Lesson 5 of 6
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 wicked tenants (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 throughout the Gospel and comes to an end in the crucifixion and resurrection.


The Greek word christos, like the Hebrew Messiah, means the “anointed one.” When Jesus asks his disciples about his identity, Peter confesses, “You are the Messiah” (8:29). Not until the hearing before the high priest is this identity heard again. The high priest asks: “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 is referenced twice in Mark. It is placed 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). When Jesus enters Jerusalem riding on a young donkey, the crowds cry out “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!” (11:9-10).

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. Jesus uses it in three contexts: 1) To assert his authority on earth to forgive sins (2:10), and his status as the lord of the Sabbath (2:28); 2) To explain his suffering, rejection, crucifixion, and resurrection (8:31, 38; 9:9, 12, 31; 10:33, 45; 14:21, 41); and 3) To describe his vindication, when he will return and reign as Lord, seated at the right hand of God, 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 the 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). The tearing of the curtain presents the final sign that God cannot be contained in the temple, but instead is manifest in Jesus who will return in great power and glory (15:38).

No distinction between Jew and Greek

From the beginning of the Gospel, Mark points out the universal character of Jesus’ mission. In the first three chapters, he sets up a contrast between John the Baptist, who preaches to people from Judea and Jerusalem and Jesus, who preaches and heals people from everywhere (1:45), including Idumea, beyond the Jordan and the region around Tyre and Sidon, all non-Judean lands (3:8). Jesus and his disciples continually cross over to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, visiting the land of the Gerasenes and the Greek cities of the Decapolis. He even interacts with pig-herders (5:1-17). The emphasis on the inclusion of Greek-speaking people continues with the healing of the daughter of the Syrophoenician woman (7:24-30) and of the deaf man in the Decapolis (7:31-37). Mark draws the theme of inclusion to a close by placing the confession “Truly, this man was the Son of God” on the lips of a Roman centurion (15:39).

Discipleship in the midst of persecution

Throughout the Gospel of Mark, Jesus reminds his disciples that following him will lead them into persecution. The Parable of the Sower (4:1-20) introduces the theme when Jesus contrasts those who hear his word but fall away on account of persecution and those who endure and bear fruit. The theme is repeated in Jesus’ call for his followers to deny themselves and take up their cross (8:34). Finally, Jesus promises that those who leave their families and possessions for the sake of Jesus’ gospel will receive new families and possessions in the kingdom of God, but not without persecution (Mark 10:29-30).