Lesson 5 of 5
In Progress

Theological Themes in Mark

Beloved Son

The voice from heaven at Jesus’ baptism, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased” (1:11), ushers readers into the first half of the Gospel. Likewise, the voice from heaven in the transfiguration, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” (9:7), ushers them into the second half of the Gospel. The parable of the vineyard (12:1-12) expresses the truth of Jesus’ identity as God’s beloved Son.

Discipleship sayings

Jesus teaches about discipleship in the context of references to his death and resurrection. Three times Jesus announces his passion and resurrection (8:31; 9:30-31; 10:32-34), and three times the disciples misunderstand (8:32-33; 9:32; 10:35-40). In each instance, Jesus responds to the disciples’ misunderstanding by teaching them the way of discipleship.

Holy One of God

The first public act of Jesus’ ministry in the Gospel takes place in the synagogue at Capernaum (1:21-28), where a man with an unclean spirit names him as “the Holy One of God.” This story sets up the cosmic battle between Jesus and the demonic powers that continues into the Gospel.

“I Am” 

The name of the Lord God from the burning bush in Exodus 3:14 is the identity that Jesus speaks to his disciples as he approaches them on the Sea of Galilee in Mark 6:50 (NRSV translates the Greek “I am” as “it is I”). The only other time that Mark refers to this identity is when Jesus responds to the high priest in 14:62, a response that the high priest interprets as blasphemy.


When Jesus asks his disciples about his identity, Peter confesses, “You are the Messiah” (8:29). Not until the hearing before the high priest and the question he puts to Jesus is this identity heard again: “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” (14:61). The reader of the Gospel knows the answer–that Jesus is the Messiah, the anointed one of God, the fulfillment of Jewish messianic expectation.

Son of David

This identity and confession of Jesus comes in Mark only on the lips of blind Bartimaeus in the city of Jericho as Jesus travels on his way to Jerusalem, the city of David. Twice Bartimaeus cries out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (10:47-48).

Son of God

The demons and unclean spirits know Jesus as the Son of God. The only time in Mark that human lips confess Jesus as the Son of God is in the moment following the tearing of the temple curtain (15:39). The evangelist has drawn us to the cross throughout the Gospel where we too are called, in light of the cross, to make our confession of Jesus as the Son of God.

Son of Man

Jesus is the only one who uses this expression, and he uses it to identify himself. It has three meanings: (1) Jesus has authority on earth to forgive sins (2:10), and he is the lord of the Sabbath (2:28); (2) Jesus suffers, is rejected, is handed over for crucifixion, and after three days rises (8:31, 38; 9:9, 12, 31; 10:33, 45; 14:21, 41); (3) Jesus’ death will be vindicated, and he will reign as Lord, seated at the right hand of God and coming in the clouds with great power and glory (13:26; 14:62).

Son of the Most High God

This confession comes from a demon-possessed man who lives among tombs (5:7) and encounters Jesus.


The temple in Jerusalem is the central focus of Mark’s final section and Passion Narrative (11:1-15:47). Jesus teaches about the temple’s destruction and attending signs of the end when the Son of Man returns (13:3-37).

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