preaching study: mark 8:31-38

In “preaching study” posts, I’m really interested in fostering a “community” approach to study and prep for the message, so please interact as much as you like. All Scripture quotes are from the TNIV unless otherwise noted. Thanks!

This Sunday I begin three weeks preaching in our contemporary worship service. I’ll be working from the Gospel lectionary passages in these weeks. This week is Mark 8:31-38

Literary Context 

  • This text represents a conversation that ebbs and flows concerning Jesus’ audiences/conversation partners. 
    • 8:27-30 — Backing up to 8:27, Jesus begins by addressing the disciples (“Who do you say that I am?”). Peter answers correctly (“You are the Messiah”) and after warning the group to keep it quiet, Jesus continues teaching the disciples (v31). 
    • 8:31 — Jesus begins to teach the disciples about his future–suffering, death, and resurrection. Mark will mention Jesus’ teaching on this three times total, again in 9:30-32 and 10:32-34. 
    • 8:32-33 — Jesus & Peter’s exchange
      • 8:32 — Peter discreetly pulls Jesus aside and begins to rebuke him 
      • 8:33 — Jesus, looking at the disciples, rebukes Peter. Here it seems as though Jesus has been pulled aside and is glancing back at them from where he and Peter are standing, apart from them.
    • 8:34-38 — Jesus re-engages the disciples, and draws in the crowd as well, teaching them about the costs of discipleship and non-discipleship
  • Contrasts within the passage 
    • Jesus and Peter are contrasted in 8:31-33. Peter seems to contrast his understanding of Messiahship with that of Jesus by pulling Jesus aside to rebuke him (v32). Jesus heightens this contrast between the two of them in two ways: first by calling him “Satan” (or adversary), second by saying to Peter plainly, “you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” (v33)
    • Jesus draws a contrast in values in 8:34-38. Paradoxically, efforts at self-preservation fail, seemingly because they are self-focused and self-referenced. By contrast, abandonment of self-preservation for the sake of Jesus and the Gospel succeed in saving the self, seemingly because of proper focus and reference-point. 
  • Comparisons within the passage
    • Christ’s vocation, the disciple’s vocation (vv31, 34). There is a connection here, subtle in the unfolding of the narrative. The reader notices that the command to follow has a disclosed (to the disciples) end now–suffering, death, and resurrection. The reader (who has read all the way through already) also connects “take up their cross” with the cross (thus far undisclosed) on which Jesus will die. 

Cultural Cues 

  • Mainly meaning and assumptions about some terminology in this passage (and not so much about everyday ethics)
    • What would the first readers of Mark’s gospel have first thought when they heard the term “Satan?” 
    • What would they have thought upon hearing that the “elders, the chief priests, adn the teachers of the law” would reject Jesus? 
    • What would their assumptions be surrounding the term “disciple”? 
    • What would they have thought first upon hearing the word “cross”? 
    • And, what would their impression have been of Jesus’ use of those questions in vv36-37? They seem like the sort of questions, in both content and form, that philosophers might employ. 
  • This sort of pertains to the literary study of Mark’s Gospel, but since this passage represents the turning point in Mark’s testimony about Jesus as he is now heading toward Jerusalem with his fate in mind, and since the Gospels are crafted literarily in order to give faithful theological witness (as well as appropriate historical witness) to Jesus, I wonder what sorts of quest stories may have been in the back of Mark’s mind and would have potentially been in the minds of his readers and hearers? Don’t know that it would weigh in significantly for my purposes in preaching this Sunday, but I get curious about this sort of thing. 

Canonical Connections 

  • Jesus’ teaching in vv34-38 calls to mind other points in Israel’s history in which they were called to make a choice (including but not limited to)… 


Any thoughts?

Published by Guy M Williams

Christian | Husband, Father | Pastor | 8th-Gen Texan | Texas A&M ‘96 | Asbury Seminary ‘01 | Enjoy family, reading, running, golf, college football

2 thoughts on “preaching study: mark 8:31-38

  1. It could be important also to ask ourselves how the disciples would have understood “Son of Man”. In the context, Jesus surely couldn’t have meant anything like our own expression “man born of woman” – but would they have connected it with the usage in Daniel? If so, how would they have understood it?

  2. The question surrounding the cultural understanding of the cross has interested me for some time. I have a hard time believing it was a common analogy and certainly not related to a place of sacrifice or identification or submission. I hope you address this some more. On Satan, we do have Genesis 3 and Job 1 and some passages in Isaiah and Ezekiel about the King of Tyre that consider Satan and his character and ill-placed motives as to who’s in charge. Finally, where are we “satanic” – getting in the way of God’s purposes, obstructing God’s ways with our own “we know better” agendas? I find (hopefully less and less) that I hear from God and argue back, telling God that God has to fit God’s plans and methods into my knowledge and experience. (“Have a baby? But I’m a virgin.” “Have a baby? But I’m an old man.”)

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