Rethinking Jesus’ Suffering: Studies in Mark, Pt. 60

So, this is my 60th “study” on Mark. I think that’s pretty cool. I’ve enjoyed writing on Mark’s Gospel so far and hopefully there will be many, many more posts on it.

In this post, I want us to think about a phrase that occurs twice in Mark’s Gospel: “The Son of Man must suffer…” (8.31; 9.12). Typically, this phrase is read through the lens of divine determinism: “God the Father made evil things happen so that Jesus would undergo suffering and redeem humanity.” However, there is another way to think through such passages.

For instance, if we read the Gospel narratives closely, we see that at the beginning of His ministry, Jesus is aware that the religious and political leaders are plotting to take His life (see: Mk. 3.6 and especially, its parallel Mt. 12.14-5). In both Mk. and Mt., Jesus knows that His neck is on the line. Even so, He continues on in His ministry (e.g. teaching, healing, miracles/wonders, etc.). Thus, we might read the passages that say “The Son of Man must suffer” not as divinely determined statements but as socially and historically shaped ones—Jesus was aware that He was being hunted and He also knew that if He continued to do the things He was doing, He was going to suffer and be killed.

What this means is that Jesus chose to endure suffering for the sake of humanity and the sake of the Gospel. He was not “divinely abused” nor was He drawing on some leftover omniscience He had saved up for precisely these moments. Jesus is stating a matter of social fact and historical reality: “If I keep on with this, I’m going to suffer.” And to His followers He’s making the point: “If you keep on with me, you too will suffer.” He’s not attempting to be predictive here; He’s stating a mater of fact.

Two things we can take from this are: 1) Jesus chose to suffer for righteousness sake, and 2) Jesus’ disciples also chose to suffer for righteousness. We might conclude from these to points that in situations of abuse, neglect, mistreatment, etc. today, people are not called, as Christ-followers, to just take the beatings. That is not suffering for righteousness sake; this is not the same type of suffering that a martyr endures! Perhaps it’s time to rethink Jesus’ suffering so that the vicious cycles of violence and hate that are alive and well today, disappear from our lives.


  1. Thanks for the clarification on your previous post. I like your line of thought in this one. It has often seemed to me unnecessary when people have understood language such as "God hardened Pharaoh's heart" in terms of Pharaoh really wanting to let the Hebrew slaves go, but God overriding his freewill in order to accomplish some inscrutible divine purpose. It is much simpler to interpret it in terms of the hardening of Pharaoh's heart as the all but inevitable outcome of sending someone to him demanding that he free all his slaves. One can do that to just about any dictator and "harden his heart" without in any way having to undermine or counteract his free will.

    Happy 60th study on Mark day!

  2. Amen, amen and amen Mr. McGrath! I agree wholeheartedly with your statment hee. Thanks for the "happy 60th". :)


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