Did Jesus, in the Gospel According to Saint Mark, have to die on a cross? Brian K. Blount, in his remarkable book Invasion of the Dead: Preaching Resurrection, doesn’t think so.
He argues that the real action of God through Jesus in Mark is the inauguration of God’s kingdom over and against the forces of the world. While his ministry and life does make suffering necessary and inevitable, he claims that:
“Theoretically speaking, God’s invasion could occur, and in fact does occur in Mark without a cross moment. To be sure, death is necessary – it is an obligatory prerequisite for resurrection – but death on a cross? Consider the narrative presentation. God’s invasion ignites in that striking moment when Jesus tears into the narrative world and engages John the Baptist at the Jordan. God’s invasion flares divine intent for the future when Jesus turns up missing from the tomb. If, theoretically speaking, Jesus had died from cancer, or old age, or a broken heart, the invasive realities of the incarnation and the empty womb would remain real and viable. The cross showcases more about us than it does about God. It confirms the deadness that writhes within us and fights desperately against the promise of future life that Jesus reveals in his present behavior. Given who humans are – the living dead – and who Jesus is, the representation of future life in the midst of a present age consumed by the influence and power of death, the cross becomes an apocalyptic inevitability. Because of us. Not because of God. Because of what we are. Not because of who God is. Who God is stands exposed the moment Jesus is revealed as God’s Son and God’s mission is revealed as Jesus’ ministry. Who God is stands clarified the moment the man in the empty tomb alleges that Jesus’ promise to rise from the dead and restart his ministry through his disciples was fulfilled. In Jesus’ coming, God is the one who breaks in on the powers of death who rule this present age. God is the one who offers a preview of future life to the living dead who populate this age in Jesus’ ministry. God is the one who raises up a working demonstration of that future life in Jesus’ empty tomb. In a desperate, futile attempt to counter all of these revelations of “life,” the living dead offer up a cross.”
Do you agree with Blount? What are your thoughts on this quote?
2 thoughts on “Did Mark’s Jesus HAVE to Die on a Cross?”
I suppose if one were a hyper-Calvinist one might claim that God had every detail meticulously planned down to the angles of the splinters on the cross, but I’d prefer not to wade into the murky waters of God’s absolute sovereignty versus our free will. Suffice it to say, I think Blount’s general assessment is correct. To focus on the primarily on the means of Christ’s death is missing the bigger point. However, I’m not sure I agree that Jesus dying of old age or cancer or other more “natural” means would carry the same weight. I can’t imagine Jesus asking the Father to forgive the cancer cells for they know not what they do. The fact that we humans killed the son of God only serves to illuminate our spiritually blind condition. Did it absolutely have to happen at our hands? I don’t know. But it did and that speaks volumes about our inability to come to terms with who God is.