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The Oxford Bible Commentary Line-by-line commentary for the New Revised Standard Version Bible.

Key Themes.

1.

As already noted, a key theme of the gospel is suffering: Jesus is the one who supremely fulfils his destiny as the one who suffers and dies, and any disciple of Jesus is called to follow in the same way (see 8:34–10:52 ). Jesus is also the great miracle worker, though one suspects that Mark would not see this as the most important part of Jesus' ministry. Jesus is indeed the great miracle worker, but miracles must, for Mark, be seen in their proper context: they can never be the basis for faith, indeed without an existing context of faith they cannot take place (see 6:5 ); further, the one who performs all these mighty works is the one who will end up on the cross.

2.

Above all the centre of the story for Mark is the person of Jesus. What is crucial for Mark is the question of Christology. At one level this statement is trite since, for all the evangelists, Jesus is the centre of attention in the story. Nevertheless, for Mark it is above all the question of who Jesus is that is paramount. Further, for Mark, it seems that this cannot be answered simply in words or titles. There is an element of secrecy in the story, so that characters in the narrative do not grasp who Jesus is. The reader is told right at the start what are the most appropriate terms in which to understand Jesus (see MK 1:1 ), but even then, Mark has more to say: indeed that is presumably why he writes his story, to show what any words of title mean in concrete terms. For Mark, Jesus is supremely ‘Son of God’, but what Mark understands by this is not fully clarified, even for the reader, until the cross (cf. 15:39 ). Mark gives us what can be described as a narrative Christology. It is the narrative which, in the end, tells the reader how Mark wishes Jesus to be understood.

3.

A theme almost as important for Mark as Christology is that of discipleship. What does it mean to be a follower of the one who is the Son of God in this Markan sense? As already noted, Mark's Jesus gives an extended block of teaching on discipleship as entailing following Jesus in the same way of suffering and death, the way of the cross (see 8:34–10:52 ). So too the characters of the disciples play a key role in Mark's story. For Mark it is a matter of concern to show something of what is, or should be, involved in being a follower of Jesus within the Christian church.

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