Monday, May 16, 2016

The 2016-17 Horizons Bible Study "Who is Jesus? - a continuing review-"According to Mark"

“… the high priest was questioning him and saying to him, ‘Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed one? ‘And Jesus said, ‘I am, and you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power and coming with the clouds of heaven.’” Mark 14: 61b-62)

Picture by Ethan McHenry
One of the causes of error in the church is an emphasis on one truth with neglect or rejection of other truths. This too often occurs because Christians fail to consider the paradoxes of faith. For example when we think of Jesus’ victory and the coming of the kingdom we rightly think of the words, ‘already—not yet.’ The kingdom has come because of Jesus’ death and resurrection but it is not yet fully here until the bodily return of Jesus. That is a paradox. Again the incarnation, Jesus fully human and fully God is a paradox.

The first lesson in the Presbyterian Women’s Bible study, Who is Jesus? What a difference a Lens Makes, looks at the gospel of Mark. There are beautiful truths here—that Jesus as the messiah is the suffering servant, and that as the suffering servant he is able to help us in our suffering. But there is a paradox that is ignored. The suffering servant, the messiah, is also the Coming Son of Man.

And, in fact, Judy Yates Siker writes:

“The Jewish expectations of ‘the messiah’ included one who would be king in a future age, when there was peace, and ranged from ideas about a political figure who would restore Israel to a position of power to a cosmic figure (as in Daniel 7) who would come in on the clouds of heaven, or a priestly figure. Clearly, for many Jews at the time of Jesus, Jesus did not fit any of these categories.” P. 17

While it is true that many Jews did not see the messiah as a suffering messiah and were horrified to think that the messiah would die like a common criminal, the gospel of Mark does not fail to inform the reader that Jesus is not only the suffering servant and Son of God. He is also the Coming One. The One who’s coming is glorious.

It matters not that Jesus’ family, disciples, and enemies did not understand him and often rejected him, Mark gives a complete picture of Jesus’ identity. A picture that does not contradict the other gospels.

Jesus, in the gospel of Mark often refers to himself as ‘the Son of Man.” In some cases his self-identity as the Son of Man clearly includes his divinity.

 Biblical scholar George Eldon Ladd, in his book A Theology of the New Testament, provides a whole chapter on the Son of Man texts in the gospels. He divides them into three categories. “The use of the Son of Man in the synoptics falls into three distinct categories: the Son of Man on earth serving; the Son of Man in suffering and death; the Son of Man in eschatological glory.”

All three are in Mark. The last category, the eschatological Son of Man in glory is found at Mark 8:38, “When he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels;” Mark 13:26, “They will see the Son of Man coming with clouds and great glory.”; and Mark 14:62—see above.[1]

Mark’s perspective does emphasize the suffering servant but it does not preclude Jesus as the coming Lord of glory. And the fact that Jesus the suffering servant is identified as Jesus the coming Son of Man enhances his identity and lifts up the Christian’s call to service and suffering. Jesus is always the Lion who is the lamb who was slain—who purchased, with his blood—people from every tribe and tongue, nation and ethnicity. (Rev. 5)

Siker, at the end of the first lesson, writes: “So, who is Jesus according to Mark? He is the suffering Son of God, and he will meet you in your suffering.” And so he will. But still in another place writing of Jesus’ experience in the Garden of Gethsemane, Siker refers to Jesus as “The Jesus in this story …” But there is not a different Jesus for each gospel. There is instead Jesus, absolute, seen from different perspectives, yes, but always the same.   Trustworthy because he is the same, yesterday, today, forever.

[1] George Eldon Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament, fourth printing (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company 1979) See the chapter on The Son of Man 145-158.



Don Hurray said...

What do you expect from an organization that gave the world "reimagining", Sophia and honey communion?

Viola Larson said...

Of course other organizations helped them with reimagining-but yes you are right.