‘The Way’ in Mark’s Gospel
Mark, the shortest of the four Gospels, is a remarkable literary creation. As it follows the life of Jesus, the ‘Son of Man’ is gradually revealed to be the ‘Son of God’ with an extraordinary power over the physical and spiritual realms. One section of the book, sometimes referred to as ‘The Way’ section, is located in Mark 8:22-10:52. ‘The Way’ section is a vital part of Mark’s writing and essential to understanding his gospel.
While the first eight chapters in Mark contain a ledger of Jesus’ many miracles, ‘The Way’ section is not as dense in miracles. However, it is set apart from the rest of the text with two miraculous stories, narratives of the healings of blind men. Mark is famous for his focus on Jesus’ works rather than his words, but ‘The Way’ section has a high proportion of dialogue and discourse. It is titled ‘The Way’ section because these words occur several times in the section. While the first eight chapters are mostly located in Galilee, and the concluding chapters occur in and around Jerusalem, ‘The Way’ section provides a geographical link between these two settings.
By Mark 8:22, the authority of Jesus over the physical and spiritual realms is established. Jesus is obviously an extraordinary figure. What is still not clear, however, is who Jesus exactly is. ‘The Way’ section begins to answer that question. Immediately after the first story of the blind man’s healing, Jesus brings the topic to the forefront by asking his disciples who people think he is, and who the disciples think he is. Peter immediately responds that Jesus is the Christ, Israel’s awaited Messiah.
What Peter does not seem to grasp is the nature of the Messiah’s role. Peter thinks in terms of kingdom and authority, but fails to understand the importance of suffering in the life of Christ. In ‘The Way’ section, since Jesus’ position as the Messiah has already been confirmed, Jesus begins to redefine his role and cast the role in terms not only of the kingdom, but of the cross. Jesus does this through four passion predictions, located in 8:31, 9:12, 9:31, and 10:33-34. While the disciples do not immediately understand the meaning and implications of these predictions, they reveal an essential dimension of the Messiah’s role.
Since Mark was written to an early Christian audience, discipleship is a major theme of his work. ‘The Way’ section contains important discipleship content, as Jesus teaches his disciples what it means to follow him. He talks extensively about following him in suffering, taking up the cross, and especially the importance of servanthood and humility. ‘The Way’ section is important if we want to understand what it means to follow the suffering Messiah.
Immediately before this section begins, the disciples are rebuked for their spiritual blindness. Just as two blind men are healed, at the beginning and end of this section, so ‘The Way’ section provides spiritual healing for the ‘blind’ disciples, as they begin to comprehend who Jesus actually is. It is impossible to understand Mark’s view of Christ if we do not carefully consider this important section of his gospel.