Lectionary Year B
September 17, 2000
Mark 8:27-38

Step II: Disposition


This text consists of confession by disciples (27-30), teaching by Jesus (31-33), & warnings & promises by Jesus (34-38 or -9:1). At 1st reading, it appears to be pronouncement story qualified & deepened by objection (on the disciples' part) & correction (on Jesus' part). But it might be understood more fully as a commissioning & promise narrative (especially if 9:1 is included) with the following components:

1. Introduction - Mark sets scene geographically (Caesarea Philippi) & casts characters (Jesus & his disciples & implied opponents).
2. Confrontation - Jesus challenges disciples about his true identity.
3. Reaction - Disciples, & then specifically Peter (with confession), answer.
4. Commission - Jesus responds with core of his message. Predicting his passion is commission Jesus received from God & describing sufferings of discipleship is commission the disciples receive from Jesus.
5. Protest - Peter's protest heightens tension & provokes Jesus into further elaboration.
6. Promise - Jesus offers salvation & coming kingdom of God with power.

This pericope is the beginning of the end. In it are most of elements which get played out through the rest of Mark's Gospel as plot lines of Jesus, disciples, & opponents (all of which have been introduced in first 8 chapters) are interwoven into passion story. The stakes of being either FOR or AGAINST Jesus are laid out here & brought to climax in dramatically accelerated 2nd half of gospel.


Text Parameters:
1st Choice - Begin text with 8:27 (Peter's confession) or with 8:31? I would choose to begin at 8:27 based on following rationale:

1. 8:27 is major division in Mark's Gospel because Jesus is now on way to Jerusalem, having finished Galilean ministry.
2. Chapters 1-8:26 recount Jesus' healing/teaching ministry. Now emphasis shifts to prediction & action of passion story, with Jerusalem ministry embedded in it.
3. Chapters 8 & 9 are block, preceding Jesus' leaving for Judea in 10:1.
4. Now Jesus addresses disciples, & 8:27-30 is beginning of teaching about true nature of Messiah, including predicting his passion & discussing suffering.

Arguments against this choice:

1. In chapters 8-16, Jesus is outside Galilee except 8:27-30, when he's in Caesarea Philippi.
2. 8:27-30 can be seen as explicit culmination of first 8 chapters' hints about Jesus' identity.

2nd Text Parameter Choice - Include 9:1 (which lectionary does not include) as conclusion of text?

At this point, I don't know whether to include 9:1 because it can be climax to today's text or an introduction to following Transfiguration or transition, acting as both climax & introduction, based on following rationale:

1. 8:27-9:1 is three part unit in which Jesus begins to address impact of the cross. He challenges disciples about their understanding of true nature of his identity as Messiah (27-30). Then Jesus elaborates by stating & developing meaning of his passion (31-33). He concludes this unit by describing disciples' role - their way of suffering. As climax, 9:1 refers to God's kingdom coming with power & is important context for understanding both Jesus' suffering & the suffering disciples are called to (see Context discussion below). Also, reference to coming kingdom in 9:1 is crucial part of understanding suffering. The crucifixion should always stay within the context of resurrection.

2. As introduction to Transfiguration, 9:1begins with a typical Markan form of beginning another saying of Jesus, "And he said to them..." Since Transfiguration anticipates future glory of Son of Man, 9:1 sets up that anticipation by referring to coming kingdom.

3. As transitional statement, 9:1 echoes 8:38 ("in the glory of the Father with holy angels") & anticipates the glorious imagery of the Transfiguration. 9:1 links Son of Man christology in Chap. 8 with identification of Jesus as Son of God expressed in Transfiguration I would decide whether to include 9:1 within text after further exegesis & clearer determination of direction of sermon.

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