Does Mark teach that Jesus is God?
Let’s take a quick read through this gospel, trying to adopt the viewpoint, as best we can, of a first century Jew. We can’t cover everything, but let’s review some of the obviously salient episodes. Grab your New Testament and turn to Mark.
So, does Mark teach that Jesus is God?
Chapter by chapter:
- No, he’s the Son of God. (1) So, not God himself. God endorses him. (11) Tempted. (12) But, you can’t tempt God. Proclaims the good news from God. (14-15) He’s the messenger, not the sender, so, not God. Demon tries to blow his cover (25-6) – he’s “the Holy One of God.” The Messiah – God’s anointed one. Prays (35) – obviously, to God.
- Wow – he forgives sins! (5) Who but God can do that? Oh – one to whom God gives the authority to do that. (10-12)
- Authoritatively interprets Sabbath law. (2:23-3:6) Surely, this one is at least as great as Moses. But God himself? No – “Son of God” – demons again, trying to spill the secret before the right time. (12)
- “Who can this be? Even the wind and the sea obey him.” (41) Answer: the Son of God, and Messiah. (ch. 1-3)
- Man, these demons are helpful. “Jesus, son of the Most High God” (7) So, not the most High God, not YHWH himself, but rather, his Son. “tell them all that the Lord in his mercy has done for you”. (19) “The Lord” here would seem to be God, not Jesus; when Jesus exorcises or heals, it is by God’s power. It is truly God working through this man. “Who touched my clothes.” (30) Hmm…doesn’t seem that Jesus is faking ignorance here. (32) Doesn’t know all, so, not God – though surely, as a Prophet, he has a lot of supernatural knowledge.
- Yes, and as a prophet (of God – so, it would seem, not himself God), he’s rejected in his home town. (1-6) His miracle-working power is limited by their lack of faith. (5) Now this is remarkable – he gives his disciples authority – he can pass it on, it seems. (7) People wonder who he is (14-16) be we’re sure already: Son of God, prophet, Messiah, and obviously, a real man – that’s presupposed throughout. He seems to need a retreat after the murder of John the Baptist. (30-31) And to recharge through prayer. (46)
- The miracles in ch. 6 were as great as Moses’s. And here, Jesus authoritatively interprets the Law again. This is no ordinary prophet. (1-23)
- “Who do you [the disciples] say I am?” Peter: “the Christ,” the Messiah. This is the big secret about Jesus (27-30). This “son of man” has supernatural knowledge of his destiny in God’s plan. (31) He demands discipleship (34), says he’ll return “in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” That’ll be when we see “the kingdom of God come with power.” (9:1) “The Father” here is obviously, YHWH, the one true God.
- A miraculous endorsement of this Messiah Jesus by none other than Elijah, Moses, and God, who says this is his Son. (1-8) He calls himself the “son of man” (12, 31), which seems an obvious reference to Daniel 7:13 – to the “one like a son of man” whom God makes a supreme ruler. (Daniel 7:13-14) OK – this couldn’t be more clear: Jesus is God’s messiah, a mega-prophet, and in some unique way God’s Son, though he is also a human being. This Jesus will be killed (31-2). Whoever welcomes a child welcomes Jesus, and in doing that you welcome the one who sent Jesus. (37) Obviously, God.
- “No one is good but God alone.” (18) Is he hinting that really, this man shouldn’t call him “good” because this man doesn’t recognize that Jesus is really God himself? In the context of this book, which has been very forthright about who Jesus is, it would seem not. The high places in his coming Kingdom are not Jesus’s to grant. (40) We are to infer that this is God’s prerogative, not Jesus’s. God does not serve us. But Jesus, this “son of man,” does. (45) And he’ll give his life – that is, die, as a ransom for us – something an essentially immortal being could not do. (45)
- Jesus comes, as Messiah, in the name of “the Lord,” i.e. YHWH. (9) He’s recognized now publicly as the Davidic messiah. (10) He performs prophetic actions of judgment against Israel. (12-19) “Have faith in God” (22) and forgive others when you pray to “your Father in heaven.” (25) His authority and power are from heaven – that is, from God. (27-33) This is obvious, but his enemies can’t admit it.
- The vineyard-owner’s “beloved son.” (6) Vineyard owner represents God, the son is Jesus. Too obvious to need spelling out. (12) Jesus, here as in many places, talks about God in the third person. (13-27) Jesus affirms, without correction or addition, the Jewish shema. (28-34) This scribe is “not far from the Kingdom” – he has yet to follow Jesus – but he’s not presented as having a fundamentally flawed theology. There is only one Lord, one God. But then, how can David, in Psalm 110:1, call the messiah his“Lord” – when that same messiah is David’s “son” (descendant)? It seems no one is brave enough to answer, but we the readers know – because Jesus is also the Son of God, and will be raised from the dead, and will be exalted to a place far above David, and all of us, by God. We’re not supposed to think that Jesus is called “Lord” because he’s God himself. God is the one who sent him, and is, his god, the one Jesus prays to.
- Deceivers will come in Jesus’s name, saying “I am” (6). That is, that “I am he” or “I am the one” – either that Jesus is the Christ, or that they are the Christ. Seemingly the latter (21-2) The day and the hour “nobody knows” – not even God’s angels, or the unique Son of God, but only God. (32) If you’re still wondering whether Jesus is God himself, the answer is no – for God knows at least one thing that Jesus does not.
- The “son of man” enters into his predicted suffering. Jesus says grace at the Passover meal (22) and sings an appropriate hymn toGod with his disciples. (26) Not surprisingly, given what he knows is going to happen, Jesus is overcome with “terror and anguish.” (34) He does not want to die, though he wants to obey God. He asks God that he might be spared. (35-41) But evidently, God tells Jesus “No.” (42ff) Arrested, his Jewish enemies will now do their worst to him in court. Their accusation? He say, falsely, that he’s threatened to destroy the Temple, and in three days build another one “not made by human hands.” (58) “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?” “I am,” says Jesus, and you’ll see me coming back in power. (61-2) This, in the high priest’s eyes, is “blasphemy.” (64)
- Pilate wants to know if he’s “King of the Jews.” (2) Jesus doesn’t disagree – though it is false if the charge is that he’s a revolutionary bent on overthrowing Rome. They abuse this one they think is a phony “king.” (16-20) But we know he’s a real one, the Messiah who’ll sit on David’s throne. And so truly to they label him “The King of the Jews” (27) and taunt him as “the Christ, the king of Israel.” (32) On the cross, Jesus cries out to God the words of Psalm 22:1, as he feels profoundly forsaken by God. (34) He dies. Even the pagan soldier realizes that this man is a son of a god, or the Son of God. (39) Insight? Sarcasm? Either way, this Gentile is, ironically, correct. Let us note that God cannot die. But, Jesus died. So, he’s not God. And he wasn’t faking it. (40-47)
- But happily: “he is risen.” (6) After appearing to some people (9-18), Jesus is taken up to heaven, were he takes his new place at the right hand of God, from where, Jesus works through his followers. (20) [Yes, 9-20 are probably not authentic. But they show us the view of Jesus which prevailed in the 2nd or 3rd c. when they were added. In any case, on the present themes, they well fit with the rest of the gospel.]