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

Step IV: Broader Context


A. PRIMITIVE CHRISTIANITY

(JFC) After the middle of the first century of the Common Era, we find a fledgling religion we now know as Christianity. It is in its infancy. The Gospel of Mark is written as if to new readers, inexperienced hearers, unfamiliar with deeply detailed and/or sophisticated literature and probably not conversant with the Aramaic, Hebrew or other languages in Palestine. It is, after all, the first edition of this type of writing. The accounts are short yet can readily stimulate discussions in reflection, they are frequently so exciting to contemplate, easy to remember and hard to forget. They convey basic, elementary, Introductory Courses' 101 style data. If this Gospel was composed in Rome, situations of political turmoil, intrigue, conflicts get addressed here as they do in Paul's Epistle to the Romans. The passage at hand makes it undeniably clear that Jesus is Lord and that followers need a mindset of godliness. That particular focus for the followers needs to remain paramount & unparalleled for the faithful to develop.

(BW) Given the cross and the sword backgrounds how do the two options reshape possible understandings of messiahship?

(JA) Distinguishing the personal destiny quest by the earthly Jesus while he struggled with "son of man" traditions of his context from the continuing struggle to understand the christological ramifications of it all by the post-Easter community of faith is a complex but crucial matter for our attention (cf. Goppelt, Theology I, pp. 178ff).

B. OLD TESTAMENT AND JUDAISM

(JFC) This Gospel refers only subtly and indefinitely to Old Testament and/or Judaism. In today's text for example, references to rebukes can be found in Psalm 119:21. The image of satanic misbehavior in our verse 33 had previous exposure in I Kings 11:14. In the Sibylline Oracles, book 2, lines 240f, we get the notion of Christ's coming in glory with the angels, as we do in the last verse of the pericope we study here. Still in all, the Old Testament Jews must have found the prediction that the Messiah would have to suffer in complete contrast to their accustomed anticipations. Here, we have a complete reversal in the Jewish expectation of their long awaited Messiah.

(SA) The passion prediction calls to mind for us typically the familiar image of the suffering servant of Second Isaiah. Then also from the passion itself Psalms 22 and 118. Where exactly, however, does the teaching in v. 31 come from?

(JFC) C. HELLENISTIC WORLD

The Hellenists would appreciate that Jesus was articulating high standards for followers to meet. However, I presume they would be uncomfortable with the way Jesus responds to Peter's objection of Jesus' predictions, even and perhaps especially since they do refer to His passion. They could relish Jesus' proclaiming startling truths that could stimulate dialogue. Could these Greek speaking Jews ever really deny themselves? I doubt it. Furthermore, they might dislike Jesus' stating consequences of hearers' failing to meet His high principles. Yet, they might find some comfort in Mark 9:1, if it is originally a concluding sentiment to the declaration of 8:31-38.

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