Similarly to other Greco-Romano biographies, the Gospel According to Mark overlooks Jesus’ life and focuses primarily on the events that marked his adult life. In his account of Jesus’ ministry, Mark sought to emphasize his followers’ reluctance and inability to accept the fact that the Son of God was born to suffer and die, thus taking into consideration the fact that Jesus was born and raised in a Jewish community, whose cultural background and religious beliefs made it nearly impossible for them to see the Messiah as a common man with human weaknesses and feelings.
In 1:12-13, Mark reports that the Spirit sent Jesus into the wilderness, where he was tempted by Satan for forty days, thus implying that similarly to previous Jewish prophets, Jesus was also tested to see if his faith was strong enough to help him overcome his human vulnerability (Holy Bible). Before analyzing Mark’s portrayal of Jesus in greater depth, it should be noted that his Gospel is believed to have inspired the Matthew, Luke and John, which would explain why most of the miracles, stories and events reported in the Gospel According to Mark are also present in the other three canonical gospels.
While Mark explicitly refers to Jesus as the Son of God and the Messiah (1:1), his account of Jesus’ ministry is somewhat different from that of Matthew, Luke and John in that he stresses how difficult it was for the twelve Apostles to understand his message and appreciate the real scope of his mission. The first book of the Gospel According to Mark clearly indicates that God, his angels and even Satan know exactly who Jesus is: God himself identifies him as His Son (1:12) and when the Spirit sends him into the wilderness, Satan tempts him and angels stay by his side (1:13). Later on, Jesus drives out many demons without letting them speak so as to prevent them from revealing his true identity (1:34). In other words, every single heavenly creature mentioned in the Gospel is perfectly aware of the fact that Jesus is the Son of God. His followers, on the other hand, find it difficult to understand who he really is, even after witnessing a series of marvelous miracles. Interestingly, Jesus does not seem to want his followers to understand who he is, probably because he fears that such as a shocking revelation would interfere with his mission. Despite their continuous attempts to determine who he is and where his supernatural powers come from, Jesus refuses to give them a perfectly clear answer, thus leaving them surprised and confused.
After calling his first disciples, Jesus goes to Capernaum where he drives an impure spirit out of a man’s body (1:21-28); he then heals several people, including Simon’s mother-in-law, a leper 1:40-45, a paralytic (2:1-12), a man with a withered hand (3:1-6), a woman who had suffering from hemorrhage for twelve years (5:25-34), several sick people in the land of Gennesaret (6:53-56), and a deaf-mute (7:31-37), to name but a few. Despite his peaceful teachings and ability to perform miracles, Jesus remains a suffering Messiah who is offended by his own family, insulted by the teachers of the law and even misunderstood by his Apostles, whose human passions and earthly desires cause them to let their Teacher down on multiple occasions. In 3:20-22, Jesus is accused of being out of his mind and serving Satan; instead of responding to such accusations by informing his critics that he was the Son of God, he starts speaking in parables, hoping that his interlocutors will understand his message.
In 4:35-41, Jesus tests his disciples’ faith one more time by calming down a storm right before their eyes; instead of feeling protected and reassured by him, they find his power extremely frightening, thus making it clear that despite their devotion to their Teacher, their faith is still too feeble for them to understand Jesus’ message. As Wilhelm (xii) pointed out, Mark’s portrayal of Christ is clearly meant to stress the fact that while demons and strangers identify him as the Messiah and the Son of God, his closest followers are the ones who refuse or fail to understand his ministry. Another distinctive feature in Mark’s depiction of Jesus is his crucifixion. As Wilhelm (xiii) noted, over one half of the Gospel According to Mark revolves around Jesus predicting his rejection, pain, sufferance and death. As a result, Mark’s Jesus is a suffering Messiah who constantly struggles to get his disciples to understand his holy message. Interestingly, even when Peter finally identifies him as the Messiah, Jesus asks him and the other Apostles not to speak about his identity, as if he were on a secret mission (8:27-33).
While many have attempted to justify Jesus’ reluctance to reveal his identity through elaborate theories, a valuable clue can be found in 10:35-45, where John and James ask the Messiah to let them sit next to him, thus showing Jesus that they yearn for glory and power more than they do forgiveness, mercy and faith. Here, Jesus can clearly see that despite his efforts to preach God’s word, his followers’ human nature prevents them from grasping the greatness and complexity of his message. He knows that his death and resurrection will finally help mankind appreciate his sacrifice and messianic mission, which is why he decides to let events speak for themselves, without imposing any notions or beliefs on his disciples.