The Gospel according to Isaiah

When I was at Regent College, Professor Rikk Watts repeatedly emphasized how themes in Isaiah repeatedly show up in the Gospel of Mark.  At the time, I heard how many different passages in Isaiah align with Mark’s writing.  As I was preparing for this past Sunday’s latest instalment in my sermon series on Mark at Telkwa CRC, I saw in David E. Garland’s commentary on Mark how a single chapter in Isaiah serves as a backdrop to virtually everything we learn about Jesus in Mark.  It’s as though Mark was reading Isaiah one day, came upon chapter 43, and said, “Hey, this tells the story of Jesus!”  Having an outline of themes, Mark then went to work in writing the Gospel that now bears his name.

Garland’s presentation of Isaiah 43 in the Gospel of Mark not only affirms things I learned at grad school, but also affirms for me again how the Bible is unified and presents a consistent message (some call it a “love letter”) from God throughout.  It’s stuff like this that makes me excited to dig into God’s Word, making connections between different sections and making connections to life today.

Isaiah 43:1-12

Gospel of Mark

But now,
this is what the LORD says—
he who created you, Jacob,
he who formed you, Israel:
“Do not fear,
for I have redeemed you;
——I have summoned you by name;
——you are mine.

Jesus has created the Twelve (3:12) and summoned disciples by name (1:16, 20; 2:14; 3:16-18).

When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you
pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.

Jesus is with them when they pass through the waters (4:36) and saves them from peril at sea.  The assurance that they not be harmed by fire is echoed in 9:49.

For I am the LORD your God,
the Holy One of Israel,
——your Saviour;
I give Egypt for your ransom,
Cush and Seba in your stead.
Since you are precious and honoured in my sight,
and because I love you,
I will give nations
in exchange for you,
and peoples in exchange
for your life.

Jesus announces to the disciples that he gives his life as a ransom for many (10:45).

Do not be afraid, for I am with you;
I will bring your children
from the east
——and gather you from the west…”

Jesus rebukes the cowardice of the disciples and tells a synagogue ruler (5:36) and the disciples not to be afraid (6:50).

Lead out those who have eyes
but are blind,
who have ears but are deaf

See 4:12; 8:18; Jesus heals two blind men (8:22-26; 10:46-52) and heals a deaf man (7:31-37).

“You are my witnesses,”
declares the LORD,
“and my servant
whom I have chosen,
so that you may know
and believe me
and understand that I am he.
Before me no god was formed,
nor will there be one after me.

When Jesus comes to this disciples walking on the waves, he announces “It is I [or, I am he]!” (6:50).

I, even I, am the LORD,
and apart from me
there is no saviour.
I have revealed
and saved and proclaimed—
I, and not some foreign god
among you.
You are my witnesses,”
declares the LORD,
——“that I am God.
Yes, and from ancient days
——I am he.
No one can deliver out of my hand.
——When I act, who can reverse it?”

Mark would have the readers draw the same conclusion about Jesus.  Jesus is the one who delivers his people, and in his hands they (we!) are safe.

From David E. Garland, Mark (NIVAC; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), pp. 196-197

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