Sit down (suggests J.I. Packer, in his celebrated book Knowing God) and read through Mark’s Gospel, and you will receive an impression of Jesus that includes at least the following four features:-
1. Jesus was a man of action. He was ‘a man always on the move, always altering situations and precipitating things—working miracles; calling and training disciples; upsetting error that passed as truth and irreligion that passed as godliness; and finally walking straight and open–eyed into betrayal, condemnation and crucifixion (a freakish sequence of anomalies which in the oddest way one is made to feel that he himself controlled all along the line),’
2. Jesus was a man who knew himself to be a divine person fulfilling a messianic role. He knew himself to be Son of God and Son of Man. His disciples struggled to understand this, but his self-consciousness was crystal-clear, and confirmed by his Father’s voice from heaven (Mk 1:11; 9:7). There was a ‘breathtaking’ naturalness in the authority with which he spoke and acted (see Mk 1:22, 27; 11:27–33), and a clear affirmative answer to the High Priest’s question at his trial (“Are you the Christ [Messiah, God’s savior–king], the Son of the Blessed One [a supernatural and divine person]?).
3. Jesus’ mission was focussed on his being put to death. Although his disciples failed to understand his words at the time, he repeatedly spoke of his coming death and resurrection (Mk 8:31, 34–35; 9:9; 9:31; 10:33–34; 12:8; 14:18, 21, 24, 49).
4. Jesus regarded his coming death as a most fearful ordeal. See Mk 14:34-36; cf. Mk 15:34. And this is in sharp contrast to the deaths of martyrs such as Stephen, who faced death with joy, and from a man whose previous life had been marked by extraordinary fearlessness.
These facts mark out Jesus’ death as unlike any other. They only become comprehensible when we relate them to the apostles’ doctrine of atonement:-
‘The driving force in Jesus’ life was his resolve to be “obedient to death—even death on a cross” (Phil 2:8), and the unique dreadfulness of his death lies in the fact that he tasted on Calvary the wrath of God which was our due, so making propitiation for our sins.’
Or, as Isaiah has written centuries before:-
“We considered him stricken by God. . . . The punishment that brought us peace was upon him. . . . The LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. . . . For the transgression of my people he was stricken. . . . It was the LORD’s will to crush him . . . the LORD makes his life a guilt offering” (Is 53:4–10).