Mark’s story is bold, quick and on the move. Mark’s Jesus is bold, controversial and focused.
Mark begins the story of Jesus like this: “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”
When Jesus was baptized a voice spoke from heaven: “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
“… out of Egypt I called my son,” the God of Hosea proclaimed centuries before, signifying Israel as the first to be called the beloved son of the Most High.
So now what did it mean for Mark and his Christian community to say that Jesus is the Son of God?
For Mark, “son” means a category of being. When Mark uses this word to refer to Jesus, he’s not suggesting that Jesus is the next generation of God like we think of our sons and daughters. And it’s not a term that is meant to designate gender. Rather “son” in this context means one who belongs to a particular type.
Jesus comes from the classification: “God.”
Jesus exists within the category of being: “divine.”
For Mark, Jesus as “Son of God” suggests that Jesus is truly God.
But Mark’s Jesus is of another category as well because all throughout his gospel, Mark speaks of Jesus as the “Son of Man.”
Jesus comes from the classification: “human.”
Jesus exists within the category of being “mortal.”
For Mark, Jesus as “Son of Man” suggests that Jesus is truly human.
Mark’s Christology (Mark’s way of talking about the Christ) – Mark’s Jesus throughout this brilliant narrative is always “both-and:” both fully human and fully divine.
Mark’s Jesus shows us who God is. Mark’s Jesus teaches us who we are—who we are meant to be.
As Mark tells The Story in his gospel he tells us truth, deep and profound truth, but he tells this indescribable truth in beautiful, simple stories. We don’t know whether all these stories happened in history the way Mark tells them; probably not. Mark’s way is a theological story telling: he assumes the flesh and blood reality of the man Jesus of Nazareth but his gospel ponders what it means that heaven intersected earth in the life of Jesus. It is meaning that is significant for Mark: Who is God? Who are we? Why does this matter? What does this mean?
Later Christians will grapple with this “truly human-truly divine” mystery and attempt to distill it into creedal statements. Later Christians will let its theological nuance divide them into camps. Later Christians will imagine they could come up with neat explanations and contain such truth in well-defined boxes.
But Mark is wise enough to recognize how indescribable this mystery actually is. So when Mark grapples with this “truly human-truly divine” conundrum, he does it with a story.
Mark’s gospel is simple and complex. It is clear and also filled with ambiguity. It’s straightforward and multilayered. Like every good story, it stays with you and won’t let you go.
One thing that stays with you is the odd way the people in the story just don’t get Jesus. We do, of course, we who are listening in to the story; we who are watching from the audience. The narrator sets the stage telling us clearly about this Jesus who is Son of God, Son of Man. Unlike John and the disciples, we get to hear the voice that Jesus heard, the voice that split the heavens: “You are my Son, my Beloved…”
The characters in the story Mark tells don’t have that divine perspective. “Who IS this?!?” they say again and again.
Interestingly, the demons got it: they called Jesus of Nazareth the “Holy One of God …” (1:24).
Interestingly, the centurion got it: he confessed Jesus as Son of God because of the way he saw Jesus die (15:39).
Jesus as Messiah/Christ—anointed and appointed by God to reveal God and to bring the kingdom of God—is known only in the way of the cross.
Jesus as Son of Man/Son of God—truly human and truly divine—is known only in the resurrection.
Any effort to get Jesus by any other means than faith and faithfulness, trust and entrusting ourselves to the Way of Christ is inadequate.
As you read, do this: ponder Mark’s Jesus and ask yourself two questions:
1) “What does this Jesus show me about who God is?”
2) “What does this Jesus teach me about what it means to be truly human?”
Read slowly. Take your time. Stop when something strikes you as important and just think about it for a while. Pray. Trust that God is still speaking.
Trust that this God who is Creator and Sustainer, who is the Beginning and the End of The Big Overarching Story of creation is always also writing something new and wonderful and mysterious into each one of our individual stories.
The Gospel of Mark is a great read and a good way to get to know more about the good news of Jesus Christ. From the prophet’s call to prepare the way of God; from the voice splitting the heavens and declaring favor on the beloved Son; from the message of Jesus proclaiming the good news that the kingdom of God has come near, all the way to the abrupt, open-ended, uncomfortable close of the Gospel according to Mark (16:8) – it’s all only the beginning of the good news, Mark tells us.
He is always “going ahead” of us and we are always called to follow. The women at the tomb, Peter and the other disciples…countless stories of what God has done and is doing in countless lives – including our own. We are no longer observers sitting in the audience; we are written into The Story and have become participants in the good news of Jesus Christ, Son of God, Son of Man.
The Story is not over.
Living in The Story reflections for Mark: Weeks 6-9 and 39-48.
Make time to watch Alec McCowen’s brilliant recitation of Mark, now available on YouTube