by Wye Huxford
This semester I’ve been teaching a preaching seminar focused on the Gospel according to Mark. As a part of my own discipline for the class, I’ve read through Mark’s story of Jesus multiple times. Each time I’ve tried to make sure I think about the way that story still impacts life as we know it in these early decades of the twenty-first century.
This past week we have been talking about the transfiguration of Jesus, which for Mark occurs in 9:2-8. Matthew and Luke tell a very similar story (Matthew 17:1-3; Luke 9:28-36). All three accounts connect the transfiguration with the confession of Jesus as Christ and His subsequent word to the apostles that He would soon head to Jerusalem and things were going to get very difficult. Jesus will, in Mark’s gospel, retell that prediction of His future in Mark 9 and 10, and then the Triumphal Entry comes in chapter 11.
In chapter 8 where Jesus first makes the prediction of His passion, Peter is quick to object. In my imagination, it sounds something like this:
Peter: “Over my dead body.”
Jesus: “Peter, there is going to be a dead body, but it will be mine, not yours. Keep saying this kind of stuff and you are on Satan’s side, not mine.”
Before we jump too quickly to criticize Peter, we ought to at least acknowledge that nothing in Peter’s life as a Jewish man growing up in Palestine in the first century would have prepared him for what Jesus said. Yet, we can’t overlook just how direct Jesus is when it comes to responding to Peter’s rebuke of Him.
We talked about all the normal issues raised in the transfiguration story. The brightness of it all. The whiteness of Jesus’ garments – more white than any known bleach could produce. Moses and Elijah stopping by for a chat – and how in the world did Peter, James, and John know it was Moses and Elijah in front of them? It’s not as if the local funeral home calendars hanging up in their kitchens had pictures of Moses and Elijah on them.
Again, not quite getting what it was all about, Peter offers to build three tents – one for Jesus, one for Moses, and one for Elijah. Tents. Tabernacles. Temple. Could there be some sense in which he is thinking of heaven overlapping earth, to use a great phrase from N.T. Wright?
Then the cloud. The mysterious nature of it all continues to explode around them when out of the cloud the voice of God declares, “This is my beloved Son; listen to Him.” This is the second time readers of Mark have heard God speak. The other time was at Jesus’ baptism, where God said, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased” (1:11).
Jumping out of the story in ways that are startling, those words “Listen to Him” ring with a kind of certainty that gets our attention. Really. Why not listen to Moses, the great lawgiver and leader of the Exodus? Or Elijah, the fire branding prophet who at one time had plenty to say to Israel? No. “Listen to Him – Jesus. The Son of God. The one headed to Jerusalem. The one who would suffer and die.” Listen to Him!
In the midst of what surely appeared to be strange words from Jesus, God says, “Listen to Him.”
Most of us walk in and out of places in life where it doesn’t always seem to make sense. There is that undertow in the Christian gospel that reminds me that no matter what might happen in life, nothing can separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:31-39). Yet sometimes I find it easy to forget that I should “Listen to him.”
Mark may very well have been written as an encouragement for believers in Rome who were beginning to experience the persecutions that the Roman Emperor Nero would bring upon the people of God. “Listen to Him.”
Mark may very well be the very Jesus story you need to read right now because of all that is going on in your life. Jesus speaks about life in the most real of ways.
Listen to Him!
Since the EES building had to be vacated in 2014, the ISCO offices have been in a temporary rented location. With the sale of the building, the staff were able to move into a larger, more suitable rental facility.
The formal opening to introduce the new location to personnel at the University of Tübingen will be held next week. Following is the official invitation to the opening.
Grand Opening 12 May 2016
Friends and supporters of the Institute for the Study of Christian Origins,
You are very warmly invited to the official opening of the Institute for the Study of Christian Origins on Thursday, 12 May 2016 at 8:15 p.m. at its new location at Neckargasse 7, Tübingen.
The Institute rooms will be open from 7:15 p.m. on. A reception will follow the official opening.
We look forward to seeing you at the opening,
Dr. Tony Twist, President of the European Evangelistic Society
Board of Directors of the European Evangelistic Society
Dr. Beth Langstaff, Director of the Institute for the Study of Christian Origins