Jesus in the Old Testament
Mark’s opening words in his Gospel unequivocally assert that Jesus is God. He doesn’t just lead us through stages, bringing us to the point where we begin to realise that this Jesus whom he portrays in his Gospel is truly God – no, like Matthew and John, he states at the outset who Jesus really is, and the rest of his Gospel demonstrates this. It’s as if, as we open the cover of a book to read the first page, the sun suddenly blazes out from it, dazzling us with its brightness and splendour. (Incidental note: Such a brilliant beginning demands an equally brilliant ending. How could Mark have ended his gospel with a fizz and on a note of fear, as it is claimed by those who say it ends at chapter 16 and verse 8? This glorious beginning must finish with triumph; with the resurrection and ascension of Christ, and his instructions to the Church. And it does, when it is allowed to finish at chapter 16 and verse 20, as the Greek text which has always been used by the Church has it. The evidence for the inclusion of these final verses of Mark is strong).
So, Mark the author of the second Gospel, makes it clear from the outset who Jesus is, and for the rest of this Gospel, we know exactly the character and nature of this divine being, and of his mission. From the very start, Mark refers to him as Jesus Christ, the Son of God; this title is an assertion of deity (for example, see John 5:18). He doesn’t just make a bare statement; he produces the scriptural evidence for it. He refers to the prophecies of Malachi and Isaiah about the coming of the Messiah heralded by John the Baptist: “Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight” (Mk 1:2-3).
Mark quotes Malachi first: “Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts” (Mal 3:1). The “Wycliffe Bible Commentary” commenting on this verse says “The Lord…shall suddenly come. This is the answer to the question ‘Where is the God of judgment?’…. ‘God’ (2:17), Lord, and the messenger of the covenant all refer to one and the same divine person. Since the forerunner of this person was John the Baptist, the divine person was none other than Jesus Christ”.
Then, in Mark 1:3, he follows this up by quoting from the prophet Isaiah: “The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God” (Isa 40:3). Again, it is clear that the forerunner is John the Baptist, and that Jesus Christ is the one for whom John the Baptist clears the way. Isaiah’s words tell us it is God for whom the forerunner clears the way; the apostle Mark shows how it is Jesus for whom the forerunner, John the Baptist, in fulfilment of Isaiah’s prophecy, clears the way. This is “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (Mk 1:1), and he is shown by the prophets to be God himself.
I’m sure Mark meant us to read on in the fortieth chapter of Isaiah’s prophecy. It says “Behold, the Lord God will come with strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him. He shall feed his flock like a shepherd (as in John 10:1-18): he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young” (Isa 40:10-11). Do we not see God described in this passage? Do we not see Christ as the fulfilment of it? Do we not see God and Christ identified as one and the same person? Yes, yes, and yes!
Other statements of deity
And then, in the last verse of chapter 2, another statement of his deity: “Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the Sabbath” (Mk 2:28). This was in response to the criticism by the Pharisees that Jesus had broken the Sabbath. How could Jesus be Lord of the Sabbath if he was not God? The fourth Commandment says “Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy……the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God” (Exod 20:8-10).
In the next chapter, even the devils recognise him: “And unclean spirits, when they saw him, fell down before him, and cried, saying, Thou art the Son of God” (Mk 3:11).
In chapter 8:34-37, why would people lose their soul for not following Jesus if he was just a prophet (6:4), as the Muslims claim? Even if he was an angel or archangel, there would be no danger to a person’s soul for not following him. Indeed, angels refuse worship and refer would-be worshippers to God, as can be seen when the apostle John attempted to worship the angel (Rev 19:10). It is sin leading to eternal separation from God to not follow Christ, as Jesus tells us here; such sin can only be against God. “Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him also shall the Son of Man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels” (Mk 8:38).
In chapter 13, Christ details the events leading up to and including the last days. He says he will return at the end of time in the most spectacular manner: “But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, And the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And then shall he send his angels, and shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven” (Mk 13:24-27).
What mere man, what great prophet, what mighty king or emperor, could ever lay claim to such control of the elements, and of the sun and the moon and the stars in the heavens? This passage shows Christ claiming deity and not leaving any doubt about it! And it recalls and enlarges on Daniel 7:13-14, 27, where Christ, the Son of Man, receives his kingdom from God the Father.
And Professor Ehrman and the Muslims say the synoptic gospels don’t claim deity for Jesus? Mark is as clear as day, and he has Jesus as God at the very beginning of his Gospel so that we have this in our minds as we read through it – he wants us to know who it is of whom he writes.
Mark 14:61-63 – see under “Deity of Christ in Matthew” for discussion of Christ’s claim to deity at his “trial” before the Sanhedrin.
Mark 15:39 – see under “Deity of Christ in the Gospel According to St Matthew” and “Deity of Christ in the Gospel According to St Luke” for discussion of the centurion’s acknowledgment of Christ’s deity at the moment of his death.