Lee, John J. R. and Daniel Brueske. A Ransom for Many: Mark 10:45 as a Key to the Gospel. Lexham Academic, 2023. Xi+203 pp. Pb. $21.99 Link to Lexham Academic
John J. R. Lee is an associate professor of New Testament at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary He published Christological Rereading of the Shema (Deut 6.4) in Mark’s Gospel (WUNT 2:533; Mohr Siebeck, 2020). Daniel Brueske is an adjunct professor of New Testament at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and associate pastor at Calvary Baptist Church of Lenexa, Kansas. Lee and Brueske begin with the words of Charles Spurgeon, Mark 10:45 is “the whole gospel in a single verse.” They argue that Mark 10:45 hints at the purpose of Mark’s gospel. Mark wants to motivate his readers to remain faithful to Jesus in the face of hardship, suffering, and shame that followers of Jesus encounter at various times in the first century. Mark 10:45 connects two major themes in the gospel of Mark, atonement, and servanthood.
To make this case chapter 2 deals with the occasion of Mark’s gospel, and chapter 3 deals with the purpose of Mark’s gospel. For Lee and Brueske, the gospel of Mark was written to Jesus’s followers in Rome during or after the Neronian persecution, which began in 64 CE (9). The authors evaluate several alternative suggestions for the date and origin and note that any date from the 50s through the 70s is possible. However, they conclude that the evidence favors the mid-60s. Mark wrote to motivate his readers to remain loyal to Jesus despite suffering (33). The gospel is a skillfully constructed narrative that allows readers to walk alongside the disciples as they follow Jesus. Lee and Bruske discuss genre and Mark’s literary competency as they read through the gospel of Mark with this purpose in mind.
Focusing on Mark 10:45, Lee and Brueske discuss the meaning and significance of Mark 10:45 in chapter 4. Examine Mark 10:45 in its context to study the verse’s function and contribution to the gospel. In Mark 10:35-45, Jesus explains the rationale for his expectation that his disciples must faithfully follow him. He intends to motivate readers to endure suffering just as Jesus did 72. Jesus’s followers must be willing to follow him to the cross. This section contains detailed exegesis, including the origin of the title son of man Daniel 7: 13-14 and ransom as a sin offering and redemption from sin and death. (Interested readers should read the second appendix entitled “A short history of ransom theory of Atonement.”) Based on this exegesis, chapter 5 argues that Mark 10:45 encapsulates the core emphases of Mark’s narrative. The gospel argues that Jesus is the divine son of man. They point out the strategic placement of Mark 10:45 alongside Jesus’s final and most explicit statement of his purpose and his own explanation of his death as a ransom for many.
The book’s final chapter is a pastoral reflection on learning to live Mark 10:45. If the gospel of Mark is intended to encourage readers to faithfully follow Jesus despite persecution, how does this apply to Christians today? The chapter discusses true servanthood as following in the footsteps of Jesus to the cross and embracing shame. Jesus served by submitting to the cross. How do his disciples similarly serve? How do Jesus’s disciples give their life as a ransom for many?
Obviously, not all succeed in the self-denial that Jesus demands. Even in the gospel itself, all the disciples fail to follow Jesus to his death. Peter’s denial is strong, “I do not even know him!” (14:71). In fact, the “Son of Man will be ashamed” when his servants deny him (8:38). This is not an empty threat: some do fail, and there is no chance of restoration (for example, Judas). For Mark, however, repentance is not just how we start following Jesus. It is how we focus on God and get back into place behind Jesus (161). Mark’s response to those who have stumbled or even abandoned Jesus is the same: repent and believe the gospel. What is missing in this conclusion is an application back to the original occasion argued in chapters two and three. If Lee and Brueske are right about the original circumstances of the Gospel of Mark, then there were likely many in the original audience who had denied Jesus under threat of persecution.
Conclusion: Lee and Brueske’s A Ransom for Many makes a strong argument that Mark 10:45 was intended as a summary of the theology of Mark (atonement) as well as the main issue Mark needed to address (servant discipleship) in the context of mid-first-century threats to Christians (specifically in Rome). As such, this book serves well as an introduction to the study of the Gospel of Mark.
NB: See also my comments on Matthew’s version of this saying. Thanks to Lexham Academic for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. I purchased the Logos edition. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.