Jesus’ adventures continue! After a disturbing experience in his hometown, where Jesus “was amazed at their lack of faith,” Jesus sends out the twelve to carry on his work. Together, Jesus and his disciples become so famous that they attract the attention of Herod Antipas, the ruler of Galilee.
We find several parallel stories in this section. On the Jewish side of the lake of Galilee, Jesus feeds 5,000, with 12 baskets left over. On the Gentile side, he feeds 4,000, with 7 baskets left over. These are references to the 12 tribes of Israel and the 7 Canaanite nations, but more generally they express that both Jew and Gentile are welcome in the kingdom of God. As the kingdom advances, Jesus makes the deaf to hear, the mute to speak, and the blind to see. The kingdom building seems to be reaching a crescendo.
But in Mark 8:27, a major shift in the gospel occurs. First, Peter professes faith in Jesus as the Christ (Christ is a Greek word that means Messiah). Then, just after this revelation, Jesus begins to teach the disciples that “the Son of Man must undergo great suffering …. and be killed, and after three days rise again.” Peter, who has just made such an incredible profession of faith, now rebukes Jesus, and Jesus in turn says to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan!” This begins a new pattern in the Gospel, where Jesus is now frequently in conflict with his own disciples around his expectation of his own suffering and death. See 9:9-12, 9:30-32, 10:32-34, for three additional places Jesus foretells his death in this section alone. Each of these conversations are followed or preceded by a story that reveals the disciples still profoundly misunderstand their Rabbi.
As you read this week, which stories in this section were most memorable? Which of Jesus’ teachings did you find most challenging? Was there anything that really excited or confused or frustrated or convicted you?
As you finish Mark’s Gospel this coming week, reflect on some of the following:
- 1/3 of the total Gospel is focused on this final week of Jesus’ ministry. Why is such an outsized focus given to Holy Week, the cross, and the resurrection?
- Jesus speaks of his return in Mark 13. How often do we think about Jesus’ second coming? Are we living in such a way that Jesus will return and find us "awake'?
- The disciples began to be road-blocks for Jesus in our last section. In these chapters, they betray him, deny him, and abandon him. Are you shocked at their behavior? Do you find any comfort in knowing that even Peter is forgiven?
- The centurion who cries out is the first person in the Gospel to name Jesus as “God’s Son,” and this occurs at the moment of his death on the cross. What does this mean?
- Note that the oldest copies of Mark end at 16:8. Why do you think later editors added 9-20? Why did the original author chose to end with verse 8?
As always, each time you read, ask the Holy Spirit to open your heart to God, that you might know Jesus better through your reading of Mark.