Mark’s Offensive Messiah

Clifton Black on Mark’s subversive presentation of Jesus:

The deeper question with which Mark’s readers must come to terms is whether she or he can follow a Christ so offensive as to die by crucifixion (15:22-41). An inescapable dimension of this Evangelist’s Christology is the Messiah’s repulsiveness. Jesus flummoxes everyone who boxes him into conventional expectations: the pious (2:1-3:6; 7:1-23), his family (3:19b-21), his disciples (8:33), and even some petitioners (7:24-30). If Mark’s reader is not also abashed, it is a safe bet that its Jesus has been domesticated and his gospel as been neutered (Black, Mark, 181).


One response to “Mark’s Offensive Messiah

  • Tim Cole

    Clifton Black and the other modern commentators–and I have consulted them all while expounding my way through Mark–have overlooked arguably the most challenging and obvious of all tests for would-be-disciples: Will you be willing to follow a teacher and Messiah who repeatedly rebukes, corrects, and questions even his closest followers?

    Beginning in chapter 1 and running to chapter 10 Jesus says nothing positive to the disciples. It’s all negative. The disciples’ record by chapter 10 is: 1 win and 10 losses. Once, they got it right (Peter’s half-right confession re: Jesus’ identity). But only once. The other 10 occasions they flunked the test. 10 losses. 10 ‘F’s.

    Should we fire the teacher (Jesus) with a 1-10 win-loss record (or to change the metaphor, who flunk all but one of the exams?) Or should we expel the ‘F” students from the school of discipleship?

    I’ve curious as to why commentators (including Black) comment on Jesus’ message and are silent about his methods of discipleship. Perhaps (?) the commentators are too ivory-towered to be in-touch with the harsh realities of developing hard-hearted people. Yet, both the message and the method are inspired. Understanding Mark’s depiction of Jesus requires, it seems, a two-pronged approach. Both message and method are essential to develop people who are deep-soiled, will persevere, and bear fruit.

    Needed: commentators with one foot in the text and the other firmly placed in the difficult world of developing slow-minded followers of Jesus.

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