John J. Kilgallen | Sep 7 2008 - 6:45pm | 1 comment
Mark introduces Jesus as Son of God. While some consider this title another way of saying Messiah, the tradition prior to Mark, about 40 years, indicates that with this title Jesus is professed to be divine – and that is saying much more about him than does Messiah. The Gospel will not be out to prove to non-believers that Jesus is divine; Mark’s audience are Christians, baptized into Jesus and living the life Jesus taught, and so the Gospel does not aim to convert people to believe that Jesus is divine. On the other hand, even Christians profit from a rehearsal, through stories, of the immense power of Jesus, power which is a sign of divinity. For this deepening of an already existing faith Mark introduces his reader to a battery of stories, one or other of which the reader may have already heard; all the stories together, while not exhausting the memory of all Jesus did, cannot but strengthen already existing belief, and make one treat Jesus ever more clearly as divine. Indeed, we can say as an aside that the problem for the early Christians was not to learn that Jesus was human; everybody knew this. What was almost unthinkable is that he is divine, and the Gospel is weighted heavily towards the divinity of Jesus. To help understand Jesus fully is the fundamental purpose of Mark’s unique way of presenting the resurrection day of Jesus. But the Gospel is much more interested in a meaning of Son of God which goes beyond the fact that Jesus is divine. The story of Jesus underlines the obedience of Jesus to God as a son to his father. It is this obedience which is the fundamental characteristic of Jesus’ life, which gives it a meaning to be imitated by Mark’s reader. One can understand, from this perspective, that there was no interest on Mark’s part to tell of the birth of Jesus, as did Matthew and Luke; the infancy story does not reveal the obedience of Jesus to his Father, but only the public life of Jesus does that. Like the title ’Messiah’, then, ’Son of God’ points to the obedience of Jesus to God the Father. It is with this understanding of Mark’s first verse ("The beginning of the good news of Jesus Messiah and Son of God") that Mark asks us to read his Gospel; this verse is the key to understanding the overall thrust of the Gospel as a solution to the problems of Mark’s readers. With ’the obedience of Jesus’ in mind, we approach the next verses of Mark’s story, verses which, oddly enough, deal with John the Baptist, not Jesus. John Kilgallen, S.J.