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The Gospel of Mark: Jesus the Son of Man

God's Story in Scripture  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  48:09
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Overview Sermon of the book of Mark as he wrote to Romans regarding the information he gleaned from his time with the Apostle Peter.

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Introducing Mark

The old adage “hindsight is 20/20” works in many circumstances, but not all of them.
For example, if, like me, you have the habit of mulling over past conversations, or things that you’ve said, it’s easy to look back and decide - “I should have said this…” or “I should have done that differently” or “next time this comes up I’ll do it this way....” We can’t change the past, but we can learn from it.
But when it comes to looking back in history, ancient history, we can learn generally what happened, but sometimes the details are not just buried in the dirt - as archaeologists might like to think, they are lost forever. We can speculate about what may have prompted an action or how a book or letter came about, but in reality, unless there is something we can dig up or some nugget of information that we can glean from what we read, we’re left with mere speculation.
Unfortunately, the same is true when it comes to the Bible. We have the texts that have been preserved and canonized in our Bibles, and a myriad of fragments and copies of biblical and extra-biblical texts that are designed to help us understand the dating, time, circumstances and order of the writing of the books of Scripture, but sometimes it seems that the scholarship of getting behind and around the text is more speculation than anything.
This scholarship has produced...

The Synoptic Problem

When it comes to looking at the gospels - Matthew, Mark, Luke and John (the first three especially), many scholars look at the similarities and the differences between the books in order to discern where they came from, which came first, and why there are differences.
Last week, we looked at the book of Matthew. We learned that because it seemed like he was writing to a Jewish oriented audience, his focus was on telling the story of Jesus in a way that would be meaningful for people who came from a Jewish background. So he showed through the pages of his gospel that Jesus was the promised king and Messiah, the new Moses, and Immanuel - God with us. He talked about Jesus setting up God’s Kingdom here on earth and how citizens of that kingdom should live.
Next week, we’ll look at the pages of Luke - as he approaches the life and ministry of Jesus from a more Greek or Gentile point of view.
Today, we get to the book of Mark - the shortest of the three gospels. One of the reasons that people call differences and similarities of the gospels a problem is the book of Mark. You see, roughly 90% of what is found in Mark is found in the other gospels. Some used to think that Mark was an abbreviation of Matthew - that he paired down Matthew in order for the content to fit his agenda. But recent scholarship - or speculation - has suggested that maybe Mark was one of the original or source documents for the others.
Whatever the order of writing and however it came into existence maybe largely left to history, but there are some things that we can observe about Mark the person and the gospel from the text itself and some supporting documents.

Mark the Person

As with most books of the Bible, the book of Mark does not have a clear declaration of who is writing it. Some of the earliest Greek manuscripts include the phrase “kata markon” - meaning “according to Mark.” (Gromacki)
Eusebius, an early church father, gives us some insight into how Mark’s gospel came about:
“The Elder said this also: Mark, who became Peter’s interpreter, wrote accurately, though not in order, all that he remembered of the things said or done by the Lord. For he had neither heard the Lord nor been one of his followers, but afterwards, as I said, he had followed Peter, who used to compose his discourses with a view to the needs of his hearers, but not as though he were drawing up a connected account of the Lord’s sayings. So Mark made no mistake in thus recording some things just as he remembered them. For he was careful of this one thing, to omit none of the things he had heard and to make no untrue statements therein. (Ecclesiastical History 3.39.15)”
(EBC, p. 605)
So it seems that Mark was listening to Peter’s recollections about Jesus’ life. But Peter wasn’t Mark’s only influence. He is also known as John Mark - who travelled with and then abandoned Paul and Barnabas on their missionary journey (Acts 12:25; 13:38). Barnabas later welcomed Mark on a subsequent missionary journey (Acts 13:37-41).
It is believed that Mark lived in or around Rome at some point - or at least knew people who lived in Rome. Let me show you how some of the scholars come to that conclusion.
Mark 15:21 ESV
And they compelled a passerby, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross.
Here, Mark makes a note to reference two people - Alexander and Rufus - who would have been known to his readers. But this is not the only time that at least one of these names is referenced.
Romans 16:13 ESV
Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord; also his mother, who has been a mother to me as well.
Here, the Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Romans, encourages people to greet Rufus on his behalf. Now it is quite possible that there was more than one man named Rufus, but this is how some scholars seek to understand some of the background of the authors and the audience to whom they initially targeted their letters. It’s quite possible then that Mark points out the connection between Simon of Cyrene and Rufus because he would have been known to the initial readers/hearers - if this same Rufus is the one that Paul references in Rome.
But, we’re not here to look too closely at the author’s back story - though that can be interesting, we’re here to consider...

Mark the Gospel

You don’t have to read long to discover that the Gospel of Mark is full of action (Dever and Gromacki). One of Mark’s most common words is the word “immediately.” He seems to use this word to indicate a quick succession of events and a quick response to Jesus’ actions. There is an urgency to Mark’s gospel - an urgency that demands a response.
Mark’s action-oriented message is also seen in the frequent inclusion of miracles and the frequent exclusion of parables. Matthew and Luke each contain over twenty parables, but Mark only seven (Dever, 62).
When Jesus does teach, he doesn’t so much instruct his followers about life or a code of conduct, but he teaches about himself - as the Son of Man. He also teaches about the cost of discipleship - something Jesus modeled by his life.
Another interesting element about the book of Mark that we miss by not reading or speaking Greek - is his language. He doesn’t have salty language or a foul mouth. Greek experts have commented that Mark’s language is quite rough. His grammar is not beautiful or elegant. It could be because it was written in haste - maybe even shortly before Peter was martyred, as some have speculated. It could also be because the Greek language was not Mark’s first language or he lacked the refinement of a Greek education.
Let me try to explain this personally. Over the years I’ve managed to learn a bit of Spanish. I’m far from fluent but know enough to carry a conversation - usually. Many Spanish speakers like the sound of my Spanish (I try to pronounce things like they would) but my grammar is horrible. I have only had about two years of formal Spanish training. In that time, I did not get into very many tenses - especially future or past. So if I want to talk about something that did happen or something that will happen, I have to do a work around and add words that I know in order to communicate more complex concepts.
I do wonder if that is a bit of what we get to see in Mark. The roughness and simplicity of his language might lack refinement, but it doesn’t change the truth of his message.
It may be too, that Mark wrote this Gospel as his standard preaching source - a sort of stump sermon. Eusebius remarked:

“They say that Mark set out for Egypt and was first to preach there the gospel which he composed” (cf. Johnson, p. 15).

So, it could be too that the Mark’s language was intended to be understood by an audience who would be hearing Greek as a second language. We might be able to read the book of Mark aloud in about an hour. If this was Mark’s habit or practice - it could certainly be communicated in about the same amount of time.
There is one other element that we should pay attention to in the book and that is his audience. It appears that Mark was originally written to Romans and not to Jews. Scholars deduce this by the fact that Mark explains Jewish traditions - like washing hands. He also uses several Latin terms like “legion” for things that might have a Greek alternative.
But, let’s move on from the background information and get to...

The Message of Mark

The simplicity of Mark’s language is also representative of his overall outline and message. You could divide the book into two large sections - Jesus’ ministry in chapters 1-10 and his martyrdom in chapters 11-16.

The ministry of the Son of Man - (Mark 1-10)

This section gives a brief overview of Jesus’ miracles and ministry. Mark is very sparse on Jesus’ life. In fact, he doesn’t feel like getting into Jesus’ birth narrative is important to his audience - so he just begins - “The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus....” Mark 1:1
So many of the events in these chapters read like a literary photo-album as Mark records healing, teachings, confrontations and a few parables.
Toward the end of this section, Mark does something quite interesting in how he organizes the material. If you have your Bibles, go ahead and open to Mark 8.
You see, up to this point in time, Jesus has referred to himself as “the Son of Man” twice. This seems to be his preferred title in Mark’s gospel. Up to this point, he has frequently told people to keep quite about his ministry - almost keeping it a secret. One commentator suggests that Jesus is keeping his mission and role as Messiah a bit of a secret until he could fully explain who he is and why he came. Jesus wanted to be able to control the narrative (diSilva).
But here in chapter 8, the “Son of Man” title begins to be used more frequently - in fact this title is used 12 times in the final 8 chapters. One of the interesting things that Mark does here is something that scholars call an inclusio - almost a sandwiching. He begins with a gradual healing of one blind person and concludes with an immediate healing of another blind person. In the middle - Jesus gradually reveals himself more fully to his disciples and clarifies his mission. In turn, the disciples gradually understand Jesus’ purpose and message more clearly.
Let’s walk briefly through these events.

Gradual healing (Mark 8:21-26)

This is sort of one side of the sandwich or a bookend. Jesus heals a man who was blind - but he does it in stages.
Following this event, Mark tells the story of...

Peter’s Confession (Mark 8:27-30)

Here Jesus is with his disciples at Caesarea Philippi and asks them who people say he is and who they (his disciples) think he is. This is where we get Peter’s profound response:
“You are the Christ.” (Mark 8:29)
With this confession in hand, Peter reveals that he knows Jesus is the Messiah or the Christ, the promised anointed one of God. Now, Jesus has to make sure Peter and the others know exactly what that means, so ...

Jesus teaches on his death and discipleship (Mark 8:31-9:1)

Let’s consider how Mark presents this to us...
Mark 8:31–33 ESV
And he began to teach them that 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. And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
The disciples still don’t see - they have been informed but just don’t get it. For them, the Messiah’s mission would not be one of death, but of ruling, reigning and more.
Then Jesus gets to the essence of what it means to be his disciple:
Mark 8:34–36 ESV
And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?
So the disciples of the Son of Man will not be out for greatness but for sacrifice. This idea of a cross - they knew that as an instrument of death - I’m sure it must have sounded strange to them to hear him talk about the cross as a way of life.
In the little section, we get to see...

The Transfiguration (Mark 9:2-13)

Jesus goes on a mountain with Peter, James, and John. In this time together, he was transfigured and began to look differently. Moses and Elijah appear on this mountain and there is a voice that they hear that says “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” (Mark 9:7b) So this Messiah, this Son of Man is more than just a special leader, he is divine - but is the picture getting any clearer for the disciples?
In the next scene, we find the...

Healing of a boy (Mark 9:14-29)

The disciples who had not gone up to the mountain had tried and failed to heal a boy. Jesus finishes the task.
Mark then reveals that...

Jesus again teaches on his death and discipleship (Mark 9:20-10:31)

So far, we have a healing, confession of who Jesus is, Jesus teaching about his soon coming death and what it means to be his disciple. We then get the transfiguration - a sort of confession from Jesus and confirmed by God about who he is, followed by another healing.
Mark 9:30–32 ESV
They went on from there and passed through Galilee. And he did not want anyone to know, for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.” But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him.
Now there is not the bold rebuttal from Peter, but instead a silent misunderstanding.
Over the next several verses, Jesus continues to teach about what it means to be his disciple. Through conversations and questions, we learn that:
greatness is not the goal of Jesus’ disciples (Mark 9:33-37)
discipleship is not exclusive to those close to Jesus (Mark 9:38-41) - as the disciples tried to prevent other people from performing miracles in Jesus’ name.
Jesus’ disciples are not immune from being tempted and should not lead others into temptation (Mark 9:42-50)
Jesus’ disciples should have a high view of marriage (Mark 10:1-12) - as Jesus responds to the questioning of some Pharisees.
Children can and should be disciples too (Mark 10:13-16) - discipleship is not just for the mature - but it’s for everyone, of all ages. In fact, he even encourages us to receive the Kingdom like children do - a concept certainly worth meditating on. What does it mean to receive the kingdom like a child?
We also learn from Jesus’ encounter with the rich young man that...
Jesus’ disciples should be willing to sacrifice everything for the Kingdom (Mark 10:17-31)
So, Mark dedicates a good deal of space to focus more on what Jesus’ followers should be like - what discipleship will cost. We then get to see that...

Jesus teaches on his death a third time (Mark 10:32-34)

Mark 10:32–34 ESV
And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. And they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. And taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him, saying, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.”
This time, there is no commentary from Mark on their understanding or lack thereof, but instead he just moves on to the next story.
Jesus has communicated the narrative that he wants to convey.
We then get to see...

The bold request of James and John (Jesus teaches on discipleship) (Mark 10:34-45)

James and John ask Jesus to let them sit on either side of him in the Kingdom. He corrects them one final time.
Mark 10:42–44 ESV
And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.
He helps them to see that his disciples will be servant leaders. They will not seek the greater position, but will serve others for the sake of His Kingdom. Then he clearly defines his purpose in the next verse:
Mark 10:45 ESV
For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Now that they have it, now that their eyes are completely opened and they understand the role of Jesus ministry and their responsibility as his disciples, Mark closes this inclusio or bookend with the story of Jesus healing blind Bartimaeus.

Jesus heals blind Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46-52)

The healing of Bartimaeus seemed to be both a miracle for him and an awakening for the disciples. Where the first healing was gradual - this one was instantaneous.
Right after this, Jesus head’s toward Jerusalem for what we know as the Triumphal entry. This begins the final section of the book and ...

The martyrdom of the Son of Man - (Mark 11-16)

These final six chapters focus on the week leading up to and including the crucifixion. We get to see the response of the crowd at the triumphal entry, the reaction of the religious leaders. Jesus also begins to teach his disciples about some end times events. Jesus shares the passover meal and institutes the Lord’s supper with his disciples (which we will celebrate in a few moments). We see the betrayal of Judas, the arrest, Peter’s denials, the trials before the religious leaders and Pilate, his beating, and then finally his crucifixion.
Jesus had predicted three times that he would suffer and die and be raised to life. Mark doesn’t go into a lot of detail about the days that Jesus walked with his disciples after the resurrection, but he does want people to know that Jesus did what he said - that he is alive! As the women are at the tomb, they are told by a young man dressed in white...
Mark 16:6–7 ESV
And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.”
Most of the earliest manuscripts of Mark’s gospel end with the the women’s amazement about what had happened. The abrupt ending has been the topic of many conversations and many pages of literary and biblical debate - but the truth is undeniable - Jesus predicted his death and resurrection and then did just what he said.
Before we close, there is one final thing that I’d like for us to consider. That is the title...

The Son of Man

This was Jesus’ most common title that he uses of himself. But what does that mean?
Mark Dever notes that the title Son of Man seems to elicit several meanings when Jesus uses:
“Himself” - it might seem a bit odd to us, but Jesus sometime simply uses it to speak of himself in the third person. Rather than saying “I” will do this or that, he says “the son of man” will.... (Mark 10:45; Mark 16: 13-15; 8:27-30).
“Human” - Dever notes that in the Old Testament, the son of man was used to “distinguish between man and God” (70). So it seems that Jesus used this term to show that he was human.
“More than human” - It seems that Jesus used this phrase to indicate that he was more than human. In Psalm 110:1, a Psalm that Jesus used to question people about the Christ, it says “ The Lord says to my Lord: Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.” It seems like Jesus used this verse to help people see that as great as King David was, the Messiah would be greater. During his trial, Jesus seems to allude to this verse when he tells the high priest...
Mark 14:62 ESV
And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”
So it seems Jesus is conveying that he - the son of man - is the one who is greater than David, the Lord.
But Dever also suggests that Jesus uses “Son of Man” to denote a role of...
“Messenger” - In your reading through the Old Testament, you’ll discover that the one book that uses “Son of Man” more than any other is the book of Ezekiel. God uses that title for Ezekiel over ninety time. Ezekiel was God’s messenger to His people. Jesus, as the Son of Man, was also a messenger who shared God’s redemptive plan.
Finally, it seems Jesus used “Son of Man” to mean...
“Messiah” - Dever writes, “To the first-century Hebrew mind, the Son of Man was more than a prophet. ‘Son of Man’ was another title for the Messiah” (71). We get to see this a bit more clearly in the Gospel of John.
John 12:34 ESV
So the crowd answered him, “We have heard from the Law that the Christ remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?”
So here, the crowd, in the question to Jesus, revealed that they saw the Christ/Messiah as the Son of Man. When they talk about him being “lifted up,” they are referencing Jesus statement just a few verses earlier about the kind of death that he would go through.
So Jesus seems to use this title “Son of Man” to convey a lot - himself, his humanity, his greatness, his role as messenger of God, and his role as Messiah.

Closing thoughts

Mark seemed to write his fast-paced gospel to convey some of the life of Jesus and some of his teaching. But he seemed to really want to convey that Jesus, the Son of Man, is the promised one sent from God. His mission is not a political movement. His mission is one of redemption.
Mark 10:45 ESV
For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
He came to ransom his life for yours and mine. Mark might even suggest that know this expects and immediate response.
Friend, if you’ve not yet become Jesus’ disciple, if you’ve not yet responded to His life, death, burial, and resurrection, then call on him today. Repent of your sin - say I’m sorry. Acknowledge your separation from God because of your sin. Trust that what Jesus did on the cross was so that you might be in a right relationship with him. Will you respond immediately?
His method is through sacrifice and he is calling his disciples to do the same. In fact, if you’d like to have a verse to memorize this week this might be a good one to consider:
Memory verse: Mark 8:34-35
Mark 8:34–35 ESV
And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.
The cost of being Jesus’ disciple is high - but it’s worth it. He modelled it for us. Let us join Him in living lives marked by sacrifice for the glory of God and for the sake of those around us.
Let’s pray.

The Lord’s Supper

As he does with so many other elements of Jesus’ life, Mark briefly discusses the institution of the Lord’s Supper. During the passover meal that he shared with his disciples on the hight that he was arrested, Mark writes this:
Mark 14:22–25 ESV
And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”
Sources
Beale, G.K., Handbook on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, Baker Academic, Grand Rapids, 2012.
deSilva, David Arthur. An Introduction to the New Testament: Contexts, Methods and Ministry Formation. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004.
Dever, Mark, The Message of the New Testament: Promises Kept, Crossway, Wheaton, 2005.
Gaebelein, Frank E., D. A. Carson, Walter W. Wessel, and Walter L. Liefeld. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke. Vol. 8. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984.
Gromacki, Robert G. New Testament Survey. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1974.
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