"But who do you say that I am? ... And he began to teach them that the Human One must suffer many things ..." Mark 8:29, 31
AT THE HEART OF THE GOSPELS IS A CONFESSIONAL crisis. It is portrayed in the synoptics as the precise narrative center of the story, a watershed moment on which all other action turns. Who is Jesus Christ? And what is his way in the world?
The crisis provokes the question and the question, the crisis. Close at hand is the disorienting voice of Satan, spreading confusion. Indeed, the voice is heard within the discipleship community itself. And for the first time, openly and plainly, the cross is discussed and enjoined.
All readers of the gospel pass through that confessional moment, personally, and are compelled to declare themselves for one way or the other. In every age and place, the community of faith must also make that declaration in answer to the living Lord.
If recent scholarship has it right, the community of the earliest gospel, Mark, faced its confessional crisis in the midst of a civil war, after the first unsuccessful Roman siege of liberated Jerusalem and before the last that destroyed the temple. It was a confusing time of revolutionary, or messianic, restorationist fever. Conflicting allegiances competed for the community.
Who, they were being asked in utterly concrete terms, is Jesus Christ? And what is the form of discipleship for us here and now? The gospel of Mark is the document that addresses both question and crisis.