The Markan Jesus – The Physical Embodiment and Visible Appearance of Israel’s God

In this short post, I am going to present evidence from Mark which clearly proves that Jesus is described as none other than the very God of Israel in the flesh.

In Mark, Jesus performs two specific functions, which the Hebrew Bible ascribes to Jehovah alone, namely, the subduing of the winds and seas, as well as his ability to walk on the waters:

“That same day, when the evening came, He said to them, ‘Let us go cross to the other side.’ When they had sent the crowd away, they took Him in the boat just as He was. There were also other little boats with Him. A great wind storm arose, and the waves splashed into the boat, so that it was now filling the boat. He was in the stern asleep on a pillow. They woke Him and said, ‘Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?’ He rose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace, be still!’ Then the wind ceased and there was a great calm. He said to them, ‘Why are you so fearful? How is that you have no faith?’ They feared greatly and said to one another, ‘What kind of Man is He, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?’ Mark 4:35-41 Modern English Version (MEV)

This next one is rather interesting:

“Right away, Yeshua made His disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while He Himself was sending the crowd away. After leaving them, He went up on the hillside to pray. And when evening came, the boat was in the middle of the sea and He was alone on the land. He saw the disciples struggling to row, for the wind was against them. Around the fourth watch in the night, Yeshua comes to them, walking on the sea; and He wanted to pass by them. But when they saw Him walking on the sea, they thought He was a ghost and cried out—for they all saw Him and were terrified. But immediately, He spoke to them. He said, ‘Take courage! I am (ego eimi). Do not be afraid.’ Then He got into the boat with them, and the wind stopped. They were utterly dumbfounded, for they still hadn’t understood about the loaves. Instead, their hearts were hardened.” Mark 6:45-52 Tree of Life Version (TLV)

Here, Jesus employs the phrase “I AM [he]” immediately after he was about to pass by the disciples, a function which is remarkably reminiscent of OT texts where Jehovah is said to pass by his prophets with the intention of unveiling his glory to them:

“Then the LORD said, ‘Indeed, there is a place by Me. You must stand on the rock. While My glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft of the rock and will cover you with My hand while I pass by. Then I will take away My hand, and you will see My back, but My face may not be seen.’”  Exodus 33:21-23 MEV

“Then the LORD descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. The LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, ‘The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.’” Exodus 34:5-7 MEV

“He came to a cave and camped there, and the word of the LORD came to him, and He said to him, “Why are you here, Elijah?’ And he said, ‘I have been very zealous for the LORD, LORD of Hosts, for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, thrown down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword, and I alone am left, and they seek to take my life.’ He said, ‘Go and stand on the mountain before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind split the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. And after the wind, an earthquake came, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake, a fire came, but the LORD was not in the fire, and after the fire, a still, small voice. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood in the entrance to the cave. And a voice came to him and said, ‘Why are you here, Elijah?’” 1 Kings 19:9-13 MEV

Jesus also utters this expression within the same context of his trampling upon the waters and coming to the salvation of his followers.

Suffice to say, these are the very unique functions which the Hebrew Bible attributes to Jehovah. For instance, it is Jehovah who treads upon the waves of the seas, and silences the waters:

“He who alone spreads out the heavens, and treads on the waves of the sea.” Job 9:8

“In righteousness You will answer us gloriously, O God of our salvation, You, who are the confidence of all the ends of the earth, and of those who are afar off on the sea; who established the mountains by His strength, being clothed with might; who stills the noise of the seas, the noise of their waves, and the tumult of peoples. Those who dwell in the uttermost parts are in awe because of Your signs; You make the going out of the morning and evening rejoice.” Psalm 65:5-8

And it is Jehovah who comes to the aid of his people in order to hear their cry of salvation to deliver them from the winds and waves:

“Some went down to the sea in ships, to do business in the vast waters; they saw the works of the LORD and His wonders in the deep water. For He commands and raises the stormy wind, which lifts up the sea waves. The sailors went up to the sky, they came down to the depths; their strength melted because of the great danger. They reeled to and fro and staggered like drunken men, and were completely confused. Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble, and He saved them out of their distress. He made the storm calm, and the sea waves were still. They were glad because the waters were quiet, so He brought them to their desired harbor.” Psalm 107:23-30

Furthermore, Jehovah is described as the great “I [am] HE” who commands his people to not be afraid as he assures them that he is with them to carry them through turbulent waters:

“But now, thus says the LORD who created you, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine. When you pass through waters, I will be with you. And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame kindle on you…Do not fear, for I am with you; I will bring your descendants from the east, and gather you from the west… You are My witnesses, says the LORD, and My servant whom I have chosen that you may know and believe Me, and understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God formed, nor shall there be after Me. I, even I, am the LORD, and besides Me there is no savior. I have declared, and have saved, and I have shown, when there was no strange god among you; therefore, you are My witnesses, says the LORD, that I am God. Indeed, from eternity I am He; there is no one who can deliver out of My hand; I act, and who can reverse it?” Isaiah 43:1-2, 5, 10-13

It is therefore clear from the foregoing examples that Mark intends to identify Jesus as the visible appearance, in fact, as the very physical embodiment of the God of Israel.

In other words, the reason why Jesus in Mark does the very things that the Old Testament explicitly states that only Jehovah God is able to do is that Jesus is Israel’s God who became flesh, even though he is not the Father or the Holy Spirit (cf. Mark 1:8-11; 9:7).

As the following New Testament scholar and author puts it:

A third feature of the Markan narrative requiring consideration is the theophanic episodes where Jesus exercises God’s power over creation and appears in divine glory. Naturally, we can look to the sea miracles where Jesus calms the storm (Mark 4:35-41) and walks on the water (Mark 6:45-52) in a manner that harks back to scriptural images for Yahweh’s authority over the sea.

When Jesus and the disciples are caught in the midst of a furious squall in their small boat on the Sea of Galilee, they are fearful and one of them rouses Jesus from his slumber in the stern of the vessel… Jesus’ command over the sea alludes to Ps 107, a text that describes Yahweh as the redeemer of the people, who preserves those in all sorts of predicaments, including seafarers…

In response to the calming of the storm, the disciples shift from terror at the storm to terror at Jesus’s power over the elements, and they ask, “Who is this, that even the wind and the waves obey him?” If a scripturally attuned reader familiar with texts like Ps 107 or even Jonah had to volunteer an answer to this question, he or she might answer that “Jesus has shown godlike superiority over the elements.” Or, as Adela Collins comments, “The narrative thus portrays Jesus behaving not like a devout human person but like God, who caused the sea to cease from its raging in the Jonah story. Thus, Jesus is portrayed not so much as a human being who has trust in God’s power to save, but as a divine being.” A similar observation is made by Whitenton, “As the sailors cry out to their own gods in Jonah 1:5 LXX and the sailors of Ps 107:4 LXX to Yahweh, so the disciples turn to the Markan Jesus (Mark 4:38)… Thus, while the Markan Jesus begins the scene as Jonah, the episode closes with him as Jonah’s God.”… It is sufficient to say that Jesus appears to exhibit Yahweh-like control over the elements. Hays thinks that the disciples fearful question, “Who is this that even the wind and the sea obey him?” (Mark 4:41) requires a divine answer: “For any reader versed in Israel’s Scripture: there can be only one possible answer: it is the Lord God of Israel who has the power to command wind and sea and subdue the chaotic forces of nature.”

The Markan version of Jesus walking on the water (Mark 6:45-52) is similarly saturated with scriptural allusions for Yahweh’s person and power. The miraculous feat of walking in the water itself recalls Job’s description of God as one who “alone stretches out the heavens and treads on the waves of the sea” (Job 9:8). More prominently we encounter several Yahweh traditions, specifically, those associated with the exodus, echoed in the story. When Jesus was walking on the lake, Mark tells us that Jesus intended to “pass them by” (Mark 6:48), which is reminiscent of Yahweh passing through the waters ahead of Israel in the exodus (Ps 77:19; Isa 43:2) and Yahweh passing by Moses, who was hid in the cleft of the rock, to reveal the divine glory to him (Exod 33:18-23). Although Jesus had intended to pass by the disciples (Mark 6:48), he had to divert on account of the disciples’ fear that they were witnessing a ghost (Mark 6:49). Jesus responds by climbing into the boat, at which time the wild weather ceases, and he encourages them with the words, “Be of good, cheer, I am, do not be afraid.” The Johannine pronouncement “I am” (ego eimi) could be a pedestrian expression for “It is me” (see John 9:9), but in the context of the whole theophanic quality of the story it is hard to miss the allusions to the divine name (see Exod 3:13-15; Isa 41:10; 43:10-13, 25; 45:6, 18, 22; 48:12). Such an allusion is all the more plausible when we remember that in Deutero-Isaiah mentions of the divine name are often accompanied with exhortations not to be afraid (Isa 41:10, 13; 43:1, 5, etc.). In which case, the walking on water, the passing by, saying ego eimi, and telling the disciples not to be afraid-everything here-invokes Jesus as the personified presence and power Yahweh from biblical tradition. Marcus rightly surmises that “the overwhelming impact by our narrative is an impression of divinity.” (Michael F. Bird, Jesus the Eternal Son: Answering Adoptionist Christology [William B. Eermands Publishing Company,. Grand Rapids, MI 2017], 4. The Gospel of Mark and the Son of God, Mark’s Divine Christology, pp. 94-97; bold emphasis mine)

88. Collins, Mark, 260. See similarly Marcus, Way of the Lord, 144-45: “He [Jesus] is speaking in and acting out the language of the Old Testament divine warrior theophanies, narratives in which Yahweh himself subdues the demonic forces of chaos in a saving, cosmos-creating act of holy war.” (Ibid., p. 88; bold emphasis mine)

So much for the assertion that the Markan Jesus is not God Almighty in the flesh, but merely a supernaturally empowered human agent of God no more no less.

Further Reading

The Lord Jesus – The Maker and Ruler of Creation (https://answeringislam.net/Shamoun/jesus_walks_on_sea.htm) 

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