Suffering Son of Man

In Mark, the Son of Man is revealed and comprehended in his sufferings and death for others on a Roman Cross

A theme threaded through Mark is the inability of men to recognize Jesus as the Son of God until AFTER his crucifixion, and even then, paradoxically, he is declared the “Son of God” by the unlikeliest person, the Roman centurion at his execution.

His self-identification as the suffering “Son of Man” makes him unrecognizable to unregenerate men. His identity and mission cannot be understood apart from his sacrificial death.

By stressing this, the gospel of Mark establishes his identity as the “Son of God” and what it truly means to be the Messiah of Israel.

Demons recognize him and declare who he is. In contrast, despite his healing miracles, exorcisms, and even his dominion over nature, men and women remain confused about his identity. He is not the kind of Messiah they expect.

  • (Mark 1:11) – “And it came to pass in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized into the Jordan by John. And immediately, as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens rending asunder, and the Spirit as a dove descending unto him. And a voice came out of the heavens: You are my Son, the Beloved One; in you, I delight.”

At the Jordan, the Scriptures, John the Baptist, the voice from heaven, and supernatural signs all attest that Jesus is the Messiah, the mighty one who baptizes in the Spirit, the beloved “Son of God.”

The voice from heaven identifies him as “My beloved Son” after the heavens are “rent asunder.” This translates the Greek verb schiz┼Ź, “to rend asunder, cleave, cleave asunder, split open.” The term occurs once more when the veil of the Temple is “rent in two” when Jesus dies.

The “rending” of the heavens alludes to a passage in Isaiah when the prophet longs for Yahweh to “rend the heavens” to make His name known “to your enemies, that the nations may tremble at your presence.” That prophecy is fulfilled in Jesus - (Isaiah 64:1-2).

The declaration, “you are my Son, the Beloved One; in you, I delight,” echoes the second Psalm and another passage in Isaiah, for Jesus is the promised Messiah. And both passages included references to the Messiah bringing justice to the “nations” - (Psalm 2:7, Isaiah 42:1).


One of his first acts was to cast out an “unclean spirit.” The demon recognized him as the “Holy One of God,” but he commanded it to remain silent. On no occasion did Jesus give any ground to demonic spirits - (Mark 1:23-27).

The men present were all astounded and asked one another, “Who is this?” Despite his impressive deeds, Jesus remained unrecognized by them, although demons understood who he was and the danger that he posed to them - (“Are you come to destroy us?”).

This pattern is repeated in Mark during his ministry in Galilee. Although demonic spirits recognize the “Son of God,” men and women always fail to do so, including members of his own family - (Mark 3:11-12, Mark 5:1-7).

When his friends heard of his activities, they “went out to lay hold on him, for they said, ‘He is beside himself’.” And this included members of his immediate family. Proximity to Jesus and even blood relationships did not guarantee recognition of who and what he was - (Mark 3:21).

The scribes from Jerusalem could not deny his ability to exorcise demons. But rather than acknowledge that he did so by the authority of God, they charged him with casting out demons by “Beelzebub, the prince of demons.”

The great irony is that demons could recognize the Messiah of Israel, but not the nation’s educated religious leaders, especially the Temple authorities - (Mark 3:22-30).


By his word alone, Jesus calmed the storm that was raging across the Sea of Galilee and threatening the disciples. In great fear, they asked one another, “Who is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” Even a tremendous display of power over nature was insufficient evidence to demonstrate that he is the “Son of Man” - (Mark 4:36-41).

Jesus healed the dying daughter of a local synagogue leader, leaving the crowd dumbfounded but unenlightened. And even his ability to raise the dead did not convince anyone that he is the promised Messiah - (Mark 5:21-43).

When he returned to his hometown, Jesus began teaching in the synagogue. Many who heard began to question, “Whence has this man these things… Is this not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” Rather than rejoice that the Messiah was present, “they were offended by him” - (Mark 6:1-6).

When Herod heard about Jesus, he concluded that John the Baptist had returned from the dead. Other voices claimed he was Elijah or one of the prophets. None suggested that he might be the long-promised Messiah - (Mark 6:14-15).

After he fed five thousand men from “five loaves and two fishes,” plus women and children, Jesus departed to pray on a mountain. To join him, the disciples crossed the Sea of Galilee by boat, struggling against a contrary wind.

Then, Jesus appeared suddenly, walking on the water. The disciples thought it was a ghostly apparition and cried out in fear. He identified himself, entered the boat, and caused the winds to cease.

Previously, the disciples had seen him calm a great storm, yet this display of authority over natural forces also failed to convince them who he was “because their hearts were hardened” - (Mark 6:35-52).


On the way to Jerusalem, Peter appeared on the verge of grasping his identity. When Jesus asked, “Who do men say that I am,” Peter declared, “You are the Christ!” Then he explained how the “Son of man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.” To this, Peter objected vehemently. The notion that the Messiah of Israel would be subjected to suffering and death was unacceptable - (Mark 8:27-38).

Whatever insight Peter had gained momentarily was lost when he was confronted with the idea of a suffering Messiah. But his messiahship meant exactly that - suffering, rejection, and death.

Likewise, as recorded in Mark 9:31-32, Jesus taught that he must be “delivered up into the hands of men, and they shall kill him; and when he is killed, after three days he shall rise again.” Once more, the disciples did not understand his words and could not perceive who he was.

Again, while “on the way up to Jerusalem,” Jesus explained how he would be “delivered to the chief priests and the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death.” To this, James and John responded by requesting to sit at his side when he came into his kingdom. But he responded:

  • You know not what ye ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with…whoever would become great among you shall be your minister; and whosoever would be first among you shall be slave of all, for the Son of man also came not to be ministered unto, but to minister and to give his life a ransom for many.” - (Mark 10:32-45).

The way of his kingdom is self-sacrificial service, not dominion over others or outward glory, a truth that he demonstrated by giving his own life to ransom a great many others from bondage to sin and Satan.

When the High Priest examined Jesus, he asked, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” He responded, “I am he. And you will see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power and coming in the clouds of heaven.”

In the Temple, and before the highest religious authority in the land, he identified himself openly as the Messiah. There could be no more doubt. But rather than recognize and embrace him, the High Priest charged Jesus with blasphemy, and the “chief priests and the whole council” condemned him to death - (Mark 14:60-64).

Unintentionally, the Roman governor confirmed his messianic status when he had “King of the Jews” inscribed and mounted on his cross for all to see. Yet, as he was dying, Jewish spectators mocked him, declaring, “You who were pulling down the Temple and building one in three days, save yourself and come down from the cross.”

The chief priests and scribes also ridiculed him despite the testimony of God, Scripture, his miraculous deeds, and his own sworn testimony before the High Priest - (Mark 15:26).

When Jesus came to town, the demons knew who he was before he ever said or did anything, yet the Temple authorities remained clueless despite the overwhelming evidence. Instead, they mockingly proclaimed, “let him come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” Even the two brigands who were crucified alongside him “were casting it in his teeth.”


Finally, and only at Calvary, Jesus was declared the “Son of God” by a human voice. As death overwhelmed him, he uttered a loud cry. At that very moment, the “veil of the temple was rent in two from the top to the bottom,” and the centurion in charge of the execution squad declared - “Truly this man was the Son of God” - (Mark 15:37-39).

Thus, two related events of great significance resulted from his death: The tearing of the Temple veil and the confession of the Roman centurion. This was the veil before the Holy of Holies, the inner sanctum - (Exodus 26:31-37, Hebrews 6:19, 9:3, 10:20) - [SEE 'The Centurion' on the Crucified Messiah blog site].

Just as the “rending of the heavens” at his baptism produced a declaration regarding his status, so the “rending of the Temple veil” produced the same confession in the mouth of a Roman centurion. And just as the prophet Isaiah hoped, the Gentiles did indeed “tremble” at his presence after his resurrection, only in repentance and submission. The Roman centurion was only the first of many to submit to him.

Only as he was crucified did a human being finally understand who Jesus is, and paradoxically, not a devout Jew, the high priest, or even one of his closest disciples.

Thus, his death defined his messiahship. Only in his suffering and death are we able to understand the identity of Jesus and the nature of his mission.


Language of the New Testament

Two Little Horns?