It is often asserted that the Gospel of Mark distinctively presents Jesus as the Servant, even the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53.

What is it about the particular content of the gospel of Mark that gives rise to this assertion? What is the basis for this distinction?

2 Answers 2


Since Mark presents the Savior as a Slave, he does not tell His genealogy and status, as the ancestry of a slave is not worthy of note. Mark also does not intend to impress us with the Slave’s wonderful words (as Matthew does with His marvelous teachings and parables concerning the heavenly kingdom, and John with His profound revelations of divine truths), but he impresses us with His excellent deeds in His gospel service, providing more detail than the other Gospels, in order to portray the Slave-Savior’s diligence, faithfulness, and other virtues in the saving service He rendered to sinners for God.

In Mark’s Gospel is the fulfillment of the prophecy concerning Christ as the Slave of Jehovah in Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7; 49:5-7; 50:4-7; 52:13—53:12, and the details of the teaching regarding Christ as the Slave of God in Philippians 2:5-11. His diligence in labor, His need of food and rest (Mark 3:20-21; 6:31), His anger (3:5), His groaning (7:34), and His affection (10:21) display beautifully His humanity in its virtue and perfection. His lordship (2:28), His omniscience (2:8), His miraculous power, and His authority to cast out demons (1:27; 3:15), to forgive sins (2:7, 10), and to silence the wind and the sea (4:39) manifest in full His deity in its glory and honor. Such a Slave served sinners as their Slave-Savior, with His life as their ransom (10:45), for the fulfillment of the eternal purpose of God, whose Slave He was.

  • 1
    Hi. Great answer; if you cite your sources (1 and 2) and summarize them in your own words I'll upvote this.
    – Ryan Frame
    Apr 15, 2013 at 13:36

One way to see whether Mark really presents Jesus as a servant, is to look at articles which assert this, based on the contents of Mark's Gospel. If these articles do not show evidence that the author of Mark presents Jesus as a servant, and not just incidentally, then it may be that this gospel is said to present Jesus as "the Servant" for reasons outside the gospel itself.

Bill Bratt ('Jesus Is a Servant') says that the gospels describe Jesus as a servant, although without drawing a parallel to the Servant of Isaiah 53. Of course, his paper draws on sources other than Mark's Gospel and, to this extent, can reach a valid conclusion that the gospels present Jesus as a Servant. It is well known that both Matthew and Luke contain apparent echoes from Isaiah chapter 53, with its 'Suffering Servant Song', but much of Bratt's paper draws on Mark's Gospel to reach his conclusion. Bratt lists 12 passages from Mark in support of the thesis that this gospel presents Jesus as a servant. Surprisingly, only one (Mark 10:45) of these references provides any actual support for Jesus as a servant, while the remainder appear to be eisegesis:

Mark 10:45 (NAB): For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.

When I look at another site (Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry: An Introduction to the Gospel of Mark) that focusses more generally on Mark's Gospel, without a theme of demonstrating that this gospel portrays Jesus as a servant, this provides the same servant passage, but asserts that this actually portrays Jesus as "the Suffering Servant" :

Mark portrays Jesus as the suffering servant most likely in fulfillment of the servant passages in Isaiah specifically Isaiah 52:13-53:12. The key theme verse in Mark is found in 10:45 which says, "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."

More generally, the absence in Mark of details such as Jesus' genealogy is not evidence that Jesus is portrayed as a servant, as most of the scriptures talk of persons who are clearly not slaves, and without including genealogies.

Rhoads, Dewey and Michie, in Mark as Story, examine Mark's Gospel in considerable detail, with an entire chapter on the characterisation of Jesus, but do not conclude that Mark portrays Jesus as servant. I draw the same conclusion - there is insufficient evidence that a reading of Mark's Gospel portrays him as the Servant of Isaiah chapter 53. The gospel is apparently seen by some as making this distinction because it is a distinction made by Paul and, more obliquely, in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, so therefore it must be a distinction present in Mark.

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