Mark’s Murder Mystery: the Secret Messiah

Introduction: Murder Mysteries

When you were a little kid, what did you want to do when you got older?
I thought it would be cool to be a detective!
someone like Sherlock Holmes who uses their mind to catch criminals
when I got old enough, I liked to read murder mysteries like Agatha Christie
who likes that sort of story?
So, today I’m going to be a detective. 
Sherlock Holmes Titheridge!
Did you know that Christianity is based on a murder mystery?[1]
the murder of a man called Jesus, 2000 years ago.
Today we’re going to investigate this murder.
We’re going to ask questions like a good detective: who was he?
Did he have some secrets?
Why did somebody want to kill him?
Jesus had a good friend called Peter, and Peter had a friend called Mark.
Mark probably wrote down what Peter told him about Jesus
– and so we had the book of Mark in the Bible
we are going to investigate Mark’s murder mystery.

Authority in Teaching and over Evil Spirits

So who was this man Jesus?
I’ve been studying the evidence – information about the crime from the book of Mark.
And I found a big clue!
everywhere Jesus went, Mark says people were amazed, or excited, shocked, surprised.
Let’s look at the first time Jesus teaches in public in Mark:
The people were amazed[2] at Jesus’ teaching, for he taught with real authority
—quite unlike the teachers of religious law.
Suddenly, a man who had an evil spirit began shouting,
“Why are you here, Jesus of Nazareth?…
I know who you are—the Holy One sent from God!”
Jesus cut him short. “Be quiet! Come out of the man,” he ordered.
At that, the evil spirit screamed, and then came out of him.
Amazement gripped the people…
 “What sort of new teaching is this?” they asked excitedly.
“It has such authority! Even evil spirits obey his orders!”
(Mark 1:22-27, page 761)
why were they amazed?
because Jesus had authority
That means when he teaches, Jesus knows what he is talking about.
It’s like he knows the mind of God.
When he gives an order, even the evil spirits, demons obey
he has wisdom and knowledge, strength and power – like they’ve never seen before.[3]
And did you spot another clue?
The evil spirit, said “I know who you are – the holy one from God.”
Later on demons say, “You are the Son of God!” [4]
That sounds like Jesus is someone pretty special, very close to God.

Authority over Sickness and to Forgive Sins

In the next chapter, another amazing thing happens.  (Mark 2:1-12, page 762.)
We saw it last week.
Jesus was teaching in a house.
suddenly, down from the roof came a sick man on a rope.
A detective speaks to witnesses – people who saw the man who was killed.
So let’s speak to a lady who was there
hello, I’m detective Sherlock Holmes Titheridge, FBI – Friendly Bible Investigation
I’m investigating the murder of Jesus.
So I’m trying to find out who he really was.
You saw him.  Can you tell us what happened?
Lady: it was amazing!
This poor man couldn’t walk at all, but
Jesus told him to stand up, pick up his mat and go home – and he did!
David: amazing!  What authority!
and I heard he said something else very strange to the man.
Lady: yes, he said “my child, your sins are forgiven.”
The religious teachers were shocked, they were angry.
David: aha – an important clue.
The religious leaders said “what is he saying? 
This is blasphemy!  Only God can forgive sins!
what is blasphemy?
the people then, and Christians today, believe there is one God.
He made everything – he made you and me and the whole world
God is very very high above us.
Blasphemy is when someone talks as if God is not much different from them.
That’s what Jesus was doing – talking like he’s nearly God – shocking!
In fact, Jesus said “I have the authority on earth to forgive sins.”
when people do wrong things, Jesus can forgive them
The people were all amazed and praised God, saying,
We’ve never seen anything like this before!”
Thank you very much – you’ve given us some good evidence.
Lady: yes, it was amazing.  I never saw anything like it before – really!

Different Ideas

Wow – pretty incredible.
Who was this guy?[5]
People had a lot of different ideas.
When Jesus’ family heard what was happening, they tried to take him away.
He’s out of his mind,” they said.
But the teachers of religious law said,
He’s possessed by Satan, the prince of demons.”
Mark 3:21-22, page 763.
Jesus’ family thought he was out of his mind, crazy, not right in the head.
The religious leaders thought he was evil, and had a demon himself[6]
what a lot of confusion!
Amazed, confused, no one really knew who he was.
A mystery man[7]

Authority over Wind and Waves

Maybe one of his closest friends can help us understand.
Look, here is Peter.
Hello, Mister Peter
I am detective inspector Sherlock Holmes Titheridge, FBI
I’m investigating the murder of Jesus.
I’m trying to find out who he was.
So what can you tell us about your friend Jesus?
Well, one day we were in our little fishing boat on the Sea of Galilee.
And there was a big storm: the wind blew so hard and the waves got so big.
We thought our boat was going to sink and we would all die!
But then Jesus spoke, and the wind stopped blowing, the waves stopped crashing.
We were afraid, terrified.
David: yes, that’s what Mark wrote:
When Jesus woke up, he said to the wind and the waves, “Silence! Be still!”
Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm…
The disciples were absolutely terrified.[8]
Who is this man?” they asked each other. “Even the wind and waves obey him!”
Mark 4:35-41, page 764
Jesus even had authority over the wind and the waves.
“Who is this man?” they asked – a very good question.
When they saw Jesus, people were amazed, confused, and terrified.
Can you tell us more Peter?

Authority over Death

Peter: one day, a man came to Jesus,
His little daughter was very sick – she was dying.
By the time we got to his house, his daughter was dead.
She was only 12 years old.
David: how sad.
what a shame Jesus didn’t get there in time.  The poor parents.
Peter: but there’s more!
Jesus took her by the hand, and he said “Little girl.  Get up.”
And she stood up, walked around, alive!
They were overwhelmed and totally amazed.
Jesus gave them strict orders not to tell anyone what had happened.
Mark 5:42-43, page 765
Again, everyone was amazed.
Jesus even had authority over death!
Who is he?

The Secret Messiah, Shining Bright

People had lots of different ideas[9]
but one day Jesus asked his followers, his best friends,
Who do you say I am?
Peter replied, “You are the Messiah.”
But Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him.
Mark 8:27-30, page 769
“The Messiah” – that sounds like another big clue.
We’ll think about that later.
So Peter, tell me, did you see any more signs of who Jesus really was?
yes, just a few days after that, we went up a high mountain with Jesus.
And suddenly he was shining white.
The light was so bright, we could hardly look at him
there was a big cloud, and a voice from heaven.[10]
This is my dearly loved Son. Listen to him.” …
As they went back down the mountain, Jesus told them not to tell anyone what they had seen until he had risen from the dead.
Mark 9:2-10, page 769
don’t tell anyone – Jesus says that lots in Mark.
Shhhhhhhh – it’s a secret
what a mystery.
It seems Jesus is like a secret agent, undercover
on some sort of secret mission.[11]
Thank you, Peter, you’ve given us some big clues.

Two Big Names: the Messiah and the Son of God

Now we’ve got two big answers to who Jesus was.
Two big names or titles:
Peter called Jesus “The Messiah”
demons called him “the Son of God.”
Wait – I’ve heard those words before
it’s the very first verse of Mark’s gospel
“This is the Good News about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God.”       (Mark 1:1)
What do these titles mean?
For a start, “Son of God” means Jesus had a very close, special relationship with God.
Like Peter heard from the cloud, God called Jesus his son, and Jesus called God his father,
in fact, he called God “abba”, a word like “daddy”  (Mark 14:36).
But to really understand, we need the first part of the Bible.
It tells the story of Israel.
Israel had lots of kings
some kings were quite good – and so things were good for the people.
Some kings were pretty bad – so things were bad for the people.
Of course, all of these kings died.
But God promised that one day, a really really good King would come
and things would be really really good for all his people.
And you know what?  the best thing of all: this King would never die – he would live for ever.
The Bible has a special name for this King – what do you think it is?
“Messiah”.  Or sometimes “Son of God”
(eg Psalm 2:7, 2 Samuel 7:14)
it’s those same words for Jesus!
Jesus is the Son of God and the Messiah.
That means Jesus is a King![12]
We are getting warmer – we are getting closer to his secret!

Going to Die – Final Questions

just after Peter said “You are the Messiah” and he heard the voice from God, “this is my Son”
Jesus said some very strange things
It didn’t sound like a king at all.
What did he say Peter?
he said we were going to Jerusalem.
And when we got there, the religious leaders and priests would catch him, arrest him.
They would beat him and whip him.
And finally, they would kill him.
It was very strange, very weird
we didn’t know what he was talking about.
What sort of King is this?
(Mark 8:31-32, 9:30-32, 10:32-34).
And it happened just like Jesus said
They went to Jerusalem.[13]
Just before Easter weekend, on Thursday night,
the priests captured him, they arrested him.
Early on Friday morning, they tried to find some excuse, some reason to kill Jesus.
The high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?
Jesus said, “I Am”
Mark 14:61-64, page 776
the Son of the Blessed One means the Son of God.
So here we have Mark’s two big titles for Jesus again – and Jesus says “yes, that’s me.”.
What did the leaders think?
when Jesus said he could forgive sins, they were shocked – blasphemy.
And now, the high priest is shocked.  He is angry, furious
again, he says it is blasphemy.
God made everything; he is very very high above us
but Jesus is talking like he himself is God!
They wanted to kill Jesus, so they took him to Pilate, the Roman governor or leader.[14]
Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?
Jesus replied, “You have said it.”…
After talking to him, Pilate was amazed
Mark 15:2,5, page 777
Yes!  He is the King!
Maybe now he’s going to break out and show us who he is at last.
Beat up all the bad guys; put everything right.
Oh yes!
But oh no,
they nailed him to a cross.
Over his head they put a sign.
It said “the King of the Jews.”  (Mark 15: 26)[15]
At three o’clock on that Friday afternoon, Jesus died.
And one last time, someone says who Jesus is:
When the Roman officer who stood facing him saw how he had died, he said,
“This man truly was the Son of God!”
Mark 15:39

It’s All Over (?)

The Messiah, the Son of God, the King
It seems like that’s what Jesus thought he was
that’s what Jesus’ followers hoped he was.
He had such amazing authority and a lot of people believed in him,
But remember, God’s really really good king will live forever
The leaders murdered Jesus
now he was really really dead.
He couldn’t be God’s really good King
the dream was over
maybe his family was right, and he was just crazy.
He wasn’t the Messiah after all.
I guess the murder investigation is closed….
but wait, there’s one more piece of evidence.
we should examine the body.
DNA testing, or a brain scan.
Where’s my assistant?
Go and dig up Jesus’ body
bring it into our police laboratory.
Assistant: there is a slight problem boss
David: What do you mean there’s a problem?
Hurry up,
Assistant: it’s gone, the body’s not there.
David: what are you talking about?
Don’t be silly.
Assistant: I think you missed the last chapter of Mark’s book.
David: what? let’s see, chapter 15, all this stuff about Jesus is kind of like a king,
but he’s dead – so he can’t be.
Hey, chapter 16.
Very early on Sunday morning, just at sunrise, the women went to the tomb.
They went inside, and saw an angel – a messenger from God.
The women were shocked, but the angel said, “Don’t be alarmed. You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead!”[16]
Mark 16:1-6, page 778
Jesus really did have authority – even over death.
He was killed, but now he is alive
death has no power over him
what does that mean?  He will live forever
he really is the really really good King.
He is The Messiah, the Son of God!
we’ve investigated the murder mystery of Mark.
even today, Jesus is still a mystery.
People are still amazed and confused.
they’ve got many different ideas about who Jesus is.
So what have we learnt from Mark about Jesus?
We’ve seen Jesus had amazing authority.
Authority over evil spirits, over storms of the sea, over sickness.
He had authority in his teaching, and authority to forgive sins
he even had authority over death.
with all these things,  Mark shows us that
Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God, the really really good king, who will live forever.
Mark wants us to ask the big question, who do we think Jesus is?
We all have to investigate the mystery for ourselves.
We each have to answer Jesus’ question,
Maybe the most important question you will ever ask:
Who do you say that I am?


In Mark’s book, why were people so amazed at Jesus? 
In what ways did Jesus have authority?
What were Mark’s special names for Jesus? 
What different ideas about Jesus did people have?
Why do you think Jesus told people not to tell who he was?
What does Jesus mean to you?
Have you experienced Jesus’ authority in your life? 
Is he your king? 
Who is he? 

[1] From
Detective stories often appeal to Christians. G.K. Chesterton and Dorothy Sayers were both theologians and detective story writers… There is a mystery. Something has to be ferreted out, brought to light, and the crime solved. There is the challenge of the "why" and the "who." I suppose that is the connection with theology…
[2] my Greek dictionary gives the translations, “to strike with panic, to shock, to amaze, to astonish.”
[3] so he could call people, and they would immediately follow him (Mark 1:18)
[4] Mark 3:11-12. Whenever the evil spirits saw Jesus, they cried out, “You are the Son of God!” But Jesus sternly commanded the spirits not to tell who he was.  “because the demons knew who he was, he did not allow them to speak.” (1:34)
[5] when Jesus preached in his hometown, people asked “ where did  this man get these things?  … what is this wisdom that has been given him, that he even does miracles?”  (Mark 6:2)
[6] John 10:19-21 says the same: When he said these things, the people were again divided in their opinions about him. Some said, “He’s demon possessed and out of his mind. Why listen to a man like that?” Others said, “This doesn’t sound like a man possessed by a demon! Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”  This is almost the famous trilemma of CS Lewis in Mere Christianity:
A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronising nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.
[7] In fact, Jesus said he deliberately teaches with parables, mysterious stories, so people won’t understand! Mark 4:11-12, 34. Jesus said to his followers:
“You are permitted to understand the secret, the mystery, of the Kingdom of God. But I use parables for everything I say to outsiders, so that the Scriptures might be fulfilled:   ‘When they see what I do, they will learn nothing.   When they hear what I say, they will not understand.’…In fact, in his public ministry he never taught without using parables; but afterward, when he was alone with his disciples, he explained everything to them.
[8] “filled with awe”, most literally, “they were feared with mega fear” – phobos.  Again, when Jesus walked on water, they were amazed (Mark 6:51)
[9] Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do people say I am?”  “Well,” they replied, “some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say you are one of the other prophets.”  Mark 8:27-30
[10] and when Jesus was baptised, there was a voice from heaven that said to Jesus “You are my dearly loved Son, and you bring me great joy.” Mark 1:11
[11] Here it is again. Mark 7:36-37. Jesus heals a deaf man, and then: Jesus told the crowd not to tell anyone… They were completely amazed and said again and again, “Everything he does is wonderful. He even makes the deaf to hear…”
[12] and he talked a lot about a kingdom.  In fact, his first words were “the time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God has come near” (Mark 1:15).
[13] that last week, the religious leaders asked Jesus by what or whose authority he was acting (Mark 11:28)
[14] chapter 15 of Mark has many ironic references to Jesus being a king.
[15] the priests and religious teachers laughed at him, Mark 15:31-32:  “He saved others,” they scoffed, “but he can’t save himself!  Let this Messiah, this King of Israel, come down from the cross so we can see it and believe him!”
[16] Actually Mark ends with “The women fled from the tomb, trembling and bewildered, and they said nothing to anyone because they were too frightened.” In 16:8, “bewildered” is ekstasis, the same word used for “amazement” in 5:42 when Jesus raised the girl from the dead.   Scholars debate whether there was an original ending with resurrection appearances like the other gospels.  From first to last in Mark’s gospel, when it comes to Jesus, people are amazed, frightened, and confused. There is something amazing – here he is risen from the dead!  But then the amazing message is hidden away – it’s a secret!  Scholars call this feature of Mark the “Messianic Secret.  Jesus is almost like a little child playing peekaboo: now you see me, now you don’t.  Literary critic Frank Kermode studied this in his book “The Genesis of Secrecy”.  In Mark, he wrote, we are “jostled from one puzzle to the next” in an “algebra” of conjunction and opposition.