As many of you know, (of course my students know because this is all I talk about!) I writing my dissertation (University of Wales, St Davids) on the Gospel of Mark. I am specifically investigating the relationship of Mark’s epigraph (1:1-3) to the body of Jesus’ interpreted story in Mark 1:4-16:8. I had a breakthrough this week and thought I would give you a snapshot of what I see.
For many years I have thought there was something going on behind the story (under, above, whatever preposition you like) which was driving it. I think, in light of the work of many a Markan scholars, etc., that “Mark” is subverting (this is by no means a new observation) the notion of Jesus not only being the Messiah, but also, subverting the role of the angel of the Lord-a warrior figure from the days of old! What caught my attention (I have been seeking a way to articulate this for sometime) this week is that unlike the work of the ο αγγελος του κυριου in the Torah/Tanakh where he/it is presented as a warrior who kills and drives (physically!) out the nations (cf., Exodus 23) from the land of Israel, in the Gospel of Mark Jesus is cast as this ο αγγελος του κυριου but he is NOT engaged in any physical activity reminiscent of the days of old-he speaks (…και ελαλει αυτοις τον λογον…ην γαρ διδασκων αυτους…(Mark 2:2; 1:22) and acts! In this way “Mark” is not only subverting the notion of Messiah, but also the angel of the Lord.
The pericope of the Blind man may provide an illustration; the blind man recognizes Jesus as “son of David” while Jesus and the boys are heading into Jerusalem through Jericho. The back story appears to be David’s capturing of Jerusalem and conquering of the nations residing there. The “flip” occurs (subversion) when Jesus does not perform acts of violence, but simply pronounces a judgment upon the temple and the people caring for it…the expectations of the people are subverted do to the fact that Jesus does not “act” like David but is cast as a servant…humbling submitting to the will of his Father. In the end, the Roman Centurion’s “confession” (I view this lads “confession” as dramatic irony) illustrates to the hearer/reader of the story that Jesus’ likeness to David has been flipped on its head-subverted; this son of David gains victory through suffering not violence…he dies and in his death procures victory.