This Text Has Been Modified
You've seen text boxes at the beginning of TV movies that say: This film has been modified from it's original in content and length. That usually means less profanity and vulgarity and more commercials. Our text shows up each year in our 3-year pericope series from a different Gospel. Each Gospel writer records the event differently. The Holy Spirit is modifying each account for a reason. When I say Mark omits or adds something, I don't mean he is editing a human work. I mean the words the Holy Spirit gives him are different from what He gave to Luke or Matthew and these differences tell us something.
First, let's look at the omissions.' They are consistent with coaching your own kid. If you can avoid it do, because you tend to be too hard on your own kid to show you're being fair. The virtually unanimous testimony of the early church says Mark's Gospel records Peter's teaching. Papias, Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, Clement of Alexandria, Eusebius, and Tertullian say this (coldcasechristianity.com). Mark omits and adds things that would put Peter in favorable light as if the man who so boldly denied his Lord wanted no praise.
Mark omits the full confession of faith Peter gives. In answer to Jesus query as who do the disciples say He is. Mark records Peter saying, "You are the Christ." Luke has, "The Christ of God." Matthew has, "You are the Christ the Son of the Living God." Recording the terse answer is consistent with how Mark writes, but the full flower of the answer shows Peter got the whole picture as to who Jesus was, God the Son, and what He came to do: He is the Messiah, the one anointed Prophet, Priest, and King.
Stranger still Mark omits Jesus giving the keys to Peter. This is a big deal. Matthew records Jesus referring to Peter's given name, Simon, and formerly changing it to Peter (petros) and that upon this rock (petra not petros) I will build my church. The masculine petros is a detached rock or boulder. The feminine petra is a rocky cliff. The definitive Liddell-Scott Greek-English Lexicon says, "'There is no example in good authors of petra being used in the sense of petros, a stone'" (Lenski, Matthew, 625). Peter's not the rock on which the Church is built, but Peter's divinely given confession of faith is. This too is something Mark omits.
Mark omits not only the full confession and the fact that Peter is given the keys, but he omits Jesus telling Peter that "flesh and blood has not revealed this to you but My Father who is in heaven." Mark omits that the one who had denied it all, not once but 3 times, was given a special revelation from the Father of the Man he denied. It's like something out of a Shakespeare play. But Mark leaves it out. However, so does Luke.
That's right; Luke too leaves out the giving of the keys to Peter and the source of Peter's confession. So, it's in Mark's additions' that we really see how Mark stands out. And he stands out in a way consistent with his symbol. Since the time of Irenaeus (140-202 A.D.) the 4 Gospels have been likened to the 4 living creatures in Ezekiel. Mark was the winged lion because he begins with the preaching of John the Baptist whose voice crying in the wilderness was like a roaring lion (Against Heresies, III, xi, 8).
All three accounts record Jesus saying "whoever loses His life for Me will find or save it." But Mark, and only Mark has "whoever loses His life for My sake and the Gospel." Frankly, I don't know what to do with this addition. It's attached with an "and" which means the Holy Spirit through Mark is telling you it's for the sake of both Jesus and the Gospel that the losing must happen. Hear Mark roar. The person who would take up violence or even verbal attacks in Jesus' name would not be doing it for the sake of the Gospel, would he? The Gospel is not about making other people suffer but about telling them that Jesus suffered in their place. The Gospel does not tell people what they must do or not do but tells them what Jesus did in their place. Losing your life for Jesus and the Gospel is not saying look how much I'm giving up in Jesus' name but look at all Jesus gave up for us and our salvation.
Remember Matthew, Luke, and Mark are all recording the same event. But only Mark tells you that Jesus turned and saw His disciples. Here's how it went down. Jesus tells them He will be rejected by the Old Testament church, killed by the State (since the church didn't have the death penalty then), and be raised. Peter flatly says what Jesus has just said will happen will never happen. Only Mark tells you that after turning and after seeing His disciples Jesus rebuked Peter. Mark makes a distinction between the disciples and the crowd. Look at the last paragraph of the insert. Jesus calls the crowd to him to tell them about discipleship, but only the disciples are party to the sharp rebuking of Peter. That's because Matthew tells us only the disciples were told about the Passion of Jesus that Peter so sharply and totally rejected.
Hear Mark roaring in what only he records. Only through Mark does the Holy Spirit record all the rebuking going on. The first rebuke by Jesus of the disciples after Peter has correctly confessed who Jesus is and what He came to do all 3 record in some fashion. However, Matthew describes Jesus as charging them not to tell anyone. Luke says, "After rebuking them, He did order them to say nothing." But Mark tersely has, "And He did rebuke them that nothing they should say concerning this."
All 3 Gospels have the initial rebuke of Jesus. And Matthew also has Peter daring to rebuke Jesus' preaching of the Gospel. But only in Mark's lion-like roar is just the bare fact that Peter began to rebuke Jesus. The One he just confessed to be Messiah, the Christ, the fulfiller of the Old Testament is the one that Mark emphasizes Peter began to rebuke. This doesn't reflect well on Peter and only Mark records it this way. Likewise, only Mark records that purposely before all the disciples Jesus not only calls Peter Satan" but Mark alone says it was a rebuke. "Rebuking" is what Marks records Jesus doing to wind and waves (Mk. 4:39); to a demon (Mk. 9:25); and to the disciples for stopping children from coming to Him (Mk. 10:13).
After the text box on the screen informs you this film has been modified, the film runs. Now that we have seen the omissions' and additions' the Holy Spirit has done through the pen of Mark watch the movie. The Man who is God stands before them and He will be rejected by the leaders of the Old Testament church, will be put to death by the State, but He will rise again. And all this must happen says Jesus. Not just the rejection, not just being killed, but the resurrection after 3 days. Peter couldn't have heard that last part about raising, do you? Get it through your head as went the Christ so go all Christians. As everyone dies famous in a small town, according to Miranda Lambert, so every Christian dies a martyr's death, according to John's Revelation. They all die because he or she believes in Christ. There is no path to Easter that doesn't go through Good Friday.
Good Friday loomed so big in Peter's heart and soul that it chased out Easter. When He rebuked Jesus he couldn't have been saying the resurrection will never happen to You. He had to mean the cross wouldn't. But the crown without the cross is of Satan. Only Satan says man can be as God knowing everything He does and never dying. In our text, the things of God are suffering, sighing, bleeding and dying. The things of men are pleasure not suffering, rejoicing not sighing, celebrating not bleeding, living not dying. You'd would think that after hearing this 2 out of every 3 years we would at least rise to a George Costanza level of understanding.
In one Seinfeld episode he comes to the conclusion that his decision making and problem solving have always been wrong. So from now on he is going to do the opposite of what he thinks ought to be done. I wouldn't do this over against what you think or don't think. I would do this when it comes to the things of men versus the things of God. When my plans, ideas, opinions, and thoughts are countermanded by God, disrupted by God, frustrated my God, let me do as Luther says: embrace the cross and let the nails go in deep. Let them go so deep that they kill the me and myself that is I. Let the Good Fridays that lead to my Easter leave me with the strength Jesus was given in Gethsemane to pray, "Not as I will but as Thou wilt."
Mark leaving out the part that Peter's confession of who Jesus is and what He came to do didn't come from flesh in blood but from His Father in heaven is significant. Jesus did say that here, but the Holy Spirit doesn't want us to watch that movie in Mark. Mark instead shows that God in flesh and blood is so much for us and our salvation that He will not leave us alone when we're minding the things of men rather than that of God. He shows us that Jesus purposely rebukes His chief disciple in the presence of the rest of them. It's as if Peter is a kid who is about to drink a cup of poison and Jesus knocks it out of his hand before all the other kids.
The path to our Easter is always through Good Fridays, is a narrow path not a broad one, is marked by the things of God not men. It's marked by confessing your sin and sinfulness not by excusing it or promising to do better. It's marked by God for the sake of Jesus' holy life and innocent suffering and death forgiving your sins and sinfulness each day. It's marked by losing your soul, your life, yourself for the sake of Jesus and His Gospel and finding it is saved.
This is the stuff of movies and before that Shakespeare and before that Greek plays. The person who has apparently lost everything is found to have won it all. It's despair into laughter; it's the slough of despond into the river of life; it's the soul delivered from death, the eyes from tears, the feet from stumbling and walking before the Lord in the land of the living (Ps. 116:8). Films never, ever modify this. Peter tried to; Jesus wouldn't let him, and He won't let us either. Amen
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost (20180916); Mark 8: 27-35