Mark 8:22 – 9:1

Readings for this week March 4 – 8
Click here for a pdf of this week’s readings

Day 1 – The Turning Point

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Mark 8:22-26

The passage we are reading through this week is the centre point of Mark’s gospel, the moment when everything beginnings to shift and change. We pivot from all that has come before, and turn towards what lies ahead. Like the blind man helped to see by Jesus, this passage helps us to see the path through the gospel up to this point, and the road to Jerusalem that lies ahead. Of course, in this series we are not covering every chapter and verse of Mark, so there is much that we have skipped over, including several particularly famous miracles and much notable teaching. However, N.T. Wright offers a very helpful summary of the ‘story so far’, and the importance of what lies ahead.

Jesus is a prophet, announcing the kingdom of God: the long-awaited moment when God would rule Israel, and ultimately the world, with the justice and mercy of which the scriptures had spoken and for which Israel had longed. All mere human rule, with its mixtures of justice and oppression, mercy and corruption, would fade before it. What Jesus has been doing – notably, for Mark, the healings, the battles with evil, and the extraordinary feedings, stilling of storms, and so on – are signs that this is indeed the moment when the true God is beginning to exercise his power. Finally the disciples have taken a further step: Jesus is not just announcing the kingdom. He thinks he’s the king.

-N. T. Wright, Mark for Everyone, p.108.

Questions to Consider
Why did Jesus touch the blind man’s eyes twice? What does this miracle show about the kingdom?

Prayer
Lord God, thank you for your healing power, and for the promise of wholeness that your kingdom brings. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – Seeing and Believing

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Mark 8:27-30

In structuring this passage in the way he has, Mark has highlighted the fact that there is a two stage process at work here. After putting saliva in the man’s eyes, Jesus asks him what he can see. “People,” the man replies, “but they look like trees.” Jesus lays his hands on the man and then he can see clearly. A second touch reveals the reality of everything to the man. Likewise, at this point, the crowds see the miracles and hear the teaching, but, at best, see Jesus as a powerful prophet. But, alone with the disciples, their insight leads them beyond this interpretation, to the truth of Jesus’ Messiahship.

This passage is about seeing, both literally and figuratively. Mark uses the miracle of the blind man receiving his sight as a parallel to the insight the disciples receive. Jesus led the blind man away from his village, out into the countryside. He leads the disciples away from the noise and the crowds around the lake. And, again, in both cases he commands absolute secrecy: the no-longer-blind man is not to speak of what Jesus has done, and the disciples are not to reveal what they have learned about Jesus’ true identity. The revelation of what Jesus has been doing (miraculous healing) and who he is (the Messiah) is even more dangerous now. A ‘kingdom of God’ preacher is bad enough from the authorities’ point of view; someone acting like the promised Messiah – and encouraging that thought amongst his followers – is a much more dangerous proposition.

Questions to Consider
How does insight grow in you? What insights into Jesus as Messiah, for example, have you had? How do you remain open to what God wants to show you?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, help me remained tuned into you. You have things still to show me and teach me – may I remain focused on you. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – The Path of Certain Death

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Mark 8:31

The disciples would have known that saying and doing the things Jesus had been saying and doing was bound to draw the attention of the religious authorities, and not in a good way. They would have been aware of the dangers that came with such actions and proclamations. They only had to think of what had happened to John the Baptist to be reminded of that. So they would have understood completely the many times that Jesus had commanded the recipients of his healing power (and demons too) to silence.

But Jesus is now talking about walking deliberately and purposefully straight into danger, into harm’s way. The fact that Jesus now began to teach the disciples about this suggests that this point that Jesus is making is about a new order of threat all together. It is not a risky venture that may turn out bad: it will turn out bad. He’s talking about certain death here. And he’s inviting the disciples to come and walk with him. Peter’s reaction – when we come to it – is an entirely reasonable one. The path Jesus is walking down is not an easy or comfortable one. It is full of danger and risk, and Jesus does not shy away from it, does not try and avoid it, does not attempt to take another road. It is a road that he willingly embraces. If we are his followers, and have truly placed him at the centre of our lives, it is a road that we will walk down too.

Question to Consider
How is the way Jesus walks the path to the cross a model for our daily lives?

Prayer
Almighty Father, I need courage to follow where Jesus went and strength to remain faithful when it gets hard. I know you are faithful and hear my prayer. Help me remain faithful in all I do. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – Seeing From a New Perspective

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Mark 8:32-33

The son of man was an Old Testament description that many have interpreted as a figure that represents God’s people, particularly in instances when God’s people are suffering at the hands of their enemies. This figure of the son of man suffers in their place and is ultimately vindicated when God establishes his kingdom and shows that he was always on the side of his people all along. This is how Jesus sees himself – suffering unto death – and the way in which he urges his disciples to follow him.

There will of course be opposition to God’s plan (there always has been), but it must be resisted strongly, no matter its origin. Even Peter, seen as Jesus’ right-hand man, can get it wrong and only see things from a human perspective, not God’s. Peter’s response is human, but we need to see things from God’s point of view. He was unable to see beyond the suffering and death that Jesus was talking about, because he simply couldn’t believe that God’s Messiah would end up being treated like that. He was unable to step back and think about things from God’s point of view.

When God’s kingdom comes, it will challenge and overturn many of the supposedly sensible, obvious ways we have of viewing the world around us. Power, glory, success – all get redefined in the kingdom, in ways that cut across all our assumptions about what it means to be truly human.

Questions to Consider
What do you find hardest to see from God’s point of view? Why?

Prayer
Loving Father, change my perspective, hone my vision so that I see things the way you do, and so can see the places where you are already working to bring about your kingdom rule. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – The Shape of Discipleship

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Mark 8:34-9:1

This is the shape of discipleship. It is cruciform, modelled on the cross of Christ. Mark’s original Roman audience would have been very forcibly struck by Jesus’ call to take up their cross. Crucifixion was widely known to be the Romans’ preferred method of executing criminals and rebels. It was excruciatingly painful, humiliating, and not the sort of thing that nice polite people would want to see, let alone think about and dwell on if they didn’t have to. And yet here is Jesus deliberately using it as an exhortatory image for those who would dare to follow him. It is not a soothing or comforting image. It is not one that promises only goodness and pleasure and happiness – the things we are often told we should be seeking above all others. But it is the way of Jesus, the one we follow.

Actually losing our lives for the gospel is something that we should be prepared for and is the length we should be willing to go for on behalf of the gospel of Jesus. Something as precious, liberating and world changing as the gospel deserves everything we have to offer, to the utmost limit of ourselves. After all, this is what Jesus gave of himself upon the cross. Nothing was held back, and nothing was avoided. Through the cross, everything was achieved, everything was redeemed and renewed. And it is through the cross – the cross of Jesus, and our own personal crosses carried in obedient imitation of him – that redemption and transformation will be achieved.

Questions to Consider
How do you pick up your cross each day? How does the cross determine what you do and say?

Prayer
Lord God, make my life more sacrificial, more cross-centred. May the shape of my life become more conformed to the shape of the cross and the posture of your son. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)