Lectionary Year B
March 19, 2000
Mark 8:31-38

Step III: Immediate Context


Pre: The first 30 verses of Mark 8 tell of Jesus' feeding 4,000 people who had been with Him three days out in the desert. Then Pharisees tried to question Jesus. He told them such a generation would be denied a sign. Then, in a boat on the water, the disciples reported at another meal time that they had only one loaf of bread. Jesus prompted them to recall how many baskets of leftovers they collected after the previous feedings (12 & 7). In that conversation, Jesus asked them if they were still lacking in understanding. Thereafter, Jesus healed a blind man outside the village of Bethsaida. Then, He asked them, on the road to Caesarea Phillipi, "Who do others say that I am?" And He asked them who they say He is. When they answered correctly, He instructed them to keep it a secret.

Post: The first verse of the next chapter, 9, records Jesus' continuing to speak to the crowd and the disciples a concluding remark to His previous declaration. He predicts that some of those present would live to see the Kingdom of God's coming in power. Thereafter, six days later, Jesus takes Peter, James and John up the mountain for His transfiguration.

(JH) The immediate context is right at beginning of part two of this gospel, but the pericope should include 9:1. Part two opens with vv. 27-30 and the "who am I" question, to which this pericope responds. The other side of the "bookend" is the story of the Transfiguration and its "revelation" response.


(JFC) Beginning without a nativity narrative, "Mark's objective is to proclaim Jesus as the Son God", (Schweizer). The pericope we study this week makes a decided case for Jesus' very high expectations of those professing loyalty to Him & the serious requirements of those who would follow Him. Perhaps these high standards will enable the faithful to face & even resolve antagonism they are predictably sure to encounter as they try to develop the church's mission where they are & wherever they go.

The Gospel, chapters 1-9, especially, seems to record collected traditions of Jesus' life, preaching, teachings and healings. The stories read as if they were compiled rapidly. They can seem almost unrelated or detached from one another. Some commentators see forecasts of Jesus' passion and death in such anecdotes as John's arrest in 1:15 and execution 6:14-29 and the Pharisees' opposition to Jesus at 3:6. They obviously lead to the final chapters (10-15) where more details are given. From the plot to arrest Jesus to His entombment, we get more itemized descriptions. Jesus' passion and death seem to be the goal at which this work aims. Chapter 16 tells of His resurrection. This Gospel, as briefly as it recites Jesus' encounters, does tell of the emotions the people have in reaction to Him & His ministries. Therein, we read of sorrow, pity, fear, amazement, anger and grief.

(Sr Ser) The whole of Mark can be seen as follows: part one > Christ as the Son of Adam journeys through Galilee teaching and healing with the identity question lingering throughout; part two > Jesus' christological journey to the cross as Christ the Son of God, marked by three passion predictions concluding with faith's recognition in 15:39 when the Roman officer recognizes Jesus as the Son of God.

Cycles within the two parts are as follows:
I: Christ the Son of Adam 1:1-1:15; 1:16-6:6; 6:7-8:26
II: Christ the Son of God 8:27-10:52; 11:1-16:8

(JA) The limits of the pericope are indeed problematic. The third person use of "son of man" is a problem for this two part arrangement? The identity tension persists after 15:39? Role of 16:1-8?

(EM) The hinge point for all of Mark is this "who is he" question. A real question for Mark?

(RA) Does the "sin of the whole world" atonement sense figure into Mark's understanding of the "son of man" image? Is he the "heir" in this sense?

(SA) Is Daniel as apocalyptic vision in the background here for Mark or is this as motif a later addition?


(JFC) The Gospel of Mark was probably "the first of the Gospels committed to writing", as E. Mann says in The Anchor Bible. The author is unknown. The John Mark in Acts, Philemon, Colossians & II Timothy might be the author. It was possibly written in Rome. The Roman context might be supported by Latin expressions, but such were found in much early literature. Other places that might have generated this Gospel include Antioch in Syria, Alexandria or anywhere in Italy, according to James L. Price's Interpreting the New Testament. 7:3f indicates that this Gospel was written for Gentile readers. And, recall that we saw in these pages a few weeks ago, by BC, "In the MacArthur Study Bible I came across the following quote from Papias, the bishop of Hieropolis, written around A.D. 140, 'And the presbyter [the apostle John] said this: 'Mark having become the interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately whatsoever he remembered. It was not, however, in exact order that he related the sayings or deeds of Christ'." Some date in the 60's is likely since there is no mention of Jerusalem's destruction in 70.

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