Good morning! As we work through Mark’s gospel, you’ll certainly recognize vignettes from Matthew’s version—some of them word for word the same in both books. Other scenarios, like the feeding of 4,000 at the start of Mark 8, have echoes of the earlier feeding of 5,000. (It also reminds one of God’s bread—manna—provided in the wilderness so long ago.) What struck me anew in this reading—consistent with Mark’s focus—is the cluelessness of the disciples when Jesus tries to convey what being Messiah truly entails.
Jesus tries to teach the disciples, but he also demonstrates frustration at their inability to learn. When he warns of the flawed “yeast of the Pharisees”, the disciples think that he’s talking about bread. But instead he prompts them to remember the “yeast” of his miraculous feedings—with God’s power, the growth that results will feed and empower God’s people. Surprisingly, Peter gets Jesus’ identity right here: “You are the Messiah.” But then Jesus describes what being Messiah will involve in terms of suffering and death, followed by resurrection. This makes everyone understandably nervous, and Peter shushes Jesus. But Jesus then denounces the very one who just declared his identity correctly. Peter has no idea what being this kind of Messiah will entail. Costly discipleship entails losing oneself for the sake of gaining the gospel. (Such “losing/gaining” language sounds different according to one’s social location. Women, for instance, have typically been socialized to subvert their identity for the sake of nearby men. Discipleship for women may not entail the sort of “dying to self” that Jesus puts forth as a requirement for the male disciples.) Jesus foretells his death again in Mark 9, yet again the disciples don’t understand and now they’re afraid to ask him for more information. Jesus discerns what they need, though, and teaches what it means to be the Messiah, this time saying that the first must be last. As an object example, he leads a child into their midst. Welcoming children is welcoming God directly, Jesus says. Even God takes on “small” or overlooked human forms (as the Apostle Paul writes in Philippians 2). Drawing everyday guidance from this theological point, Jesus conveys to the disciples how important it is to resist the temptations to sin, especially when it might lead children astray. Seems to me, I’m hearing something about that in America’s political culture these days as well. J Happy reading!
Please join discussion of this passage at the Daily Bible Facebook group, or comment below. The passage for tomorrow is Mark 10-11. Thanks for reading!