Welcome to the halfway point of Mark’s gospel. Although we’ve had a change in the way things are travelling for Jesus and the disciples compared to the first few chapters, this point has Jesus changing direction and perspective as the road to Jerusalem looms before him.
After all the activity of the earlier chapters of Mark and the introduction we have to Jesus and his ministry we hit a road block in the form of identity issues. Is Jesus suffering from a dose of amnesia? Induced by the criticism, apathy and loathing of certain groups does he begin to question his own identity? Or is he testing the disciples to see if they have got it? Do they really know who he is? Are they fully aware of what this means in terms of fulfilling the long awaited cries the people have directed towards God for a liberator from oppression and godlessness? Either way, as we read the Gospels, this interlude with Peter allows us to spend a while asking the questions, ‘Who is Jesus to God? What purpose did and does God have for him?’ and ‘Who is Jesus to us? What has he done for us and what influence should this have on us and on our responses?’
The perspective of the passages changes again as the discussion turns to the ever-approaching arrest, sentencing and death of Jesus. We do not often like talking about our own death or that of a loved one. Such a thought is hard to bear and it was no less hard for Peter and his friends to contemplate: that the man they loved and pinned their hopes on could possibly die soon. The perspective change to the imminence of the death of Christ leads those who hear the Gospel today to confront all that is associated with the reasons Jesus had to die (the sinfulness of humanity) and to celebrate the victory of The Cross over such human weakness. Easter will lead us into the very heart of this, but for now Mark provides a story acting as an appetiser for the main course to come in the coming season.
Finally the perspective turns to the transfiguration itself. As we have said, there are many different angles that could be used to address this text, and the encouragement for us must be to try and be as imaginative as possible in retelling a familiar story with such freshness that as we engage with it we are so moved ourselves in hearing it, that changes to faith are the result.