Reframing what it means to be the Messiah

Palm sunday (2)“Jesus’ way of expressing his transcendent self-understanding was by using metaphorical language, symbolic gestures, and actions that, in the light of the Old Testament, had messianic overtones. The indirectness was necessary not only because Jesus was suggesting something that went beyond ordinary and popular understandings of what mashiach would be like but also because Jesus sought to provoke a mental effort on the part of his listeners to grasp the truth for themselves. Jesus believed that keen searching with the eyes of faith leads to seeing and that not that seeing leads to the right and sufficient sort of believing. This means that Jesus’ implicit claim to be someone of messianic significance would not have been obvious to all his contemporaries. Only those willing to see with the eyes of faith could grasp the meaning of God’s great parable of redemption – Jesus himself. The messianic secret motif in Mark is neither a literary device to keep something hidden from the reader nor a piece of Christian apologetics; it derives from Jesus’ attempts, however unsuccessful, to avoid misunderstanding.”

Ben Witherington – The Christology of Jesus

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