Son of Man in Mark
“Son” language in Mark
Mark uses “son” language to speak of Christ; the most common is “Son of Man”. Except for the personal name “Jesus,” the theological title “Son of Man” is the most frequent phrase used to refer to Jesus in Mark.
1. What “Son of Man” Means
a. Jesus use of Son of Man
The way Jesus taught about himself
If you listen to Jesus’ own words in Mark’s Gospel, he did not teach morals. The main thing Jesus taught about was himself. Yet Jesus taught about himself in a very round about way. It was a way that would have been clear to those who knew Old Testament but likely sounds odd to us today.
Jesus used the phrase “Son of Man” to refer to himself.
In Mark, When Jesus referred to himself as the Son of Man he often spoke in second person. We can be sure Jesus is speaking of himself by looking to the same passages in other gospels. In Mark 10:45, Mark uses the phrase “Son of Man” to refer to Jesus’ coming to serve, Luke uses “I” in an equivalent phrase (Luke 22:27).
But why would he speak that way? Answer: Likely, Jesus was being deliberately evasive so as to avoid being accused of blaming messianic status before it is His time. Jesus wants his disciples to connect the dots for themselves.
Jesus was not saying, “I’m nobody special. I’m just another run-of-the-mill guy.” The “Son of Man” title in Mark is more than that It has a strong connection to the messianic and eschatological figure in Dan 7 who will judge the world. (particularly, Dan. 7:13-14).
b. He pulls from Old Testament Passage
The Son of man language in Mark may not be what it appears. On the surface, it appears to speak of Christ’s humanity yet that might not be the discussion being had in Galilee during Jesus time.
Son of Man has connection to the Apocalyptic Worldview of second temple Judaism. Given the use of eschatological material in Mark, the title may reflect an apocalyptic background, with its roots in books like Daniel and 1 Enoch. (1)
Jesus’ use of the title hints at Jesus’ self-identification as the figure from Daniel 7. Messianic figure who’s divinity is hinted at in the text by him doing things only reserve for God. Many now see, Jesus is making an allusion to his divinity not his humanity unlike some earlier scholars that has noted in connecting the use of the title in Ezekiel.
Jesus calls attention to the title as used in Daniel’s vision of the representative of God’s people. In Daniel, the figure is worshiped like God and ascends in clouds to receive an eternal kingdom (8:28; 13:26; 14:62; Dan. 7:9– 14).
Jesus also makes some interesting comments on the Son of Man’s purpose (10:45; 8:31; 9:12, 31) with illusions to the Suffering servant of Isaiah 53.
Jesus may appeals to the Son of Man title may point to this expectation in his context, of a coming “Divine / Messianic figure” who will exhibit a comprehensive presence through the kingdom of God, this is one aspect of the Son of Man in second temple thought. The Son of Man will judge the world and through his work God’s kingdom will spread to cover the earth, so that shalom is restored to the world.
Shalom is used here to means more than just “peace”. Shalom is the right rhythm of creation before the fall. It is the wholeness of creation in its “orderliness” and “fittedness” of all things. In Jewish thought, Shalom was lost but at the eschaton the Son of Man will bring in the restoration of it by the rightly admonition of justice and righteousness. To reiterate, shalom is the harmonious movement of the created order which bring flourishing, fruitfulness, and fullness of life.
2. What does Jesus teach the Son of Man came to do?
1.) Bear authority.
- Jesus taught with authority: “The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority” (1:22).
- He had authority to forgive sin “But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins . . .” (2:10).
- He had the authority to be the Lord of the Sabbath (2:28).
- Who had that kind of authority? No one but God.
- He also taught that the son of man must suffer. Mark 8:31, 9:12, 9:31, 10:32-34, 14:21, 14:41. Jesus has come to teach with the authority of God and to forgive sins. Yet he says the religious leaders of the people will reject him. Also each time he taught them about his suffering he taught them he would rise again. No pain without purpose, no suffering without resurrection
- He also taught them he would rise from the dead. We can see his promise in Mark 8:31; 9:31; and 10:33-34.
“that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.” 8:31
“The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.” 9:31
“the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.” 10:33-34
3.) Return to judge.
- While Jesus was teaching in the temple courts during his last week in Jerusalem, his disciples marveled at the massive stones (13:1). But Jesus promised that the temple would be destroyed (13:2), that great chaos and judgement would follow (13:5-26).
- At his trail before the high priest, Jesus was asked directly by the high priest whether he was the Messiah (14:61). Jesus answered, “I am…you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Mark 14:62). This is reminiscent of what we have of the messianic and eschatological figure in Dan 7 who will judge the world.
- This is Mark’s teaching about Jesus: God came in the flesh, was rejected, and will come again in judgment.
1. The availability of this title to Jesus in his Galilean context is discussed. In a monograph entitled, Parables of Enoch: A Paradigm Shift. Eds. James Charlesworth and Darrell Bock (New York: Bloomsbury, 2013) The monograph put forth that the Son of Man title was very much a topic for reflection in first-century Galilee.
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