Jesus continues on His journey in this world, and I am constantly amazed at the pace of Mark’s gospel. It just continues to go and go- Jesus is on the move. And already in chapter 8 we get a foreshadowing of His death and resurrection. What i really want to focus on here however, is the mixture of miracles and teaching that is laid out by Mark. Jesus clearly addresses three specific audiences, and in chapters 7 & 8, we see how they are all different, but intertwined.
Like in much of this book, Jesus is addressing the following groups: the crowds and/or the common people of the land, the pharisees, and the disciples. He has different types of messages for all of them and speaks in different ways to each group. In spite of the differences though, there is always one cohesive message. It is not as if Jesus is divided in His Spirit, or plays favorites to one group over the other. He has one message, one purpose, and one goal in His time on earth. It is to fulfill the prophesy of His coming- to perform miracles, announce the arrival of the Kingdom of God, be persecuted and die, and be raised on the third day.
As this purpose is fulfilled, and Jesus continues along, I love how Mark illustrates the interaction of this one message with the different groups of people listed above. In chapters 7 & 8, it became so very clear to me what He is trying to do. He is testing faith. He is testing out His message and the receptivity of people’s hearts. Beyond that, He is brilliant in playing the groups of people off of one another; never done or intended in a way as to create a hierarchy or inflate pride- rather He tries to get people to see Him for who He is. The default in human nature of course is for the different groups to come up with different ways of interpreting Jesus, often comparing their experiences with those of the others. But as we see very clearly in two places in these chapters- He highlights two individuals who have and speak out a revelation of Jesus for who He truly is.
Both the woman from Syrophoenicia and Peter have encounters with Jesus, and display a deeper understanding of who He is. They ‘recognize’ Him in a way that the others do not. The woman, knowing her place in society and in the story, tests Jesus in a way, presupposing His mercy on her. She does not belong to the children of Israel, yet prophetically speaks out, tapping into the grace of God, which would indeed be poured out on ‘all’ people, not just those of Israel. It is a bold step of faith, to call out Jesus as the benevolent, saving, Christ, that is full of grace and mercy. And then of course there is Peter- and his great confession in 8:29. Both of these people step out of the ‘audience’ to which they belong. They do not relegate Jesus to a theory or a tradition. They do not put Him in a theological or historical box. They call Him how they see Him: Christ…