The Vision of Mark’s Gospel
“The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (Mark 1:1). So begins the Gospel of Mark with a focus on Jesus, who is both Christ and Son of God (the Divine Messiah). Mark demonstrates the identity and purpose of Jesus through two stages. The end of the first stage has Peter confessing, “You are the Christ” (8:29). Toward the end of the second stage the centurion confesses, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” (15:39). Together, and with all the supporting events and teachings between, Mark’s point from the first verse is sustained: Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.
This two-step progression is demonstrated by Jesus in His healing of the blind man just before Peter makes his great confession. Jesus came to Bethsaida where the people brought to Him a blind man. Jesus spit on the man’s eyes, laid His hands on him and asked, “Do you see anything?” The man looked up and said, “I see men, for I see them like trees, walking around.” Jesus laid His hands on the man’s eyes again, and his sight was restored so that he saw clearly (8:22-26). The point was not that Jesus was incapable of doing this miracle correctly the first try. Rather, Jesus was doing something deliberately, and it so happens that it mirrors perfectly the understanding of Jesus’ own disciples. They could see Jesus, but they weren’t seeing clearly just yet. This miracle was an illustration of the process of better understanding Jesus.
To further illustrate the point, the next episode is Peter’s confession, but this is immediately followed by one of Peter’s blunders. Jesus began telling His disciples that He must “suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again” (8:31). Though Jesus was speaking plainly, Peter took Jesus aside and rebuked Him. Peter’s efforts were quickly turned back as Jesus rebuked him: “Get behind Me, Satan; for you are not setting your minds on God’s interests, but man’s” (v. 33). Even though Peter could see who Jesus was, he wasn’t yet seeing clearly why Jesus was here. It would take more time for Peter and the other disciples to see clearly.
What Jesus told His disciples about suffering and dying is one of Mark’s unifying themes in both halves of the Gospel. The first half ends with Jesus telling His disciples that He must suffer, die, and rise again; the second half ends with Jesus fulfilling His own prophecy that He would suffer, die, and rise again. Jesus’ purpose was clear.
From the beginning of the Gospel, Mark stresses Jesus’ suffering. John appeared in order to prepare the way for Jesus, and he was baptizing for this purpose. Jesus came and was baptized by John at the beginning of His public ministry. While there may be other reasons for Jesus being baptized, it appears that one of His chief reasons was to foreshadow what He came to do. Baptism, as Paul indicates, is a way of dying, being buried, and rising again (Rom 6:2-5). In being baptized, Jesus prefigured His own death, burial, and resurrection. Yet the witness of the Father and the Spirit attended this event. The Spirit descended like a dove and a voice came out of the heavens: “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased” (vv. 10-11). Jesus’ purpose was a divine purpose and fulfillment of what had been long planned by God.
“Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death and will hand Him over to the Gentiles. They will mock Him and spit on Him, and scourge Him and kill Him, and three days later He will rise again” (10:32-34).
The disciples, failing to understand the nature of God’s rule, still vied for positions of power. Jesus swiftly told them that this is not the way it works among God’s people, “but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (10:41-45).
The Divine Messiah is the suffering Servant. To men this may seem a strange display of God’s power, but God knew what He was doing. Through the cross, God would display His greatest power.
Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. As the Divine Messiah, He suffered and died. Through the resurrection, He was shown to be the Son of God with power (Rom 1:3-4), giving us reason to recognize the power and wisdom of God (1 Cor 1:21-25). May God help us to see clearly so that we will confess with Peter, “You are the Christ,” and with the centurion, “You are the Son of God.” May our lives continue to confess our own commitment to both the identity and purpose of Jesus as we strive to bring this same message to the world today.