Kerygma & Authority in Mk. 1: Studies in Mark, Pt. 92

The enitre first chapter of Mark's Gospel (and to some extent, the entire story) is laced with imagery of preaching and heralding. During the recent "Mark Dig" that was hosted at my house, this became even more apparent to me. Yet, it also became apparent to me that there is a distinct relationship between "heralding" and "authority" that Mark seems to want his audiences to be aware of.

To be sure, Mark acts as a sort of herald himself when he writes the opening line denoting that this is "the Good News of Jesus Christ, God's Son". To bolster his own claim, Mark then draws on two great prophets, using their language and imagery to suggest the same thing. For Mark, his view of this "Jesus Story" is that Jesus was a prophetic figure and as such, His story not only hearkens back to earlier prophets but that His story must be cloaked in such imagery and language. Thus, Jesus and John are painted by Mark as "prophetic heralders" of a new, in-breaking kingdom.

For Mark, it seems clear that John's heralding (kerygmatic) efforts are authoritative, at least to some degree, beacuse they reach back to and are similar in content to the authoritative message of the prophets who preceded him. This is very important to notice; we must not overlook this connection that Mark makes between the prophets and John's message being authoritative.

Now, when Jesus comes on the scene to be baptized by John, there is sort of a transferral of this "prophetic authority" (at least in terms of the narrative), from John to Jesus. Thus, Jesus can be viewed now, in the prophetic lineage as well. However, Mark shares with us another and even greater aspect of Jesus' authority, that is, that God confers authority upon Jesus. When Jesus is baptized, it should be viewed, at least from one angle, as the Father acknowledging Jesus' authority to preach this "Good News" of God's kingdom.

Now, before I make my next point, let me reiterate the point I've made here: 1) Mark opens with an authoritative statement, 2) Mark links John's authority to preach with the authoritative message of the prophets, 3) Mark shows us that at His baptism, Jesus takes on the same prophetic authority that John had, and 4) Jesus is deemed to be by the Father, the appropriate authority, to preach the Good News of His kingdom. Thus, we see a direct link between kerygma (preaching / heralding / announcing) and the authority to do those things.

Now, one of the first things we see after Jesus leaves the wilderness is "call" the fishermen to follow Him. He says "I will MAKE (poieo) you fish for humans". This is Jesus' way of saying "I will make you into people who have the same authority to herald this message as I do." This point becomes even more clear when, in the following scene, Jesus enters a synagogue. There, a demon mockingly tries to announce the identity of Jesus. Yet, Jesus rebukes Him! People have often wondered, "Why would Jesus want people to keep quiet about His identity, isn't that why He came?" Historically, this question has been talked about under the nomenclature of Wrede's "The Messianic Secret".

I have argued that THERE IS NO MESSIANIC SECRET and I still hold that view. In fact, this post solidifies even more my view. In the last scene of chapter 1, Jesus encounters an ill man. He heals the man and pretty much says "Don't tell anyone about me." However, the man does tell people about Him. Now, the point I want to make is that just like the demon, this man was not given "authority" to "preach" or "herald" the Good News of Jesus' identity. And that brings me to my overall point: In chapter 1 of Mark, those engaging the story are supposed to take note of the fact that only those given the authority to herald the message are allowed!

One of the modern implications of this that we explored during the "Mark Dig" was: How do we know who has the authority to herald the message today? The soundest answer that we could come up with was that we don't necesarrily need to have that authority as individuals but rather as a community! After all, Jesus called the disciples to preach in 2's...as a community. And even though no person or community is infallible, this may be the safest place to not only explore such matters but to attempt to safely and healthily put them into practice. Thus, not only do we find a direct correlation between the kerygma and authority but also between ecclesiology and christology!


  1. Hey Michael, your posts on Mark are always thought-provoking. But if there is no messianic secret and it is just a question of who has the proper authority to herald the message, does Jesus withdraw the authority he gave in Mark 1:17-18 from Peter and the disciples in Mark 8:29-30 when after Peter's great confession he warns them not to tell anyone about himself? And it seems that the messianic secret is not just in the commands to be silent, but in the disciples repeated failure to recognize who Jesus is (e.g. comparing the hardening of their hearts after Jesus walks on water in Mark 6:51-52 with their worshipful response in Matt 14:32-33).

  2. Mike, thanks for the compliment, I really do appreciate it!

    Your question is a good one, and it makes total sense if you accept the common interpretation that the text is translated as "get behind me 'satan'". Me personally, I think Jesus is saying "get behind me you accuser". I have argued here on Pisteuomen and elsewhere that Peter rebukes Jesus because Peter believes that Jesus misunderstands "resurrection" (I do NOT accept the view that Peter is all that worried about Jesus' crucifixion language, it is my view that he is more hung up on the resurrection deal).

    That said, no He doesn't revoke the authority. I believe this is the point in Jesus' ministry where Jesus is stepping back and taking stock of His ministry and His disciples' level of commitment to Him and knowledge of Him. The poitn is: Jesus just doesn't want people who are accusing Him of misunderstanding His own resurrection, going around acting as though they "know" exactly who He is and what He's about. Again, for me, Jesus is forced to take stock of His ministry here (I actually think He may have been caught off-guard by Peter's rebuke and view that he thought Jesus was misunderstanding resurrection).

    Here's a little more on my view of the so-called "messianic secret:

    check it out and if you still want to converse, let's do it! Thanks Mike!

  3. What did Jesus send out the disciples to preach?

    Presumably Jesus knew that they preached that Jesus was the Messiah sent to overthrow the Romans.