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  • Writer's pictureRev. Kim Taylor

Pastor's Ponderings: Meandering through Mark 8:27-30 bible study (March 5, 2024)

March 5, 2024:  Tuesday morning Bible Study on the Gospel of Mark 8:27-30

hands raised up in prayer with the words A prayer to the God of my life. Psalm 42:8
A prayer to the God of my life. Psalm 42:8

Please say this brief prayer with me today.  Most Holy and Loving God, create in me an open mind and a caring heart, as I undertake the study of these passages in the Gospel of Mark.  Your Word is the Light of my life, and it lights my path every day.  Help me to always live and act with Holy generosity, Holy compassion, Holy forgiveness, and the Holy Love of Jesus Christ!  I love you, LORD.  Be in, with, and around me today and always.  In Christ's Holy Name, AMEN

In this morning's reading we find that Jesus and His disciples are once again headed out of the area which is controlled by Herod.  Headed to Caesarea Philippi, Christ is now traveling to an ancient city.  In ancient history the name for this city was Balinas which is a name to indicate that this city was at the heart of the worship of Baal.  Today it is known by the name Banias, and for a period of time it was called Panias because legend had it that in a hill side cave, the Greek god Pan had been born.  All in all this city's history was one of honoring, and venerating, many man-created deities.  In this same area, a stream flowed out of the hills, and was thought to be the source of the Jordan River.  It was in this hilly area that Philip had built a massive white marble columned monument to the godhead of Caesar, the Roman Emperor, who was also venerated as a god.  It was in this area dedicated to the gods of man's making that Peter comes to discover that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the True God.  It is also in this setting, as we look at the structure of the Gospel of Mark, that Jesus is faced with a turning point in His ministry.  From here on Jesus knows that He is not far from the end of His life as a sacrifice and expiation for the sins of all of creation, and for you and me most especially, for all of God's children.  We might note that this is chapter 8 and this is half way through Mark's Gospel.  At this point, all of this movement from area to area is intended to keep Christ's enemies in Jerusalem from getting to Him before the time that it is meant to happen.  And now He really needed to know if the 12 who had been with Him had figured out who He was, and to consider whether or not they might be anywhere close to being ready to carry on the ministry of the Gospel for the sake of the world.  Remember that in Mark the disciples really seem slow to pick up on Christ's identity, or to gain the kind of understanding which would make them prepared for what lay ahead for them, but it is in the answer of Peter that Jesus knows that now He has done successfully the preparation with them that was necessary for the message to reach the world. The disciples needed to be ready to follow the one who was the Messiah to the end.  Did they hold the traditional Jewish views of a coming Messiah, or were they now understanding the true power of God's Messiah as Jesus had guided them to understand it?

In Jewish religion and culture there was always a looking back to the Golden Days of King David, and his successes in building the strength of the nation, and for his intimacy with God.  This was the nation's expectation for the coming Messiah, the restoration of the Davidic glory days.  The enemies of the nation of Israel would be destroyed by the hand and authority of the Messiah, never able to again conquer the nation militarily.  The Messiah would be preceded by a prophet, Elijah, who would prepare the way for the Messiah, healing the nation's chaos, and bringing an end to the people's disputes over money and land.  When the community saw these things happening it meant that the Messiah was coming very soon.  The Messiah would be a great, divine superhuman figure, crashing into history to remake the world so that God's people could be vindicated.  In the face of the coming Messiah, the nations of the world would ally against him.  However, the Messiah would smash these enemies into utter extinction.  Again, after this great conflagration of the Jew's enemies, Jerusalem would be renovated, while others thought that the new, purified, Jerusalem would come down from heaven. (These ideas are found in both Biblical texts, intertestamental texts, and from other sources outside of Scripture.)  It would then be the time for the Jews of the diaspora to return to Israel, and the time for all the area of Palestine to be subdued.  This is particularly interesting considering that Palestinians also have a promise from the God of Abraham for His provision for their people, and for blessing.  Another part of this thinking is that the dead of Israel will be raised up to share in the new world order.  Finally, this will not be a temporary age of peace, but it will last forever.  In this view of the coming Messiah we see the nationalistic fever of the Jews.  In this fever, the Jews would be violent, unforgiving, destructive, vengeful, a blood bath of getting even with their every enemy.  I know you may think that I mistakenly wrote fever instead of fervor, but this was not fervor, it was a nationalistic illness filled with hatred.  It is really obvious that Jesus did not fit into this thinking at all.  No wonder he had to re-educate His followers, and there was certainly no place for the sublime Love of Christ, nor for the cross of sacrifice for our sin.  I am afraid that we have seen too much of this fever by those who have found God's present Love in Jesus Christ of compassion and kindness inadequate.  They are the Christian Nationalist movement.  Thinking that God has now called them to get even with anyone with whom they disagree is at the heart of this failure to truly understand the nature of our God's Hope for His Children who are to proclaim His Truth and Love in the midst of a broken and angry, self-serving people who, like the Jews in Jesus time, and today, are called in Scripture to be a Light to the world, who are ready to strike out in the name of the Savior in an unholy rage that has little to do with the Love of our God.  Our world needs Jesus more than ever today, not in the way of a misled people, but in the way of His Truth and Love for everyone. This study certainly offers us some food for thought.  When some Christians get this all wrong, we must know that it turns people away who really need to know Christ authentic Love for their lives. 

In Christ, Pastor Kim

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