Mark, Peter, and Isaiah 53
Prophecy Fulfilled…By Us?
In the previous two posts on Mark’s Gospel we took a look at the Messianic Secret (here) as well as discipleship (here) and how both relate to a major theme in Mark—the suffering of the Messiah. I’d like to wrap up this short series by using Mark as a springboard outward to broaden our view of the topic of suffering. To do this we have to realize something about Mark’s Gospel. It gains apostolic authority and a stamp of approval because of Mark’s relationship with Peter. In many ways Mark can be considered Peter’s Gospel. While Peter obviously didn’t write it, it’s likely that it was heavily influenced by him. Taylor points out:
“There can be no doubt that the author of the Gospel was Mark, the attendant of Peter. This is the unbroken testimony of the earliest Christian opinion from Papias onwards.”
Peter is by far one of the most flamboyant, zealous, and distinct personalities that we meet in the Bible. Based on the custom of the day and some internal evidence in the Gospels (see the footnote, you’ll enjoy it) it is probable that the disciples were between 16 and 21 years of age during their time with Yeshua. Peter was likely the oldest of all the disciples, emerging as the leader among them. He was often the mouthpiece of the group and would regularly provide answers to Yeshua’s questions and actively respond to the situations that arose. He was in Yeshua’s inner circle with James and John and experienced extreme ups and downs throughout Yeshua’s earthly ministry. He walked on water, overheard a conversation between Moses, Elijah, and the transfigured Yeshua during Moses’ first appearance in the Promised Land, and even denied knowing the Messiah three times in one night. This one man was present as the Holy Spirit fell upon the believers in Jerusalem and Judea (Acts 2), Samaria (Acts 8:14-17), and those from the nations (Acts 10:44).
For all the great things that Peter saw, did, and experienced in his life he also knew the reality that this walk is not all hummus and pita. Peter knew suffering. He knew the place it had in God’s redemptive plan, and he knew the place it had in the life of the follower of Yeshua. What’s interesting about Peter is how we see him use Isaiah 52:13-53:12 to support his theology of suffering for both applications—for Messiah’s redemptive death, and for the suffering a disciple endures.
Isaiah 53—the one chapter in the Tanakh that so strongly and clearly describes the death, burial, and resurrection of one innocent man. A suffering servant who pays for the crimes, sins, iniquities, and transgressions of Israel and the world by offering his life as a guilt offering. This chapter knows what it is to suffer with a purpose, and it is no mistake that Peter would appeal to the prophet’s words so often. It makes sense to me to use this chapter to point to the significance of Yeshua’s death, and to be honest this is how I normally read it and share it with others. Peter, however, helps us to look at the text of Isaiah 53 and see ourselves as well.
This is most evident in 1 Peter 2:20-24 where we find Peter providing a sort of midrash on Isaiah 53. He addresses the issue of how we are to deal with suffering when we do nothing that warrants it. His answer is for us to patiently endure just as the Messiah did through his death. By bringing our attention to the Messiah’s death and Isaiah 53, Peter reminds us where we are to look when we are experiencing this unjustifiable suffering: 1) we look to what Messiah has done for us, and 2) we remember our identity in Messiah. With our eyes and hearts fixed on the “tree” where Messiah patiently endured as he fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy, we find the example for how we are to react when suffering comes. He is the example for us.
Fruchtenbaum helps us see some of the results of this:
“If believers suffer patiently after being beaten for sins committed, there is no merit. Endurance for deserved punishment is not commendable. But, if wrongful suffering occurs (v. 20b), believers are to patiently endure; patient endurance is acceptable to God, and this knowledge should provide even greater patient endurance.”
Knowing that patiently enduring while suffering is pleasing to God will strengthen us to patiently endure even more. This is being like Messiah.
Be sure that the steady erosion of morality and the attack on our constitutional rights in the United States will lead to more of this suffering—not for sins that we have committed against God or others, but simply because our values, convictions, and ultimately our identity in Messiah is at odds with the direction that society is heading. I’ll say that again, our identity in Messiah is at odds with where society is going—in government, school curriculums, political parties, television shows, movies, the cool kids, and on and on.
Our identity, the core and essence of who we are in Messiah, will be the reason we suffer. I am not trying to make you feel bad or like any less of a disciple if you aren’t experiencing this suffering now. And I’m certainly not suggesting that any of us give up trying to have a positive effect on this world for the sake of the Kingdom—including in government, school curriculums, political parties, arts, entertainment, and on and on. All I’m doing is trying to encourage you to know that when it comes, we need to remember the words of Peter—that we are to be like the suffering servant of Isaiah 53, to be like the Messiah Yeshua, and patiently endure this suffering. Remember that if the world hates you, it hated Him first. Remember that He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. Remember.
 Vincent Taylor, Gospel According to Saint Mark: The Greek Text with Introduction, Notes and Indexes (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1981), 26.
 Consider Mt. 17:24-27 and the two-drachma tax. According to Exodus 30:13-16 only men 20 years and older were required to pay this tax. We can make an educated guess that since Yeshua sent Peter to the lake to get payment for the two of them, and not for the other disciples, then Peter was the only disciple at least 20-years-old.
 My lame attempt at humor—kind of like saying “peaches and cream,” only with a middle-eastern flair.
 Mark 10:45 contains a strong allusion to Isaiah 53. Peter uses the chapter in Acts 3:13; 4:27, 30; 10:43; 1Ptr 1:11, 2:21-24; 4:1. For a more full treatment of the New Testament use of Isaiah 53 see the essays by Wilkins and Evans, respectively, in Darrell Bock and Mitch Glaser, eds., The Gospel According to Isaiah 53: Encountering the Suffering Servant in Jewish and Christian Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Academic & Professional, 2012), Chapters 4 and 6.
 Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, The Messianic Jewish Epistles: Hebrews, James, First Peter, Second Peter, Jude (Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, 2005), 350.