September 11, 2018 by
David Jackson in
Reflections on Sunday Gospels
“A lot of rebuking going on.”
Introduction: This Sunday we hear from the middle section of Mark’s Gospel. Jesus is on the WAY. He will be journeying from Galilee in the North toward Jerusalem . But in this middle section there is not only a change of geography, there is a shift from miracle working to teaching. Three announcements of Jesus’ Passion are featured.
In today’s reading verse 31, we heard, “He began to teach them.” He had been teaching them all along, but prior to this the emphasis was on Jesus’ authority and power. He casts out demons, heals diseases, commands the waves, etc. Now the emphasis will be on his suffering and death. Jesus’ teaching also functions as a renewed call to follow.
When Peter takes Jesus aside and “rebukes” him, it is not because Peter misunderstands Jesus’ words-but because he does understand them, and he doesn’t like them.
To quote that great theologian Mark Twain: “Many people are bothered by those passages in Scripture which they cannot understand; but as for me, I always noticed that the passages in Scripture which trouble me most are those which I do understand.”
There’s a whole lot of “rebuking” going on. This verb is used most often of Jesus commanding evil forces: evil spirits (1:25, 3:12, 9:25) and wind (4:39). In Luke’s Gospel Jesus “rebukes” the fever of Peter’s Mother in law (Lk. 4:39). Jesus “warned” his disciples not to tell anyone about him. (vs.30)
In this passage Peter rebukes Jesus. But only Mark tells us, “At this he (Jesus) turned around and, looking at his disciples, rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan…” Neither Matthew nor Luke has Jesus “rebuking” Peter. It would seem that in Mark’s Gospel Jesus is extending the rebuke beyond Peter to the other disciples.
Every time someone besides Jesus “rebukes,” they are proven to be wrong. Peter rebuking Jesus (8:32); the disciples “rebuking” those who were bringing little children to Jesus (10:13); the crowd “rebuking: the noisy blind man (10:45). This verb seems to carry an idea of exerting power over, something Jesus can do with evil forces and what he tries to do with his disciples. It is not something anyone should do with Jesus or with the beggars or children.
Jesus now is saying things “quite openly” (vs. 32). Mark has Jesus look at the disciples, rebuke Peter and “summon the crowd with his disciples.” (v34) His public call to discipleship involves, denying yourself, taking up your cross, and following Jesus. In Mark’s Gospel the image of discipleship is: following Jesus without exactly knowing who he is or precisely where he is going.
The structure of this first Passion announcement will be followed in the two later announcements. Jesus announces that he must go up to suffer and die. Each time Jesus announces this, there is a failing response of the Apostles. After this first announcement it is clear that Peter’s response fails (but it seems that Jesus also includes the other apostles in his rebuke). Each failing response is followed by Jesus teaching the Apostles. The good news is that though the apostles fail to understand, Jesus does not become completely exasperated with them. He continues on his way to Jerusalem never tiring in his efforts to continue teaching.
For Mark, being open, willing to carry out whatever God asks of us, is the first step in dying with Jesus, the first step in becoming another Christ.
No reading from the Hebrew Scriptures better dovetails with our Gospel than today’s Deutero?Isaiah passage. But for some unknown reason, the first part of verse 4 has been left out: “Yahweh God has given me a well?trained tongue, that I might know how to speak to the weary a word that will rouse them. Morning after morning he opens my ear that I may hear … ”
Carroll Stuhlmueller always mentioned that this verse provides Scripture’s best definition of a disciple of God: someone who hits the floor every morning listening to what new thing ?? which of the works in the second reading from James ?? God is calling them to do that day.
Unfortunately, no one’s ears are ever completely open. It’s a lifelong process.
This Gospel calls us to consider rebuking in our lives. What do Jesus’ words about denying myself mean to me? What are the crosses in my life? Are these leading me to a closer following of Jesus? Do I realize that Jesus does not give up on me in my struggling? Can I imitate Jesus in this?