Today’s Gospel is taken from the very middle of the seventeen chapters that make up Mark’s Gospel, and today’s reading holds the key to the question of why Mark wrote his Gospel.
Mark’s Gospel is different from the others in that while the other three were written sixty years after Jesus lived, Mark personally knew Jesus. He was a player in the Passion story. He was the young man wrapped in a sheet who followed the soldiers who took Jesus from the Garden of Gethsemane. When the soldiers snatched at him Mark dropped the sheet, and ran home in his birthday suit. Mark later accompanied St. Paul on Paul’s first missionary journey, then, becoming home sick, he deserted and went back to his mother.
In the years that followed Mark was deeply hurt by people saying that a man crucified as a rebel could not be the Messiah. It determined him to write the story of Jesus in a way that would show how his sufferings were something wonderful.
Up to then no one had ever written a Gospel, so Mark had to find his own way. What he decided on doing was to break the life story of Jesus into two equal parts. The first half would be a long account of all the things by which his disciples came to be convinced that Jesus was the Savior. (In his first eight and a half chapters Mark gave stories of Jesus curing people with incurable ailments. He described how Jesus drove out devils, and how the devils called him the Son of God. One by one he noted how Jesus fulfilled all the prophesies made about the Messiah .)
Coming to Chapter Eight, the middle chapter in his Gospel, Mark finished off that first half by telling how Jesus fed five thousand with five loaves, and how he gave sight to a man born blind. Then, in the middle of that middle chapter, Jesus asked the disciples who did they say he was. Peter speaking for them all, said “You are the Christ,” or the Messiah.
In verses that were the hinge on which his Gospel turned, Mark quoted Jesus as telling us that not only was he the Savior, but that it was by his suffering and death that he would save us. That suffering and death, which others saw as an obstacle to greatness were really his glory. He would win not by conquering, but by being unconquerable. He would emerge in glory from the ignominy of the cross.