As a professional writer, I always find it fascinating to study how the Bible is not only an inspired book but also a wonderfully well-written book. What’s even more fascinating is that an understanding of literary structure often helps reveal the inspired author’s true focus. The 8th chapter of Mark is no exception. By looking for the climax and pivot points of the book, we can easily find the moment where everything changed–not only for the author, but also for the entire world…
“The bend in the middle” is a screenwriting term referring to the midpoint of the film; in most modern movies, around the sixty-minute mark there is a dramatic pivot in the story. All of the set-up and twists in the first half of the movie culminate as the true theme emerges. Sometimes this beat is dramatic; in Amazing Grace, the bend comes when Wilberforce unveils his long scroll of signatures, and the court battle begins to turn in the favor of the abolition. Sometimes this beat is subtle; in Cars, this moment comes when Mater declares that McQueen is his “best friend,” and McQueen realizes for the first time that there might be more to life than winning races.
Like the inspired storyteller that he is, John-Mark uses similar methods in Chapter 8 of his Gospel. Right on cue, in the middle of the book, the story of the Kingdom of God takes a dramatic turn. The breathless symphony of miracles and revolutionary teaching juxtaposed against violent resistance crescendos in a quiet, personal moment that shakes the heavens. With one simple phrase uttered by Peter, the Kingdom is at once realized in its fullness in the heart of a man, and the course of history—and John-Mark’s Gospel—is changed forever.
“You are the Christ.” (vs. 29)
It is easy for us, having lived in a world where Jesus has been acknowledged, at least on an academic level, as “the Christ” for two thousand years, to reread the Gospel and see the threads of Jesus’s Messiahship throughout the story. We are quick to trivialize this moment, as Peter is only declaring something we already know. But to truly grasp the impact of this story, we need to step back in time and realize that, in the context of history, Peter was doing an entirely new thing. While the evidence of Jesus’ identity has been present in His miracles, hitherto for He has not been announced as the Christ. To Peter and the early Christians reading the original Gospel, this is a bold declaration that brings to light the truth that Jesus has been silencing. Many Old Testament prophecies are fulfilled as the Kingdom is announced to the world.
But looking past the broader applications, we must understand what a momentous moment this is for Peter himself. What we are witnessing is truly the first recorded “salvation.” By acknowledging Jesus as the Christ, Peter not only vocalizes his own faith but also, through the power of inspired speech, makes the saving confession that millions would repeat after him in the centuries to come. While it is likely that some of the other people Jesus had touched had already turned to Him in faith, Peter is the first one recorded to publicly declare in faith that Jesus is the Messiah. In so doing, the Kingdom of God is realized in a quieter—but arguably more important—way: By being born in its first soul, as Peter pioneers the movement by being the first to step into a Kingdom reality as a redeemed believer.
Like any good story, John-Mark’s Gospel immediately descends back into dramatic conflict as Jesus’ pronouncement is quickly followed by the foretelling of His death. The enemy has swept back onto the scene, and the struggle within the disciples’ own hearts resurfaces. These tensions will only continue to rise as the Gospel quickly accelerates towards its dramatic final act. But the enemy’s resistance is futile grasping at this point, because the damage has been done: The Kingdom of God has come, born again in the hearts of men, and no power of darkness can stop its advancement now.