Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Reblog: The Myth of the Dying Messiah

Simon J. Joseph, Ph.D. writes in his blog,

Did any pre-Christian Jews expect a messiah to suffer and die for their sins? If there was such a thing, Jesus' first followers didn't seem to know anything about it. That's because there was no such ancient Jewish prophecy. Those who "see" evidence of a suffering-and-dying messiah in pre-Christian Jewish texts and traditions are reading this motif into the Scriptures with the eyes of faith.

This goes along with what we have been seeing in our discussions of the Markan gospel.

Read the rest of the blog entry here.

Monday, April 27, 2015

020-The Meaning of the Christ

Seeking stability and security through agencies and powers
of this world is demonic.

Possibly the harshest rebuke that comes out from Jesus’ mouth is directed toward Peter (and implicitly to the rest of the disciples). Just as Jesus has earlier rebuked demons and storms, Jesus rebukes Peter. He calls Peter an agent of Satan. Why is this? Because Peter’s version of the Messiah, the Christ, has no room for rejection by the powers of this world, and humiliation and suffering through them. Peter saw Christ as the means through which he could personally achieve prosperity, stability, and obtain security; and Christ as a means by which the Jewish people and nation could achieve the same.

In other words, Peter had a prosperity gospel of his own, based upon worldly standards, not heavenly ones. He associated righteousness with power and privilege. He believed wealth and social status were synonymous with piety and sanctification. Unfortunately, Peter failed to see the inconsistency between his personal political theology and his personal social situation: if he were a true disciple, why was he poor? This is a very human error even today. Furthermore, Peter was selfish. He focus was on what might accrue to him as a disciple of Jesus when Jesus came into power. Peter possessed an insight about Jesus’ true identity, but he failed to place his own hubris in check.[1]

In other words, Peter was encouraging Jesus to take another route to messiahship, one that was easier, more comfortable, and possibly less demanding. It is in that spirit that Jesus rebuked Peter, as a public witness to his steady faith in God’s way and will for his life.[2]

Lest we be too harsh, however, we need to recognize that none of the followers of Jesus could have possibly understood that the Christ would bring about a new kingdom through the means of suffering, humiliation, death, and resurrection. It would be like trying to explain the color blue to someone who is blind from birth. It could only happen after her blindness cured and her brain begin to be wired to recognize sight. It would be like trying to explain music to someone who has never heard harmony and rhythm. It could be learned, but only through experience and repeated hearings of musical elements.

We must understand that in ancient Judaism there was no concept that the Messiah would suffer the sort of horrible fate that Jesus describes in 8:31. Thus Peter's response in 8:32 is in one sense fully understandable.[3]

Likewise the disciples see and hear; but their blindness and deafness are only partially cured. They recognize now that Jesus is the Christ, but they do not have the language nor the experience to comprehend what that means. For Peter, the language of rejection and suffering meant failure; for Jesus, it meant success.

This formal rejection of Jesus would have meant for Peter and the Twelve that Jesus' mission was a failure. The reason why Peter takes Jesus in hand to rebuke him is Peter's conviction that Jesus is the Christ means that God is with him and that he cannot fail.[4]

Peter, again representing the disciples as a group, rejects Jesus' reinterpretation of Messiahship. He "rebukes" Jesus as arrogantly as he and his fellows "rebuke" the parents of the children in 10:13… The refusal to accept the necessity of the Messiah's death is the program of Satan, Jesus 'cosmic opponent (1:13; 3:22- 27).[5]

In Mark’s telling of the gospel, Jesus must be rejected and suffer humiliation, be killed, and then be resurrected before the meaning of the Christ can be fully comprehended by the disciples. And as the ending of the gospel account reveals, even then it was not immediately understood.

[1] Feasting: Mark, location 8551.

[2] Feasting: Mark, location 8598.

[3] UBC: Mark, 8:31-9:1.

[4] UBC: Mark, 8:31-9:1.

[5] Reading Mark, 8:31-9:29.