Original Research - Special Collection: Eben Scheffler Festschrift

Invited into the Markan paradox: The church as authentic followers of Jesus in a superhero culture

Stephan Joubert
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 75, No 3 | a5399 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v75i3.5399 | © 2019 Stephan Joubert | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 28 January 2019 | Published: 22 November 2019

About the author(s)

Stephan Joubert, Department of Practical and Missional Theology, Faculty of Theology, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa


Amidst contemporary culture’s obsession with superheroes as the basis of the new mythologies of our day, and numerous religious communities’ ‘sterilized’ version of Jesus, the church has to rediscover the paradoxical life and teachings of Jesus, as narrated in the Gospel of Mark. Within the honour-and-shame-based Mediterranean culture, within which Mark was written, Jesus’ atypical demeanour and his radical teachings on self-sacrifice, coupled with his shameful death, were perplexing. His opponents did not find any proof in his scandalous teachings and inglorious outward appearance to confirm his messianic claims. In terms of the present obsession with superheroes, Jesus was never in a costume in public. He did not take on a temporary public persona in a staged drama en route to the cross. At all times, Jesus was the slave-like Son of God who came to serve and lay down his own life as a ransom for many (Mk 10:45). The crucified Jesus, stripped of all honour and godforsaken, is the paradoxical sign and physical embodiment of the kingdom of God. The risen Jesus is no different. He still is who he is. This largely undiscovered Jesus of Mark’s Gospel must capture the imagination of the church all over again, the kind of imagination that elicits admiration, amazement and life-change. Only when the church begins to embody the kenotic route of Jesus that it will become clear to her and others that she, in fact, possesses paradoxical ‘superpowers’ – the self-sacrificing kind.


superhero; church; Gospel of Mark; Jesus atypical; Graeco-Roman deity; identity; paradox; discipleship


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