Jesus the Suffering Servant

March 29, 2021
5 min read
Written By

Each Gospel writer presents a new perspective when telling the story of Jesus. While readers will notice many similarities and repeated stories, it is interesting to notice the use of different language and details. While the entire Bible is God-breathed and fully inspired by the Holy Spirit, it is being told through various authors' lenses. Even though the Gospels share the same life-changing message of Jesus, paying attention to the differences in each account can reveal new insights and concepts. One critical part in the authors sharing their accounts is the audience to which they are speaking to.

In the Gospel, according to Mark, the author is addressing an oppressed group of Christians in Rome. The audience that Mark is writing to is facing many challenges because of their faith in Jesus.

In Derek Tidball's book Ministry by the Book, Tidball speaks on Mark's intentions in his writing. He states,

"...Mark also had a pastoral motivation and was writing to encourage the church to remain strong in the face of the persecution, even martyrdom, they were experiencing as disciples." [1]

[1] Tidball, Derek. Ministry by the Book: New Testament Patterns for Pastoral Leadership. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2009.

What a paradoxical circumstance for Mark. One could imagine the challenges that Mark might have faced when trying to express the good news of Jesus in the face of persecution. What one would especially notice in the writing of Mark is how often he would speak on the suffering that Jesus would endure. Jesus fully understood His mission on earth and how this would require Him to experience suffering. This was intentional for Mark because he wanted his audience to understand that even Jesus, who we preach and teach about, had to endure many kinds of suffering. Yet, through his suffering, we receive the eternal gift of salvation.

Mark places purpose on suffering through the life of Jesus.

One of the names (borrowed from the prophet Isaiah) that Mark would identify as describing Jesus is “suffering servant.” Some may find it interesting that Mark would describe the God of all creation as one who suffers. Peter was someone who initially had a hard time understanding this. In Mark chapter 8, verses 31-33, the scripture says,

"He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. "Get behind me, Satan!" he said. "You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns."

Jesus uses strong language to show Peter that His suffering may not make sense to him or any human comprehension, but God's plans and ways are perfect. Suffering was the means to the promise of reconciliation between God and man. What is beautiful about the story of Jesus is how the narrative does not stop with Jesus laying lifeless in a tomb. He rose again after three days and rejoined the Father in paradise. Mark hopes to give purpose to the pain and oppression that his audience is facing, showing them that our suffering will not be in vain because our Heavenly Father's plans are good.

As a follower of Jesus, we too can cling and hold onto the hope that the trials and hardships that we face today will not be in vain. While our suffering may not look like one of physical persecution and martyrdom, there are still challenges that we face daily. Mark wanted his readers to understand that although it may seem dark and hopeless now, they can stand firm on the promises of God because He always comes through – even when it feels like there is no way. God is still working and moving on our behalf. There may be seasons in our life when we feel like Peter and question God, asking “why are we enduring suffering?” or “why does this have to happen?” Let's be reminded of Jesus' teaching. God is in control. It's not always for us to understand but we can still trust in His plan.

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