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*Mark 8:31-38* \\ This text is part of Mark's carefully crafted mid-section, Jesus' movement from Galilee to Jerusalem, with sustained emphasis on teaching the way of discipleship that leads to God's kingdom.
Three times Jesus announces his coming passion and resurrection: in 8:31, 9:31, and 10:33.
\\ In order to grasp the content of this crucial carefully crafted section, Mark 8:27-10:52, observe the following pattern:
| Passion-Resurrection Announcement | Disciples Don't Understand | Teaching On Discipleship |
| 8:31 | 8:32-33 | 8:34-38 |
| 9:31 | 9:32-34 | 9:35-50 |
| 10:32-34 | 10:35-41 | 10:38:45 |
Each of these three cycles follows the same sequential pattern, and each is connected to Mark's use of way (hodos), which here in Mark is the way that leads to Jesus' suffering and death.
The phrase, "whoever will come after me (opiso mou)" in 8:34 connects the teaching and the cycle as a whole back to 8:27 where the section introduces Jesus as going "on the way" (en te hodo).
In the center of the second cycle (9:33-34), the phrase occurs twice.
The third cycle begins with the phrase, "As Jesus was going on the way (en te hodo)" (10:32; cf.
10:46, 52).
Of the numerous explanations for this distinctive use of hodos, two emphases are crucially important.
First, as Joel Marcus puts it: "The way is the way that the Lord leads; the disciples follow.
The hodos of the journey section is not a "human way to the Basileia but rather ... God's way, which is his Basileia, his own extension of kingly power."1
Second, as Jesus leads (or makes) the way he teaches discipleship with sustained effort to assist his followers to also walk the way that he leads.
The way (hodos), the symbolic frame for the section, embraces both the theological and ethical emphases.
Here I disagree with Joel Marcus who stresses the former and denies the second.2
That hodos teaching on discipleship within the context of Jesus' Christological disclosure is both evident and striking.
This does not mitigate Marcus' emphasis that the "journey" is not a human way to the Kingdom, but an extension of God's kingly power.
Rather it joins together this important point with the intentional structural design of the section: the linking of Christology with discipleship.
Neither pole of this relationship is to be glossed over for the sake of the other.
Jesus therefore teaches the necessity (dei) of the Son of Humanity to suffer, for it is in Jerusalem, the destination of the journey, that this will take place (8:31; 9:31; 10:32-34).
In 8:31 Jesus begins to teach "that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again."
Mark takes great care in the arrangement of the truth that he seeks to communicate because this truth is so precious and so central to the whole Gospel.
\\ Immediately after Jesus' three announcements of his passion, the text indicates that the disciples do not understand what Jesus was talking about.
As soon as Peter announces Jesus as Messiah, Jesus begins to teach what Messiahship means.
But Peter was not ready for it; nor were the other disciples.
Immediately after Peter's confession that Jesus is the Messiahship, Jesus begins to present another view of Messiahship.
In 8:32, Peter rebukes Jesus!
Peter knows what messiahs should do.
Messiahs rule!
They don't die!
Even prior to this the first announcement, note that in 8:30 Jesus reprimands (rebukes, same epitimao that occurs in next verses), thus strongly sealing this Christological disclosure.
Certainly this is a high point of the narrative as a whole and the denouement of the secrecy emphasis so distinctive to Mark.
This command not to tell anyone that Jesus is Messiah raises the question, why?
But Peter is wrong and Jesus severely rebukes him.
Jesus turns to Peter and says, "What you are saying is of satanic origin.
It is not of God.
Get behind me."
This extends an earlier emphasis in Mark, from 3:20-27, where in the controversy over Jesus' source of power-whether Jesus is doing his work by God's power or Satan's-Mark makes clear that Jesus' exorcisms and miracles are God's work through Jesus, not Satan's power.
In light of that earlier controversy, where all failed to understand Jesus, the cruciality of the Peters'--and the disciples'-- failure to understand here raises the stakes.
On which side will the disciples be on, when it comes to the ultimate crisis?
In 8:34 the new value-orientation becomes clears, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me….
For what will it profit them, to gain the whole world and forfeit their life?
Indeed, what can they give in return for their life?"
The answer to the disciples' grasp for political power is the way of the cross.
This is Jesus' way (10:45 and the passion narrative).
As disciples we are not called to atone for the sins of the world through death on a cross.
But we are called to participate in Jesus self-sacrificial paradigm in which we reject domination patterns and take up servant roles.
I suggest this model of thinking and living is our assurance in judgment: "Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels."
Indeed, Peter later denied; he was ashamed of a 'powerless' Jesus headed for criminal death.
But thanks to God's power, the resurrection, and outpouring of the Spirit on Peter, he became a fearless witness to Jesus' new way of life (so 1 Peter 2:21-24!).
1 The Way of the Lord: Christological Exegesis of the Old Testament in the Gospel of Mark (Louisville: Westminster~/John Knox, 1992), 33.
\\ 2 Ibid., 33-36.
Willard M. Swartley
| *March 12, 2006 - Second Sunday in Lent - Year B [RCL]* \\ \\ *by the Rev. Suzanne Metz* |
| |   |
 /Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16; Psalm 22:23-31; Romans 4:13-25; Mark 8:31-38 /
In Yann Martel’s wonderful novel /Life of Pi/, twelve-year-old Pi decides to explore a number of different religions in his native India.
He has a rather remarkable reflection on a conversation he had with a Roman Catholic priest, Father Martin, about the crucifixion.
Pi thinks to himself:
“That a god should put up with adversity, I could understand.
The gods of Hinduism face their fair share of thieves, bullies, kidnappers and usurpers …. .
But humiliation?
I couldn’t imagine Lord Krishna consenting to be stripped naked, whipped, mocked, dragged through the streets and, to top it off, crucified -- and at the hands of mere humans, to boot.
I’d never heard of a Hindu god dying.
Brahman Revealed did not go for death.
Devils and monsters did, as did mortals, by the thousands and millions – that’s what they were there for.
Matter, too, fell away.
But divinity should not be blighted by death.
It’s wrong.
The world soul cannot die, even in one contained part of it.
It was wrong of this Christian God to let His avatar (His Son) die.
That is tantamount to letting a part of Himself die.
For if the Son is to die, it cannot be fake.
If God on the Cross is God shamming a human tragedy, it turns the Passion of Christ into the Farce of Christ.
The death of the Son must be real.
Father Martin assured me that it was.
But once a dead God, always a dead God, even resurrected.
The Son must have the taste of death forever in His mouth.
The Trinity must be tainted by it; there must be a certain stench at the right hand of God the Father.
The horror must be real.
Why would God wish that upon Himself?
Why not leave death to the mortals?
Why make dirty what is beautiful, spoil what is perfect?
/That was Father Martin’s answer.”
Pi sounds a little bit like Peter here.
We might wonder what Jesus would have said to Pi if Pi had been having this conversation with Jesus in today’s Gospel instead of with Father Martin.
We might wonder if Jesus would have responded the same way to Pi as he did to Peter, because actually neither Pi nor Peter can quite believe that suffering, rejection, and death could possibly be a part of Jesus’ life story.
Mark doesn’t tell us what Peter actually said -- only that Peter “took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him.”
But Jesus’ response is startling.
“Get behind me, Satan.
For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”
That’s a little rough, don’t you think?
We might actually feel for Peter.
It can’t have been easy to hear your leader say he was going to suffer and die.
“Surely not!” Peter might say.
“What kind of god would suffer and die for humans?”
we hear Pi say.
/Love/ was Father Martin’s answer.
What Peter’s response was /after/ Jesus rebuked him, Mark doesn’t tell us.
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