In the daily reading this passage is divided into three separate readings, and while there is something to say about those three section individually, they really are part of one whole. So today’s blog post will take us through to next Tuesday, so don’t expect any new
posts on Monday and Tuesday.
This is where the Gospel of Mark takes a big turn. After healing the man from Bethsaida, Jesus asks his disciples, “who do people say that I am”, and then follows it up with “who do you say that I am”. This is the pivotal point in Mark. Mark begins in 1:1 with the declaration that Jesus is “the Son of God”. Since then we’ve seen Jesus heal, cast out demons, walk on water, feed thousands and even affect the weather. He is exhibiting god-like qualities. He is doing the kinds of things that a god does. So it’s maybe natural to wonder what people are thinking. When Peter says, “you are the Messiah”, he gets the question right, but then Jesus does something strange. He tells Peter not to tell anyone, which would indicate that Peter is correct, but then in verse 31 it says that Jesus began to teach them about the “Son of Man”. All along Jesus has been the “Son of God”, but he suddenly starts referring to himself as the “Son of Man” (which he has done a couple times before in Mark, but much more explicitly here).
The Son of Man is a complex phrase that refers back Daniel 7:13 and his prophecy about the Messiah, so when we read the “Son of Man” in the scriptures, we are reading Messianic language, which Peter would have known and which would have affirmed Peter’s answer. But what Jesus says about the Messiah is not at all what Peter, or anyone, would imagine about the Messiah: He “must undergo great suffering…”
This is the turn in Mark. All along Jesus has been living into this “Son of God” identity, but here we learn what the “Son of God” and “Son of Man” really does. Walking on water, healing, feeding the masses, calming storms, that’s all fine and dandy. That’s all good and powerful, but what really marks what God is like is the laying down of one’s life for his friends. Yes God is all powerful, capable of marveling us with mighty deeds, but what makes God truly God is God’s capacity to love and serve to the fullest degree. What makes God truly God is God’s unchanging, unending, sacrificial, steadfast love. This is the “Son of God” that we see throughout all of Mark but begins to become realized from here through the the Gospel’s end. We see the God which Paul sang about in Philippians 2:6-8
Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross…