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

Step V: Hermeneutical Bridge


(JFC) A major impetus of this radical teaching by Jesus seems to come in the images, the points and counterpoints. It differentiates between thinking human-like & thinking God-like. It contrasts self, who is to be denied, with Christ, who is to be followed. The subject of His teaching is what following Him requires & will permit and forbid as opposed to ones own ideas, regarding the paths to pursue in so-called living. Thinking as humans do is opposed to thinking the way God does. God's saving is opposite to one's trying to save ones own life. The latter will result in losing ones life. Since Jesus has to die, be rejected & killed in order to rise from the dead, so, too, do disciples have to lose their lives, take up their crosses & follow along the same way. Here Jesus redefines the concepts of Messiah, of disciple and of living, serving, following, saving, dying and rising. These distinctions formulate a major departure from the norm of religious values, acceptable models for emulating and acceptable practices of the faithful.

1) The triad > deny, take up, follow me 2) hence, the issue of discipleship and how this works out practically. A very personal, devotional moment. Can a seminary student feel once again the passion that accompanied him or her to such a place of preparation for ministry? 3) hence, finally this is a matter of "rekindling."

(GG) The Messiah is not who we thought he was. We have misunderstood his purpose/mission and we certainly do not understand his tactics!

This should stand as a reminder to us that our thoughts are not divine thoughts and Godís ways are not our ways!

This passage also reminds us that it is just too darn easy to confuse the ways of the Tempter with the ways of God!

Rejected by the religious leaders the elders, arch priests, the scribes what is that all about?

Maybe it reminds us that we will always have an investment in understanding God our way!

A message to the disciples AND to the crowds:
1. Deny yourself
2. Take up your cross
3. Follow me

Then Jesus shares one of the holy paradoxes of the faith: whoever would seek to save his life will loose it; and whoever is willing to loose his life will save it.

(JA) we all agree that the on-going critical integration of academic work and the issues of personal devotion must be maintained in dialogue for the good of the church.

(BW) getting started should always be a matter of what "tattooed" you in the text; once that is clear you'll find a way to share it in an effective way.


31 Then He (Jesus) began to teach them (the disciples) that the Son of Man suffer much, be rejected by the chief priests and scribes, be killed and after three days be raised (from the grave). 32 And boldly (in plainness) He spoke these words. Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. 33 But having been turned around and seeing His disciples He rebuked Peter and said, "Get behind Me, you satanic one, for your inclinations are not of God but of humans' (thought patterns)." 34 Then He summoned the crowds with His disciples saying to them, "If anyone wants to follow Me, he shall deny himself, take up his cross and follow Me. 35 For whoever would try to save his own life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake and the Gospel's will be saved. 36 For what does it benefit one if you gain the whole world and forfeit your life? 37 for what could you give in exchange for your life? 38 So, anyone ashamed of Me and My words in this treacherous and sinful generation, then (also) the Son of Man will be ashamed of you, when He should come in God's glory with the holy angels."

(RA) Smooth translation: will go with the RSV this time.


      William H. Willimon tells this story: A few years ago, we had a representative from "Teach America" visit our campus. Teach America tries to recruit this nation's most talented college graduates to go into some of the nation's worst public schools. By this means, Teach America's hopes to transform our schools into something better. This woman stood up in front of a large group of Duke students, a larger group than I would suppose would come out to this sort of thing, and said to them, "I can tell by looking at you that I have probably come to the wrong place. Somebody told me this was a BMW campus and I can believe it looking at you. I can tell that all of you are a success. Why would you all be on this campus if you were not successful, if you were not going on to successful careers on Madison Avenue or Wall Street? And yet here I stand, hoping to talk one of you into giving away your life in the toughest job you will ever have. I am looking for people to go into the hollows of West Virginia, into the ghettos of South Los Angeles and teach in some of the most difficult schools in the world. Last year, two of our teachers were killed while on the job. And I can tell, just by looking at you, that none of you is interested in doing that. So go on to law school, or whatever successful thing you are planning on doing. But if by chance, some of you just happen to be interested, I've got these brochures here for you to tell about Teach America. Meeting's over." At that, the whole group stood up, pushed into the aisles, shoved each other aside, ran down to the front, and fought over those brochures.       Willimon concludes that people today "want something more out of life than even mere happiness. People want to be part of an adventure. People want to be part of a project greater than their lives." In Mark 8:31-38, we get that "more", that "adventure", that "project greater our lives". This figure can bridge us from the first century to tomorrow.

(GG)Since he walked the earth, people have been asking the big question: who is this man called Jesus? Books have been written and movies have been made in order answer this question. Perhaps the greatest danger is that we might become satisfied and comfortable with our understanding of who this Jesus is and what this Jesus offers and what this Jesus demands.

(??)The key problem is the denying yourself thing. How to talk about this in today's world so that one does not become a doormat to abuse nor see it in a generally negative light where there is no joyful affirmation of the self?

(SA) vivid imagery in conjunction with the cross (execution images of today? usefulness of such?).

(RA) active image of carrying that cross and not only being nailed to it?

(EM) a positive choice, a volunteer here!

(RA) K. Wiest underscores the conditional clause in v. 34 as a real choice of refocusing on God's way with the world vs. maintaining the old human focus.

(JA) Is this identity with the disciples on our part too easy? Can any disciple ever stand again where they stood prior to Easter? Maybe they are indeed typical disciples of all ages? How do we talk about this? How are we alike and unlike?

(LE and KA) how critical is the "crowd" standing there? Perhaps the point is that they/we all "don't get it" until revelation comes to dispel the darkness of misunderstanding. Who is the "disciple of understanding"?

(JH) the centurion at the end of ch. 15?

(BW) the crowd and those in 8:27-30? (RA) is "deny yourself" a general category or focused on something?

(EM) it is the same word as in 14:72 of Peter and is probably linked substantively.

(JH) post-resurrection community has a specific cross in mind here. we too should ask where we might be called to bear the cross like this into suffering, i.e. we take our cues from Mark to make sure that it is the one that God wills and not some other.

(LE) in any case such "crosses" are a positive path; his kind of suffering leads not to shame but to joy = natural consequence of v. 38. It does not mean to deny life but to embrace real life...to gain joy and life here in the present as well as in the future.

(JA) who fans the "rekindling" flames? Do we fan them ourselves?

(MW) if we link to denial here to Peter in 14:72 does that also give us a lead on how to take the intent of the sense of "shame" later in the pericope?

(RA) we may lose the immediacy of it all if we go too much with Peter here.

(JA) perhaps this is as BS would say quoting the prophet: "my ways are not your ways and my thoughts are not your thoughts."

(RA) "Trust and Obey" hymn would be good here.

(JA) yes, but the "be happy" part is perhaps not deep enough for the life of discipleship; "joy" is better.

(BW and LB) one could refer to the hymn and move beyond the "happy" to "joy."

(CC and LE) need to move "denial" from words like neglect and devalue to positive images people can see and feel.

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