Revealed on the Cross

The inability of men to recognize Jesus as the Son of God until AFTER his death is a key theme of the Gospel of Mark. Paradoxically, the first man to identify him openly as the “Son of God” was the Roman centurion on duty at his execution. His self-identification as the suffering “Son of Man” made him unrecognizable and distasteful to unregenerate men, the kind of Messiah no one expected or wanted.

The identity and mission of Jesus could not be understood apart from his sacrificial death. Nevertheless, as Paul wrote many years later, the proclamation of a crucified Messiah was and is “God’s power and wisdom” – (1 Corinthians 1:18-24).

Cross in cemetery - Photo by JF Martin on Unsplash
[Photo by JF Martin on Unsplash]

By stressing the necessity of his suffering and death,
Mark not only established his identity as the “Son of God,” but demonstrated what it meant to be the Messiah of Israel. Demons recognized him and declared who he was. In contrast, despite his healing miracles and exorcisms, and even his dominion over nature, men and women remained confused about his identity.

At the Jordan River, the Scriptures, John the Baptist, the voice from Heaven, and supernatural signs all attested that he was the Messiah, the mighty one who would baptize his followers in the Spirit. The voice called him “My beloved Son” after the heavens were “rent asunder.” The English version translates the Greek verb schizō as “rent asunder.” It occurs once more in Mark when the veil of the Temple was “rent in two” when Jesus died - (Mark 1:11).

The description echoes a passage from the Book of Isaiah when the prophet longed for Yahweh to “rend the heavens” and make His name known “to your enemies, that the nations may tremble at your presence.” That prophecy was fulfilled with the arrival of Jesus along the banks of the Jordan, and shortly afterward, he appeared in “Galilee of the nations” where he began to proclaim the Kingdom of God - (Isaiah 64:1-2).

The declaration that Jesus was “My Beloved Son” echoed the Second Psalm and another passage in Isaiah. The Nazarene was the promised Messiah, and both passages included references to the Messiah bringing justice to the “nations” - (Psalm 2:7, Isaiah 42:1).

One of his first acts was to cast out an “unclean spirit.” The demon knew he was the “Holy One of God” and declared it, but Jesus commanded the spirit to remain silent. On no occasion did he give any ground to demonic spirits - (Mark 1:23-27).

The men present were all astounded and asked one another, “Who is this?” Despite his impressive deeds, Jesus remained unrecognized though demons understood who he was and the danger that he posed to them - (“Are you come to destroy us?”). This pattern is repeated in Mark during his ministry in Galilee. Demonic spirits recognized the “Son of God,” but men failed to do so, including members of his own family - (Mark 3:11-12, Mark 3:21, 5:1-7).

The Scribes from Jerusalem could not deny his ability to exorcise demons. However, rather than acknowledge that he did so by the authority of God, they charged him with casting out demons by “Beelzebub, the prince of demons.” Unclean spirits recognized the Messiah but not Israel’s educated religious leaders - (Mark 3:22-30).

By his word alone, Jesus calmed a storm raging on the Sea of Galilee and threatening the lives of his disciples. In great fear, they asked one another, “WHO IS THIS, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” Even this display of power was insufficient to convince them he was the Son of God - (Mark 4:36-41).

He healed the dying daughter of a local synagogue leader, leaving the crowd dumbfounded but unenlightened. Even his ability to raise the dead did not convince anyone that he was the Messiah - (Mark 5:21-43).

When he returned to his hometown, Jesus began teaching in the synagogue. Many who heard him began to question, “Whence has this man these things… Is this not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” Rather than rejoice that the Messiah was present, “they were offended by him” - (Mark 6:1-6).

After he fed five thousand men with “five loaves and two fishes,” plus women and children, Jesus departed to pray on a mountain. The disciples crossed the Sea of Galilee by boat to join him, struggling against a contrary wind the entire way. Jesus appeared suddenly, walking on the water. The disciples thought it was a ghostly apparition and cried out in fear. He identified himself, entered the boat, and caused the winds to cease.

Previously, they saw him calm a great storm, yet this most recent display of authority over natural forces also failed to convince them of who he was “because their hearts were hardened” - (Mark 6:35-52).


On the way to Jerusalem, Peter appeared on the verge of grasping his identity. When Jesus asked, “Who do men say that I am,” Peter declared, “You are the Christ!” Then he explained how the “Son of man MUST suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again” - (Mark 8:31).

In the Greek New Testament, the passage uses the verb dei, meaning, “must, it is necessary.” This points to the Divine necessity or purpose in his impending death. The Cross was neither optional nor unplanned, but a fundamental part of the plan to redeem humanity and creation.

Peter objected vehemently. The notion that the Messiah of Israel would be subjected to suffering and death was unacceptable, and whatever insight Peter may have gained momentarily vanished when he was confronted with the reality of a Suffering Messiah.

Likewise, as recorded in Mark 9:31-32, Jesus stated that he must be “delivered up into the hands of men, and they shall kill him; and when he is killed, after three days he shall rise again.” Once more, the disciples did not understand his words or comprehend who he was.

Again, while “on the way up to Jerusalem,” Jesus explained how he would be “delivered to the chief priests and the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death.” To this, James and John responded by requesting to sit at his side when he came into his Kingdom, but he responded:

  • You know not what ye ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with…whoever would become great among you shall be your minister; and whosoever would be first among you shall be slave of all, for the Son of man also came not to be ministered unto, but to minister and TO GIVE HIS LIFE AS A RANSOM FOR MANY” - (Mark 10:32-45).

The way of his Kingdom was self-sacrificial service, not dominion over others or outward glory, a truth that he demonstrated by giving his own life to ransom a great many others from bondage to sin and Satan.

When the High Priest examined Jesus, he asked, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” He responded, “I am he. And you will see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power and coming in the clouds of heaven.”

In the Temple, and before the highest religious authority in the land, he identified himself openly as the Messiah. There could be no more doubt. However, rather than recognize and embrace him, the High Priest charged Jesus with blasphemy, and the “chief priests and the whole council” condemned him to death - (Mark 14:60-64).

Unintentionally, the Roman governor confirmed his Messianic status when he had “King of the Jews” inscribed and mounted on his cross. As he was dying, Jewish spectators mocked him, declaring, “You who were pulling down the Temple and building one in three days, save yourself and come down from the cross.” The chief priests and scribes likewise ridiculed him despite the testimony of God, Scripture, his miracles, and his own testimony before the High Priest - (Mark 15:26).

When Jesus came to town, the demons knew who he was before he said or did anything, yet the Temple authorities remained clueless despite the evidence of their eyes and ears. Instead, they mockingly challenged him, “Let him come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” Even the two brigands who were crucified alongside him “were casting it in his teeth.”


Only at Calvary was Jesus declared the “Son of God” by a human voice. As death overwhelmed him, he uttered a loud cry, the “veil of the temple was rent in two from the top to the bottom,” and the centurion declared, “Truly this man was the Son of God” - (Mark 15:37-39).

Two related events of great significance resulted from his death: First, the tearing of the Temple veil, and second, the confession of this Roman officer. This was the veil before the Holy of Holies, the inner sanctum that prevented all but the High Priest from entering, and only once each year on the Day of Atonement - (Exodus 26:31-37, Hebrews 6:19, 9:3, 10:20).

Just as the “rending of the heavens” at his baptism produced a declaration regarding his status, so the “rending of the Temple veil” put the same confession on the lips of the centurion. Just as the prophet Isaiah hoped, the Gentiles did indeed “tremble” at his presence, only in repentance and submission. The centurion was only the first of many Gentiles to submit and accept his message.

Cemetery Sun - Photo by Simeon Muller on Unsplash
[Photo by Simeon Muller on Unsplash]

Only as he was crucified and dying did a human being finally understand who Jesus was, and paradoxically, not a devout Jew, the High Priest, or even one of his closest disciples, but a Gentile who may have been the Roman officer in charge of his execution squad.

Thus, his sacrificial death defined his Messiahship, identity, and mission. Only in his suffering and death do men begin to grasp who and what Jesus is, the heart of his message, and what it means to become his disciple.

  • What is this Man? - (No one recognized who Jesus was except the demons cast out by him. Only in his sacrificial death is his identity be understood)
  • That Son of Man - (The one like a Son of Man in Daniel is the source of Christ’s self-designation as the Son of Man and his authority)
  • Servant of Yahweh - (Disciples are summoned to adopt the same mind that Jesus had when he poured out his life unto death for others – Philippians 2:5-11)



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