The National Catholic Review
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.

Comments

Anonymous | 9/8/2008 - 11:44am
I read the first chapter of Mark this morning. Knowing that the title Son of Man points to Jesus' divinity is very helpful. It is also helpful to know that Mark was not trying to prove Jesus' divinity but was speaking to a community that already believed in Jesus' divinity. Jesus obedience to this father was to be a human being. I think this fact tells us that a human being is very lucky to have tumbled into God's creation. For a long time I have known the 'Jesus Prayer'. The words of the 'Jesus Prayer' are 'Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.' Among other things, what Mark has to tell us enlivens and helps us to discover Jesus and our relationship with Jesus. It is always extraordinary to learn that God wants a relationship with us. It is a always a stunning revelation. I believe that sin is a power that rules over us. By this I mean that all of us are dominated to some extent by the structures of sin ( exploitation, militarism, over-consumption, the wasting of energy, sexism, racism, etc.) of our culture and world. To a certain extent all of us partake in the imagination that dominates our culture. It is good news that Jesus was obedient to his Father. It is good news that the Father wants our obedience. It is good news that Jesus teaches how to be obedient. It is good news that our obedience will lead to justice and peace. It is good news that the poor in spirit will learn about happiness. It is good news that the pure of heart will see God. Michael