Denying oneself

Peter-do-you-love-meHe summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. 35 For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it. (Mark 7:34-35)

As Jesus often does, the private conversation gives way to summoning the crowd and the offer of a larger, summary teaching. Earlier (v.33) when Jesus accuses Peter of “thinking” (phreneo) there is an indication of not simply cognitive thought, but something arising from an inner disposition or attitude – something pointing to the role of the human will. This become more clear in the phrase (v.34), “Whoever wishes” – pointing to the idea of human will and freedom of carrying out that will. What is the role of the will in the practical implications of discipleship: deny oneself, take up your own cross, and follow Jesus.

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A rebuke: reward and warning

Peter-do-you-love-meRebuke as Reward: Then he warned them not to tell anyone about him. He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days. He spoke this openly… (Mark 7:30-32)

The Greek epitimaō (warn) is a strong word; hardly one of praise and affirmation. Pheme Perkins [623] has a great insight on what is unfolding: “Readers might expect a word of praise for the confession, since it demonstrates that the disciples are superior to the crowds in their understanding of who Jesus is. Instead, the command to tell no one is introduced with the verb for “rebuke” (ἐπιτιμάω epitimaō), the same verb Mark uses to describe Jesus’ response when the demons acknowledge him as Son of God (3:12). Thus the rebuke does not impugn the correctness of the title being used. The problem with the confession is the inappropriateness of the time (prior to the passion), the context (exorcism and healing miracles), or the witnesses (spoken by demons). Since the episodes surrounding the two affirmations of Jesus’ identity in this section demonstrate that the disciples do not understand that suffering lies at the heart of Jesus’ mission, they are no more able to use the titles “Messiah” and “Son of God” correctly than the demons are. Jesus will accept both titles publicly during his interrogation by the Sanhedrin (Mark 14:62).” Continue reading

Who do you say that I am?

Peter-do-you-love-meNow Jesus and his disciples set out for the villages of Caesarea Philippi. Along the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” They said in reply, “John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others one of the prophets.” And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter said to him in reply, “You are the Messiah.” (Mark 7:27-29)

Earlier in the gospel (6:14-16), we hear a prelude to the question of Jesus’ identity as Herod speculates that he is John the Baptist come back from the grave. Now Jesus asks the disciples what is the “buzz” among the people; what are they saying about Jesus’ identity. Herod’s guess continues to float, to which is added other prophets – one might well conclude at least the word of the street acknowledges Jesus as sent from God. Jesus then puts the same question to the disciples. Peter replies, “the Messiah” (v. 29). This confession is the first correct human statement about Jesus’ identity in the Gospel. Human witness now replaces the shouted confessions of demons that Jesus had to silence. Continue reading

The journey to Caesarea Philippi

Peter-do-you-love-meThis coming Sunday, the 24th Sunday, is taken from Mark 8:27-35. The account fits into a series of narratives that are part of the context of Mark’s narrative. One thing is clear: Jesus’ running debate with the Pharisees and the scribes from Jerusalem continues unabated – even continuing from before last Sunday’s gospel. Here is an outline of some recent Markan pericopes (stories).

  • The Feeding of the 5,000 (Mark 6:34-44)
  • Jesus walks on the water (Mark 6:45-52)
  • The Healings at Gennesaret (Mark 6:53-56)
  • Conflict over the Tradition of the Elders (Mark 7:1-23) – 22nd Sunday
  • The Encounter with the Syrophoenician Woman (Mark 7:24-30)
  • Healing of the Deaf Man (Mark 7:31-37) – 23rd Sunday
  • Feeding of the 4,000 (Mark 8:1-10)
  • The Demand for a Sign (Mark 8:11-13)
  • Warning against the leaven of the Pharisees (Mark 8:14-21)
  • The Blind Man of Bethsaida (Mark 8:22-26)
  • Peter’s Confession (Mark 8:27-35) – 24th Sunday

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Confession: a context

Matthew 16:13-2013 When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”16 Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”17 Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.18 And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.19 I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”20 Then he strictly ordered his disciples to tell no one that he was the Messiah. Continue reading

The Confession: a context

Matthew 16:13-2013 When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”16 Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”17 Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.18 And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.19 I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”20 Then he strictly ordered his disciples to tell no one that he was the Messiah. Continue reading