“EITHER-OR” vs. “BOTH-AND”: HARMONIZING OLD TESTAMENT EXPECTATIONS
Mark’s narrative paints a Jesus who is intentionally identifying himself with two OT figures—the Danielic Son of Man and the Isaianic Servant of YHWH; and describes his mission as the fulfillment of their drastically different destinies—the glorious triumph of the Son of Man over Israel’s enemy (“the fourth beast” in Dan. 7) and the despicable suffering and atoning death of the Servant of YHWH (Isa. 42:1-4; 49:1-6; 50:4-9; and 52:13-53:12). Mark’s gospel goes to great lengths to show that Jesus’ puzzling pathway to glory is the way of the cross. The triumph of Dan. 7 comes only through the suffering of Isaiah 52-53.
Much theological confusion and significant hermeneutical damage has come from the failure of interpreters to harmonize these two OT figures/themes (Son of Man/ triumph and Servant of YHWH/suffering) within the mind and mission of Jesus. In fact, this was the very blunder Jesus’ original audience made: they were unable to grasp Jesus’ redefinitions of prominent OT expectations. They wanted the warrior messiah of Daniel 7 to overthrow the fourth world kingdom (clearly Rome in their eyes) but they did not want the victorious Son of Man to accomplish this feat through the destined suffering of the servant of YHWH in Isaiah 52-53.
We must understand how Jesus used scripture. As Taylor asserts, “the teaching concerning Messianic suffering and death is bound up in the mind of Jesus with His sense of vocation…The teaching is based on a unique combination of the idea of the Suffering Servant of Isa liii with that of the Son of Man.”
Evans rightly observes that,
The Danielic elements do not necessarily compete with or contradict the underlying elements from Isaiah. The two scriptural traditions complement each other, with the Suffering Servant of Isa. 53 redefining the mission and destiny of the “son of man” of Dan. 7…Jesus’ hermeneutic was dynamic and experientially oriented. He was at once informed by Scripture but not necessarily confined by it.
Let us examine more closely the OT mindset of Jesus by recognizing Mark’s overall Isaianic new exodus theme which stands as the backbone of his narrative. With a crisp understanding of the overall structure of both Mark’s narrative and Jesus’ understanding of his vocation, we shall be more in tune with the meaning of the text at hand and less apt to wander toward misinterpretation.