The Gospel of Mark: A Lutheran Gospel (Part 6 of 8)

       Up to this point we have surveyed the influence of Paul’s Cross Theology upon Mark, the funneling nature of the dramatic narrative towards Jerusalem/Crucifixion and we have examined how the conflict of Mark escalates toward the cross where the great conflict of the cross occurs, where Jesus is forsaking by both man and God thus drinking the bitter cup to accomplishing our atonement.  The case that I am attempting to build is that Mark’s Gospel funnels everything towards the event of the cross.  As we shift into this new section I will be examining the term, “Son of God.”  In this section I also hope to build the case that the manner and way that this term for Jesus is used also adds credence to seeing the cross as central in Mark’s Gospel.       
     In J.D. Kingsbury’s book, “The Christology of Mark’s Gospel,” he discusses what is called the messianic secret.  The messianic secret is “in reality one motif among others.  At its core, it consists of the several commands to silence which Jesus directs to demon[1] and to the disciples[2]to the effect that they should not divulge his identity.”[3]  What is fascinating to see is the use of the term “Son of God.”  As a reader of Mark’s Gospel, not constricted within the narrative itself, we are given insight to the messianic secret that Jesus is the Son of God as stated in Mark 1:1.  Furthermore, as the reader of Mark we also hear the voice of the Father in Mark 1:11 confessing that Jesus is the Son of God.  Therefore, right from the get-go we have the inside scoop that Jesus is the Son of God.  However, from this point forward, the term is limited in its use.  The next time that it pops up is in Mark 3:11 and 5:7where men with unclean spirits confess Jesus as the Son of God.  In Mark 3:12 Jesus rebukes the unclean spirit from further confession.  In Mark 9:7 we yet again hear the Father confessing Jesus as the Son of God.  In other words, this Messianic Secret was expressly applied to Jesus by transcendent beings. 
As it has already been stated, in the beginning portion of the book of Mark the demonic spirits are shouting out the identity of Jesus.  What about humans though?  While demonic spirits are shouting out Jesus identity the humans are questioning.  Part way through the Gospel of Mark Kingsbury points out that a new pattern emerges where humans are questioning and making assertions about Jesus’ identity.[4]  Son of David?  Yes.  Messiah?  Yes.  According to Kingsbury, these titles were right, though still incomplete,[5] until we arrive to the Roman Centurion at the crucifixion in Mark 15.  At Mark 15 Jesus is on the cross bleeding and atoning for sin and for the first time in the Gospel of Mark a human being other than Jesus himself confesses the truth of Jesus being the Son of God.
What is the significance of this?  R.T. France says that the Roman Centurion is, “The first human witness to describe Jesus as uioV qeou and mean it.”[6] He goes on to say, “What the Jewish leaders have denied and declared to be blasphemy and even the disciples have not yet grasped, this ordinary soldier perceives in the unlikely context of Jesus’ final defeat and death.”[7]  Kingsbury states, “The point Mark makes is that for one to ‘think’ about Jesus the way God ‘thinks’ about him, namely, to perceive him to be the royal Son of God, one must know him not only as authoritative preacher, gatherer of disciples, teacher, healer, and exorcists, but also as the one who has obediently gone the way of the cross.”[8]  The Roman Centurion was unlikely to have understood the theological significance of the words that he said, regardless though, at the moment of Jesus apparent failure, the exalted confession of glory comes forth that “Jesus is the true Son of God.”[9]  The climatic confession of Jesus as the Son of God comes forth by the first human being not at his resurrection, but at the crucifixion right after Christ breathed His last. 

[1] See Mark 1:34, 3:11-12
[2] See Mark 8:29-30, 9:9
[3] Jack Dean Kingsbury, The Christology of Mark’s Gospel (Fortress Press, 1983), 11.
[4] Ibid, 90.
[5] Ibid, 94-110.
[6] France, 659.
[7] Ibid.
[8] Ibid,174.
[9] Ibid, 660. Also Mark 15:39