Gospel: Mark 8:27-38
Epistle: Romans 5:1-11
Lesson: Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16
Psalm: Psalm 22:23-31
CLB Commentary on the Gospel Text by Dr. David Veum
(originally published in 2012)
Mark has placed at the center of his narrative the recognition that Jesus is the Messiah. Yet, between 1:1 and 8:29 there is no recognition of this fact in spite of a remarkable sequence of events which demanded a decision concerning Jesus’ identity. By arrangement, Mark indicates the crucial significance which he finds in these events:
Jesus’ display of extraordinary power astonished his countrymen and provoked the question of the source of his authority and wisdom. His true divinity remained unrecognized.
His association with sinners and disregard for the traditions made the guardians of the tradition think only that he was demon-possessed.
The recognition of Jesus by the demons communicated nothing and only served to increase the opposition to him.
The disciples raised questions about his identity. “What manner of man is this?” 4:41. “They were amazed.” 6:51.
By weaving these several strands of the tradition together in the first half of the Gospel, Mark creates a climate of tension which can be resolved only by the recognition of Jesus’ divinity. The pointed question of 8:21, “Do you not understand,” cries for the answer provided in 8:29, “You are the Messiah.”
In direct response to Peter’s declaration, Jesus spoke of the necessity of his passion with a directness which scandalized the disciples. The distinctive theology of the cross and resurrection implied by this announcement dominates the remainder of the Gospel. The recognition that Jesus is the Messiah is thus the point of intersection toward which all of the theological currents of the first half of the Gospel converge and from which the dynamic of the second half of the Gospel derives. The rest of the Gospel points to the cross.
Until now the crowds could follow Jesus enthusiastically over the miraculous feeding and the healing miracles. But now the cross becomes a crossroads. Either we humbly embrace the cross as sinners needing redemption, or we keep our pride and forfeit eternal life.
But is there no hope for those who are offended by the Cross? We must not forget our Lord’s words spoken for Peter, the very one who was offended both at Caesarea Philippi and in the High Priest’s courtyard. On Easter morning Jesus told the women, “Go tell my disciples and Peter that I am risen from the dead.” For those who find the cross so hard to carry and so offensive to embrace Jesus says, “I have carried the cross. The cross has carried me. I have carried your sins away. I am risen. Repent and believe the good news.”