Scriptures to be read before the sermon on Sunday, February 23:
Dr. David Garland writes in his commentary on Mark’s Gospel that the gospel is the good news that Jesus is not only the anointed one (Messiah or Christ); He is also the very Son of God. Although the phrase “Son of God” does not appear in all early copies of Mark 1:1, the title is a significant part of the story, appearing at pivotal points: the baptism (1:11), the transfiguration (9:7), and the crucifixion (15:39). The title is also shouted out by demons (3:11 & 5:7), found on the lips of the high priest when he asks Jesus if He is the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One (14:61) and in Jesus’ response to the high priest’s question, “I am” (14:62).
Mark reports that the people who Jesus came to save were slow to catch on to who He is. So, Mark provides what Dr. Garland calls “transcendent voices” which help us understand because those who are involved in the story itself are not aware of Jesus’ true identity.
In the baptism story (Mark 1:2-8), a “transcendent voice” from offstage (Dr. Garland’s way of expressing it) recites Scripture and sets the stage for what is about to happen. We are informed about John from the divine perspective. He is the one who comes to prepare the way for the more powerful One to follow, as promised in Scripture. Then, a “transcendent voice” from the heavens identifies Jesus as that One – the very Son of God (Mark 1:9-11).
In Mark 8, the crucial point in the gospel has been reached when Peter confessed that Jesus is the Christ (8:29). The bad news is that though he confessed Jesus to be the Messiah, he still does not understand Jesus’ mission; therefore, he tries to stop Jesus from going to Jerusalem to die. The good news is that someone finally puts into words what Mark has been pointing to since the beginning of the gospel. It is not accidental that Jesus takes Peter, James and John to a high mountain, the traditional place for special revelation in Scripture (Mark 9:2-13). As Dr. Garland observes, “In Mark’s Gospel, the greater the revelation, the smaller the number of people who witness it: three male disciples behold the transfiguration and three women followers discover the empty tomb and first learn of Jesus’ resurrection.” (Mark 16:1-8)
The same three male disciples who will be taken aside in Gethsemane and witness Jesus’ great distress first are permitted to witness His glory as He is transfigured before them. They also hear the same “transcendent voice” that spoke at Jesus’ baptism and identified Him as God’s unique Son. Dr. Garland writes that these selected disciples are therefore the first persons in the Gospel to receive information about Jesus that only the readers and the demons previously have had. The question now is: what will they do with it? And, what will we?