In his account of Jesus’ feeding of 5,000 men, Mark states, “So they [Jesus and His apostles] went away in the boat by themselves to a remote place, but many saw them leaving and recognized them. People ran there by land from all the towns and arrived ahead of them” (Mark 6:32-33). The term translated recognized literally means “knew from.” In other words, the people understood who Jesus and His disciples were because of certain elements and traits. The term is used a total of 44 times throughout the New Testament. Here are just a few of its uses.
- In Matthew 7:15-16, Jesus said, “Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravaging wolves. You’ll recognize them by their fruit.” In verse 20, Jesus stated again that “you’ll recognize them by their fruit.”
- In Mark 2:1-12, Jesus healed a paralytic brought to Him on a stretcher by four other men. Seeing the faith of all five, Jesus told the paralyzed man his sins were forgiven, whereupon some of the scribes indignantly thought Jesus was blaspheming. Significantly, “right away Jesus understood [recognized] in His spirit that they were thinking like this within themselves” (v. 8).
- When a woman who had suffered from a bleeding problem for 12 years touched Jesus’ robe, she was healed—and “at once Jesus realized [recognized] in Himself that power had gone out from Him” (Mark 5:30).
- In the earliest days of the early church, Peter and John were arrested for teaching that Jesus had risen from the dead. The Jewish authorities questioned the two men, who respectfully yet firmly refused to back down. When the authorities “observed the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed and recognized that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13). In this verse the word translated “recognized” represents the Greek term.
While Mark 6:33 by itself affirms that people throughout the region were talking about Jesus a great deal, much other evidence for this exists (see Matt. 14:35; Mark 6:54). In Matthew 9, the inspired Gospel writer wrote that two men Jesus had healed of blindness “went out and spread the news about Him throughout that whole area” (Matt. 9:31). A little later, after Jesus commissioned His disciples in Mark 6, “they went out and preached that people should repent. And they were driving out many demons, anointing many sick people with olive oil, and healing them” (Mark 6:12-13). Mark continued, “King Herod heard of this, because Jesus name had become well known” (v. 14, emphasis added). Note that only 16 verses later, Mark’s account of the feeding of the 5,000 begins. We noted above that at this event the crowds recognized Jesus and His apostles.
“But what about John 1:10?” someone may ask. This verse says that Jesus “was in the world,…yet the world did not recognize Him.” Here the word translated recognize means “know,” not “know from.” People everywhere knew about Jesus. He was widely recognized, in part because He was controversial. Yet sadly, in the end, relatively few people understood and accepted Him for who He was. Few really knew Him. Let us not only recognize Jesus’ widespread notoriety, but also know Jesus in the sense of believing on His name, receiving Him, and thereby becoming God’s children (see John 1:11-13).