Mark Part XXXII - The Meaning of Messiah (8:31-9:1)
Communication is a funny thing. We often find ourselves telling our spouse, our sibling, or our friend something and they nod their head in agreement, “Oh, yes – I get it, I understand, I hear you.” But then later we discover, sometimes humorously and sometimes tragically, the message just didn’t get through. One perhaps thinks of the famous Abbot and Costello skit, “Who’s on first?” Abbot declares that “Who is on first” and Costello resonates and asks, “That’s just what I’ve been wanting to know, who’s on first?” To which Abbot replies – “That’s right, who is on first.” And so the miscommunication goes back and forth with Abbot using “Who” as a name and Costello in frustration using it as a questioning pronoun. “Who is on first?” he demands. “Yeah,” comes the confused reply.
It is some such phenomenon, though on the more serious end of the spectrum, that characterizes the entire section of the Gospel of Mark into which we are entering. Jesus speaks; but from the response of the disciples it is clear that though they are hearing they just aren’t understanding what Jesus is saying and what it means for them.
Thus far in our survey of the Gospel of Mark we have seen that the Gospel is divisible into two basic sections. The first section leads us up to Peter’s great confession in chapter 8 – You are the Christ! Throughout this first section, everyone is asking the question, “Who is this Man?” Who is Jesus? Is he a prophet? Is he John the Baptist raised from the dead? Is he a madman? A demon possessed man? Who exactly is Jesus?
At the turning point in the Gospel we witness the disciples finally penetrating through the various barriers preventing their grasp of Jesus’ identity. Peter confesses, “You are the Christ!” But like the blindman whom Jesus has just healed, the disciples aren’t fully healed yet. They know that Jesus is the Christ but it becomes evident that they don’t know what this means. And so what follows in the rest of the Gospel is first instruction and then exhibition of what it means for Jesus to be the Christ. Jesus teaches the disciples again and again – this is what it means that I am Messiah. Then his teaching comes to fruition, he lives out the very things that he has been telling his disciples.
Stuart Bryan is the pastor of Trinity Church. He and his wife, Paige, have seven children, four homegrown, two adopted from the lovely land of Guatemala, and one adopted from Ukraine. Stuart earned his B.A. in Religion from Whitworth College and his M.A. in Theological and Historical Studies from Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida.