Thursday, September 3, 2015

Loving Tempters

Peter's rebuke of Jesus, and Jesus' subsequent rebuke of Peter in Mark 8:27-38, the Gospel appointed for the 16th Sunday after Pentecost, is certainly one of the most well-known scenes in the New Testament.  After all, what more memorable encounter is there than one in which Jesus calls one of his closest disciples "Satan"?  What is often overlooked, yet likely true, is that what Peter did, he did out of concern for Jesus.  He did not even imagine that the only begotten Son of God would have to endure the Cross.  We continue to struggle with this today.

(The following sample questions were developed as a way of trying to get at some of the central questions Law and Gospel preachers must consider.  For a more complete look at this method, check out my book, available on this website.)

1.  How does the Word function in the text?  The Word, Jesus, is questioning, rebuking, and exhorting.  All of these are different functions.  The summary rebuke is a strong word of Law: "You are setting your mind not on divine things, but on human things."  This shows clearly the sinner's need of repentance.  This Word, as Luther would say, "breaks the rock in pieces."  It exposes are unwillingness to go the way of the Cross, and our desire to have a discipleship that involves little sacrifice and little denial, yet a full measure of Christ's glory.

2. How is the Word not functioning in the text?  There is no gospel word here.  There is no word of comfort, forgiveness, or promise.  This word is all rebuke and exhortation.  As the preacher works with this text, a clear word of gospel will need to be given, but it will come from outside this text.

3.  With whom are you identifying in the text?  Clearly our place is with Peter, the crowd, and the disciples.  We are those who do not want to believe that the way of the Cross is the way of life.  We continually reject this way, and try to figure out ways to make the way of Glory the way to life.  We are those who want to save our lives now and in the age to come.

4.  What, if any, call to obedience is there in this text?  The denial of self, taking up of our cross, and following, are all response to God's work.  They are not prerequisite to God's work, but a faithful response to God's work.  We only dare take up our cross once faith in God's power and love has been firmly planted in our heart.

5.  What Law/Gospel couplets are suggested by this text?  The text itself provides us with a number of couplets that work well:  setting one's mind on human things/setting one's mind on divine things; losing life/saving life; refusing the cross/ taking up the cross.

6.  Exegetical work:  If we compare the Synoptic accounts of this scene we note that only Mark includes the comment in vs. 32, "He said all this quite openly."  Of course, this is in stark contrast to Mark's comment following Peter's Messianic confession:  "And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him."  Mark wants to make it clear that, while Jesus was not keen on people hearing about his Messiahship, he was very interested in them understanding that "the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again."  Eugene Boring, in his commentary (The NT Library series), suggests that Isaiah 55:8-9 may be in the background here:  "God's 'thoughts,' God's 'way of thinking' is different from human thinking." (242)  Lamar Williamson, in his commentary (Interpretation) suggests that this scene is the "theological fulcrum" of Mark's gospel:  "The question of Jesus' identity is here answered by Peter's confession that he is the Christ (v.29), and immediately the theological focus shifts to what it means for Jesus to be Christ (v. 31) and for his followers to be Christians (v. 34), themes which will dominate the remainder of the Gospel." (150)  It is also interesting to note what Kittel brings up in his discussion of the word 'rebuke'.  He notes that according to Midrash on Gen 22:7 Satan rebukes Abraham and argues that he should spare Isaac, his only Son. (TDNT, II, 625)  Interesting.

7.  How does the Crossings Community model work with this text?  Cathy Lessmann, in her work on this text, archived under Gospel B 2012 for Pentecost 16, presents an interesting model.  She highlights Peter's mistaken notion of Jesus' role in the world, as a bringer of peace and justice, and notes how this also leads us away from God's peace and justice. She suggests that we could also substitute "a bringer of morality" as a mistaken notion of Jesus' role and be led astray as well.  All this can be found at study.

Blessings on your proclamation!

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