Portraits of Jesus Mark
An Inductive Study Paper Presented to Michael A. Szuk, Instructor in New Testament Columbia Bible College
By Donovan Neufeldt February 4, 2008 Box 623
2 The Gospel of Mark contains many stories, teachings, events, and dialogues, which portray different images or portraits of who Jesus was and is. The four major portraits of Jesus that I found are that He is the Son of God, the Son of Man, a teacher, and a healer or miracle worker. This paper will discuss these portraits, their implications, and the way that they relate to each other. Mark introduces and summarizes the Gospel as, “This is the Good News about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God” (Mark 1:1). From this we can see the how important it was that we know of the full divinity of the man Christ Jesus who, as he also points out, is the Messiah, King of the Jews, and the Lord Himself (Mark 1:3). This portrait is immediately confirmed by Mark 1:11 at Jesus‟ baptism where, “a voice from heaven said, „You are my dearly loved Son, and I am fully pleased with you.‟” Just the reality of Jesus being the Son of God has immeasurable significance for this life, and the life to come, and this manifests into the realms of both the natural and the spiritual. Some evidence of this is found in how, “Whenever those possessed by evil spirits caught sight of him, the spirits would throw them to the ground in front of him shrieking, „You are the Son of God!‟” (Mark 3:11). In fact, this identity carries so much authority that at the sight of Jesus an entire legion of demons begged for permission to cast into a herd of pigs so they could drown themselves (Mark 5:10-13). Mark 3:11 is very similar to the scenario described in Mark 5:6-7, “When Jesus was still some distance away, the man [possessed by the legion of demons] saw him, ran to meet him, and fell down before him. With a shriek, he screamed, „Why are you bothering with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In the name of God, I beg you, don‟t torture me!‟” (Parenthesis mine). The Son of God is an identity that all the powers of hell fall on their face before. Now, because Christ, the God-man, has purchased us with His blood, we have become adopted sons and daughters of God. I wonder to what extent the
3 powers of hell would be shaken if all God‟s children recognized and walked in the identity and authority that we hold today. Part of Jesus‟ portrait of being the Son of God includes his identity as the “King of the Jews,” and Messiah, or the anointed one of God prophesied about in the Old Testament, specifically the books of Isaiah and Malachi (Mark 1:2,3). The first time we see this is in the introduction to Mark‟s gospel, which I mentioned earlier, followed by Peters revelation in Mark 8:29, “You are the Messiah.” The title of Messiah in and of itself was commonly known to refer to the King of the Jews, or Son of God even in Jesus‟ time. This can be seen in Mark 15:32, “„Let this Messiah, this King of Israel, come down from the cross so we can see it and believe him!‟ Even the men who were crucified with Jesus ridiculed him,” and Mark 14:61-62, “The high priest asked him, „Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?‟ Jesus said, „I Am.‟” The priests tore their clothes and convicted Him on this claim. Later, “When the Roman officer who stood facing him saw how he had died, he exclaimed, „This man truly was the Son of God!‟” This also re-enforces the power of such a title. Jesus also stressed the exclusivity of this portrait in his constant warnings, “Many will come in my name, claiming, „I am the Messiah.‟ They will deceive many.” (Mark 13:6), “Then if anyone tells you, „Look, here is the Messiah,‟ or „There he is,‟ don‟t believe it. For false messiahs and false prophets will rise up and perform signs and wonders so as to deceive, if possible, even God‟s chosen ones.” (Mark 13:21-22). The second major portrait of Jesus that I found in Mark is that He is the Son of Man, and the affirmation that Jesus is both truly divine and truly human is rooted in His being the begotten Son of God, as well as the Son of Man. This is the foundation for all orthodox Christology, as touched upon at the Council of Nicea in A.D. 325, and explicitly stated at the Council of
4 Chalcedon in A.D. 451. In the Gospel of Mark, the first mention of Jesus as the Son of Man is at the paralyzed man‟s healing where Jesus states, “I will prove to you that I, the Son of Man have the authority on earth to forgive sins” (Mark 2:10). Because only God can forgive sins (Mark 2:7) we know that this statement even by itself affirms that Jesus claimed to be both God and man at the same time. Soon after that Jesus once again states that he is the Lord in human form by saying, “I, the Son of Man, am Lord, even over the Sabbath” (Mark 2:28). Later he also said, “I Am [the messiah, Son of God]. And you will see the Son of Man seated in the place of power at God‟s right hand and coming on the clouds of heaven.” (Mark 14:62, parenthesis mine). Throughout the whole book we can observe that Jesus constantly re-affirmed his humanity by referring to himself as the Son of Man, as in Mark 8:31,38; 9:9,12,31; 10:33,45,48; 23:26,34; and 14:21. The Roman officer‟s decree in Mark 15:39 is another example of affirmation to the simultaneous divinity and humanity of Jesus, “This man was truly the Son of God!” The humanity of God was so astonishing that it caused the disciples to marvel, “„Who is this man?‟ they asked each other. „Even the wind and waves obey him!‟” (Mark 4:41). After Jesus‟ baptism and temptations in the wilderness he returned in the power and authority of the Holy Spirit and preformed innumerable miracles, the most common miracle being physical healing, followed by the casting out of evil spirits. As the Messiah, the anointed one of God, He was given the Holy Spirit without measure, which is where the Son of Man got the power and authority to do such great works, “You know that God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. Then Jesus went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him” (Acts 10:38). Because of the miracles he preformed we can find a portrait of Jesus as a miracle worker. The first miracle recorded in Mark is when Jesus casts a demon out of a man while teaching in the synagogue. This miracle caused
5 the people to say in amazement, “„It [Jesus‟ teaching] has such authority! Even the evil Spirits obey his orders!‟ The news of what he had done spread quickly through that entire area of Galilee” (Mark 2:27-28). This begins the re-occurring pattern of miracle, amazement, affirmation or confirmation of the preaching, praise to God, and the spreading of the word. In the rest of the section I will refer to this pattern with the acronym, “MAPS.” Jesus first healing miracle was actually not overly extravagant, but was simply relieving the fever of Simon‟s mother in law, without even the use of words, “So he went to her bedside, took her by the hand, and helped her sit up. Then the fever left her, and she prepared a meal for them.” However insignificant this may seem, it displays Christ‟s heart of compassion and love. “That evening after sunset, many sick and demon-possessed people were brought to Jesus. The whole town gathered at the door to watch. So Jesus healed many people who were sick with various diseases, and he cast out many demons. (Mark 1:32-34) Although scripture does not say that we shouldn‟t suffer (look at the persecutions of Jesus and the disciples) we do know that Christ will often want to touch people with healing power simply out of compassion, love, and grace. Jesus‟ preaching and healing of the man with leprosy the next morning also fits with the pattern of MAPS that I mentioned earlier. The miracles were the expelling of demons (Mark 1:39), and the healing of the man with leprosy, “Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out and touched him. „I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!‟ Instantly the leprosy disappeared, and the man was healed.” (Mark 1:41-42). The man was so amazed that he told everyone he met what had happened (Mark 1:45), and although it is not explicitly stated in this case, it is very likely that people believed the preaching mentioned in Mark 1:38 and praised God because of this. The disciples‟ statement in Mark 1:37 of “Everyone is asking for you,” and the aftermath, show the way that the word spread quickly following Jesus‟ demonstrations of power, “As a result, large
6 crowds soon surrounded Jesus, and he couldn‟t publicly enter a town anywhere. He had to stay out in the secluded places, and people from everywhere came to him there” (Mark 1:45). This pattern is also displayed in Mark 2:1-12, when Jesus healed the paralyzed man. First we see that the word was spread because, “Soon the house where he was staying was so packed with visitors that there was no more room, even outside the door” (Mark 2:2). The miracle was the full healing of the paralyzed man, at this the crowed was amazed and praised God, “And the man jumped up, grabbed his mat, and walked out through the stunned onlookers. They were all amazed and praised God, exclaiming, „We‟ve never seen anything like this before!‟” (Mark 2:12) We also know that this miracle gave Jesus credentials of his teaching because of Mark 2:10, “I will prove to you that the Son of Man have the authority on earth to forgive sins.” The famous passage about how Jesus healed on the Sabbath is another cool instance where Jesus breaks ignores the mold of tradition and fear of man. This revealed that doing what is good and what is right is much more important than religious tradition, and that He, the Son of Man is Lord, even over the Sabbath (Mark 2:28) The man‟s healed hand (Mark 3:5) served to confirm this fact. The people were so amazed at these supernatural demonstrations that, “The news about his miracles had spread far and wide, and vast numbers of people came to see him. Jesus instructed his disciples to have a boat ready so the crowd would not crush him. He had healed many people that day, so all the sick people eagerly pushed forward to touch him. And whenever those possessed by evil spirits caught sight of him, the spirits would throw them to the ground in front of him shrieking, “You are the Son of God!” (Mark 3:8-11) Again, this is very similar to the MAPS pattern. It was interesting to read about when Jesus powerfully delivered a violent, insane man from a legion of demons, but I was even more shocked that the crowds would be frightened and
7 ask Jesus to leave them alone (Mark 5:15-17). This case was also unlike the other cases because he told the man to spread the news (Mark 5:19) where in the past he told people to keep quiet. Once again, MAPS is relevant, “So the man started off to visit the Ten Towns of that region and began to proclaim the great things Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed at what he told them” (Mark 5:20). When Jesus healed the lady with the hemorrhage (Mark 5:29), and raised the daughter of the synagogue leader from the dead (Mark 5:42) we continue to see components of MAPS, but are also introduced to the role of faith (Mark 5:34). Faith is also displayed greatly in the healing of blind Bartimaeus in Mark 10. If God grants healing to people in response to faith, then we can certainly see the flip side of doubt in Jesus‟ trip to Nazareth where, “because of their unbelief, he couldn‟t do any miracles among them except to place his hands on a few sick people and heal them” (Mark 6:5). One might be perplexed by the use of “couldn‟t,” rather than “wouldn‟t,” and think that because Jesus is God that he is able to do anything. We must, however, remember that in becoming the Son of Man, he set aside his divine attributes and abilities, and became solely dependent on the Holy Spirit to perform miracles; this helps show us that the greater works Jesus spoke of in John 14:12 are not so unrealistic after all. Consider the commissions of Mark 6:6 and Mark 16:15-20. One passage that gives a bit of a different light on Jesus as the God who heals is Mark 2:17, “Healthy people don‟t need a doctor, sick people do. I have come to call sinners, not those who think that they are already good enough.” Jesus said this in response to the Pharisees, who criticized Jesus for eating with people such as “tax collectors and other notorious sinners… they said to His disciples, „Why does he eat with such scum?‟” (Mark 2:15-16). This passage hints at how Jesus came to heal and deliver us from our sin sickness and offer himself as an antidote that
8 remedies the relationship with God that had been lost in the Garden of Eden. Other instances of Jesus miraculously healing the sick can be found in Mark 6-10 inclusive. Jesus was known throughout the lands for his powerful teachings, “The people were amazed at his teaching, for he taught with real authority—quite unlike the teachers of religious law.” (Mark 1:22) This authority can be assumed to be inherent in the words he spoke, and it could have come from boldness and/or the anointing of the Holy Spirit, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free” (Luke 4:18). The miracles he preformed may have also contributed to the perceived authority of His teaching, “Amazement gripped the audience, and they began to discuss what had happened. „What sort of new teaching is this?‟ they asked excitedly. „It has such authority! Even evil spirits obey his orders!‟” (Mark 1:27). We also know that one of the greatest reasons Jesus was sent to this earth is to teach and preach, “We must go on to other towns as well, and I will preach to them, too. That is why I came” (Mark 1:38). He was also referred to as teacher, or rabbi, by many people as in Mark 1:22; 4:38; 5:35; 6:6; 7:1; 9:17,38; 10:17,35; 12:14,19,32; 13:1 and 14:14 It is from this that one sees the portrait of Jesus as a teacher. Jesus frequently chose to teach with illustrations and parables, “He taught them by telling many stories in the form of parables” (Mark 4:2). Some of the parables that Jesus used are found in Mark 4 and Mark 12; these include the story of the farmer scattering seed, as well as the illustration of the lamp, the growing seed, the mustard seed, and the evil farmers. Many of these are also metaphors of the kingdom of God. I found that it was interesting that, “When Jesus was alone with the twelve disciples and with the others who were gathered around, they asked him what the parables meant. He replied, „You are permitted to
9 understand the secret of the Kingdom of God. But I use parables for everything I say to outsiders… Then Jesus said to them, “If you can‟t understand the meaning of this parable, how will you understand all the other parables?” (Mark 4:10-13), “Then he added, “Pay close attention to what you hear. The closer you listen, the more understanding you will be given and you will receive even more. To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them” (Mark 4:24-25), “Jesus used many similar stories and illustrations to teach the people as much as they could 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” (Mark 4:33-34).
When we are listening with ears to hear and seeking understanding I have no doubt that God will send his Spirit to guide us in wisdom to properly interpret His words and apply them to our present situations. It is amazing at how God uses parables to give understanding only to those who he chooses. It was very rewarding to be able to see the different portraits of Jesus; separate and unified at the same time. He is the Son of God, the Son of Man, a great healer and miracle worker, and a teacher with authority. These portraits help give us a greater scope of which to see who Jesus was and is. At this we marvel and stand in awe of how great our God really is.
10 Works Cited
Holy Bible, New Living Translation (NLT). Tyndale Charitable Trust. Tyndale House Publishers Inc. Wheaton, Illinois, 1996.