (The Power). Most English Bibles translate YHWH as “The Lord”. In conversation one of these substitute names was always used. To utter the divine name YHWH was blasphemy and liable of the death sentence. So, it seems likely that the power that came out of Jesus was not some mystical or spiritual energy but that it was nothing less than The Power! YHWH! The manifestation of God himself in healing. At his trial, Jesus also avoided speaking the divine name YHWH and he used the substitute, The Power. The High Priest is interrogating Jesus. He asked Jesus if he is the Messiah. Jesus replies: I AM. Then he says:
And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of The Power and coming with the clouds of heaven. (Mark 14:62).
The Greek word dunamis again and with the definite article. Jesus would have used the Hebrew original Ha-Gevurah. Although Jesus did not utter the divine name YHWH nevertheless the High Priest deems that Jesus has committed blasphemy anyway because of the other things he has said:
Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “What further need do we have of witnesses? Mark 14:63).
At this point, the Gospel has the ring of truth with a piece of detail of historical reliability. We know from ancient rabbinic sources that The High Priest tore his robe and that this constitutes the verdict of blasphemy. The sage Rabbi ben Qorha said that once the
witnesses have given their evidence, “the Judges stand and tear their clothing and never sew them back up.” (Mishnah, Tractate Sanhedrin, 7:5).
Jesus, after his death but before his ascension, told his disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they are “clothed with Power from on high”. (Luke 24: 49). It is clear that Jesus didn’t think of this power as some sort of mystical or spiritual energy but rather as nothing less than the third person of the divine trinity – The Holy Spirit. (Acts 1:8).
Revd Dr Peter Pimentel
Over the last few years there has been a growing fascination with our genealogies. We love to look back at our family histories, create family trees, and search out information about what our ancestors were like. Last year people even took it to the next level, and one of the best selling Christmas presents was home DNA testing kits. Which can tell you where in the world your family comes from. This did cause some issues for some families when the results between family members were not what they should have been!
Matthew opens with:
‘the book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ’ (v1)
which deliberately recalls Gen 5:1:
‘This is the book of the generations of Adam’
Matthew is telling us that the story of Jesus parallels in importance the story of the very first human. Basically, the coming of Jesus is cosmically as big as the creation of humankind!
‘Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah’ (v17)
In the genealogy itself, Matthew is as good as shouting David, David, David. Matthew divides the genealogy up into three groups of 14, and in Hebrew David’s name = 14 (D = 4, v = 6, d = 4). Matthew is saying Jesus is the Davidic Messiah.
Matthew is telling us through the genealogy of Jesus that the coming of Jesus is a cosmic turning point, and that he (Matthew) sees Jesus as the royal Davidic messiah. For more on this see ‘We have found the Messiah’.