OVERVIEW – According to Mark, the Son of Man was revealed only in his sufferings and death on a Roman Cross – Mark 15:34-39

A theme threaded throughout the Gospel of Mark is the inability of men to recognize who Jesus is – The Son of God – until AFTER his crucifixion, and even then, paradoxically, he was declared “Son of God” by the unlikeliest person, the very Roman centurion who in charge of his execution. What made this Messiah unrecognizable was his self-identification as the suffering “Son of Man.”

His identity and mission cannot be understood apart from his suffering and sacrificial death. By stressing this, Mark established his identity as the “Son of God” and what it truly meant to be the Messiah of Israel.

From the outset, God confirmed Jesus to be His beloved son. Demons recognized and declared who he was. In contrast, despite his healing miracles, dominion over nature, and exorcisms, men and women remained confused about who he was. Even his closest associates failed to recognize him. He was not the Messiah that they expected.

(Mark 1:11) – “And it came to pass in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized into the Jordan by John. And immediately, as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens rending asunder, and the Spirit as a dove descending unto him. And a voice came out of the heavens, You are my Son, the Beloved One; in you I delight.”

At the River Jordan, the Scriptures, John the Baptist, a voice from heaven, and supernatural signs all attested that Jesus was the Messiah, the Lord, the mighty one who would baptize in Holy Spirit and the beloved “Son of God.”

The voice declared him “My beloved Son” after the heavens had been “rent asunder,” which translates the Greek verb schizō – “to rend asunder, cleave, cleave asunder, split open.” This term occurs once more in Mark when the veil of the Temple was “rent in two” when Jesus died. The “rending” of the heavens alludes to a passage from the book of Isaiah when the prophet longed for Yahweh to “rend the heavens” to make His name known:

(Isaiah 64:1-2) – “Oh, that you would REND THE HEAVENS, that you would come down, that the mountains might quake at your presence…to make your name known to your adversaries, that the nations may tremble at your presence!

You are my Son, the Beloved One; in you I delight.” The declaration from heaven echoed the second Psalm and another passage from Isaiah:

(Psalm 2:7) – “You are my Son; this day have I begotten you.”

(Isaiah 42:1) – “Behold, my servant whom I uphold; my elect in whom my soul delights.”

Significantly, both passages included references to the Messiah bringing justice to the nations.

DEMONS RECOGNIZED HIM: One of his first acts was to cast out an “unclean spirit.” The demon recognized him as the “Holy One of God,” but he commanded it to remain silent. On no occasion did Jesus give any ground to demonic spirits.

(Mark 1:23-27) – “And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, saying, What have we to do with you, Jesus you Nazarene; are you come to destroy us? I know you – who you are, the Holy One of God. And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Silence! And come out of him. And the unclean spirit, tearing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. And they were all astonished, insomuch that they questioned among themselves, saying, What is this? A new teaching! With authority, he commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.”

The men present were all astounded and asked one another, “Who is this?” Despite his impressive deeds, Jesus remained unrecognized, although demons understood precisely who he was and the danger he posed to them – (“Are you come to destroy us?”).

This pattern is repeated several times in Mark during the ministry of Jesus in Galilee. Although demonic spirits recognized the “Son of God,” men and women always failed to do so, even members of his own family – (Mark 3:11-12, Mark 5:1-7).

When his friends heard of his activities, they “went out to lay hold on him: for they said, ‘He is beside himself’.” His “friends” included members of his immediate family. Proximity to Jesus or even a blood relationship did not guarantee recognition of who and what he was – (Mark 3:21).

The scribes from Jerusalem could not deny the ability of Jesus to cast out demons. Ironically, rather than acknowledge that he did so by the authority of God, they charged him with casting out demons by “Beelzebub, the prince of demons” – (Mark 3:22-30).

MIRACULOUS TESTIMONY FAILS: By his word alone, Jesus calmed a storm that was raging across the Sea of Galilee. In great fear, his disciples asked one another – “Who is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” Even a tremendous display of power over nature was insufficient for them to recognize him – (Mark 4:36-41).

Jesus healed the dying daughter of a local synagogue leader, leaving the crowd dumbfounded. Even his ability to raise the dead was insufficient to convince men and women that Jesus was the Messiah – (Mark 5:21-43).

When Jesus returned to his hometown, he began to teach in the synagogue. Many who heard began to question, “Whence has this man these things…Is this not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” Rather than rejoice that the Messiah was in their midst, “they were offended by him” – (Mark 6:1-6).

When Herod heard about Jesus, he concluded that John the Baptist had returned from the dead. Other voices claimed Jesus was Elijah or one of the prophets. None suggested that he might be the “Son of God,” the long-promised Messiah – (Mark 6:14-15).

After Jesus fed five thousand men from “five loaves and two fishes,” plus women and children, he went to pray alone on a mountain. To join him, the disciples crossed the Sea of Galilee by boat, struggling against a contrary wind.

Jesus appeared suddenly, walking on the water. The disciples thought it a ghostly apparition and cried out in fear. He identified himself, entered the boat, and caused the winds to cease. Previously, the disciples saw him calm a great storm, yet this display of authority over natural forces also failed to convince them who he was, “because their hearts were hardened” – (Mark 6:35-52).

SUFFERING MESSIAH:  On the way to Jerusalem, Peter appeared on the verge of grasping his identity. When Jesus asked, “Who do men say that I am,” Peter declared, “You are the Christ!” Then he explained how the “Son of man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.” To this, Peter objected vehemently – The notion that the Messiah of Israel would be subjected to suffering and death was unacceptable – (Mark 8:27-38).

Whatever insight Peter had just gained was lost when he was confronted with the idea of a suffering Messiah. But his messiahship meant exactly that – Suffering, rejection, and death. Likewise, in Mark 9:31-32, Jesus taught that he must be “delivered up into the hands of men, and they shall kill him; and when he is killed, after three days he shall rise again.” Once more, the disciples did not understand his words or perceive who he was.

Again, while “on the way up to Jerusalem,” Jesus explained how he would be “delivered to the chief priests and the scribes; and they shall condemn him to death.” To this, James and John responded by requesting to sit at his side when he came into his kingdom. To their request, Jesus responded:

You know not what ye ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with…whoever would become great among you shall be your minister; and whosoever would be first among you shall be the slave of all, for the Son of man also came not to be ministered unto, but to minister and to give his life a ransom for many.” – (Mark 10:32-45).

The way of his kingdom is self-sacrificial service, not dominion over others or outward glory, a truth that he demonstrated in spades by giving his own life to ransom a great many others from bondage to sin and Satan.

When the High Priest examined Jesus, he asked, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” He responded, “I am he. And you will see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power and coming in the clouds of heaven.” Here, to the highest religious authority in Israel, he identified himself explicitly as the Messiah. There could no more doubt about the matter. But rather than recognize him, the High Priest charged Jesus with blasphemy, and the “chief priests and the whole council” condemned their own Messiah to death – (Mark 14:60-64).

Unintentionally, the Roman governor confirmed his messianic status when he had “King of the Jews” inscribed on his cross for all to see. Yet, as he was dying on it, Jewish spectators mocked him, declaring, “You who were pulling down the Temple and building one in three days, save yourself and come down from the cross.” The chief priests and scribes also ridiculed him despite the testimony of God, Scripture, his miraculous deeds, and his own sworn testimony before the High Priest – (Mark 15:26).

Demons recognized precisely who Jesus was before he ever said or did anything, yet the temple authorities were incapable of doing so despite the evidence. Instead, they mockingly proclaimed, “let him come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” Even the two brigands who were crucified alongside him “were casting it in his teeth.”

TESTIMONY OF THE GENTILE CENTURION:  Finally, and only at Calvary, was Jesus declared the “Son of God” by a human voice. As death overwhelmed him, he uttered a loud cry and died. At that very moment, the “veil of the temple was rent in two from the top to the bottom,” and the centurion in charge of the execution squad declared – “Truly this man was the Son of God” – (Mark 15:37-39).

Two related events of great significance resulted from his death – The tearing of the Temple veil, and the confession of the Roman centurion. This was the veil before the Holy of Holies, the inner sanctum – (Exodus 26:31-37, Hebrews 6:19, 9:3, 10:20).

Just as the “rending of the heavens” at his baptism produced a declaration regarding his sonly status, so the “rending of the Temple veil” produced the same confession from the mouth of a Roman centurion.

Only as Jesus was crucified did a human being finally understand who he was, and paradoxically, not by one of his disciples or even a devout Jew. Not until his death was anyone able to understand the identity and role of the Messiah – to “give his life as a ransom for many.” His death defined his messiahship – (Mark 10:45).

Only in his suffering and death on a Roman cross are we able to understand the true identity of Jesus, and the nature of his mission.

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