When we return to this episode below, we will find grounds sufficient to conclude that behind it, very likely, lies the shared memory of a large communal meal, probably near the (north-)eastern edge of the Sea of Galilee (§ 15.7f). But if indeed such an event took place, including some sort of shared meal in a desolate ministry of Jesus (History 259), but no other resurrection appearance to any of the twelve is recorded as taking place so far north or outside Judea or Galilee. Too little asked are the questions: Why would the disciples have been in that territory following Jesus' crucifixion? Alternatively, why would a resurrection appearance be attributed to that region?
148. The only other occasion in the Gospels where Jesus is envisaged as teaching 'on the way' are the close parallel Matt. 20.17 and the post-resurrection Luke 24.32.
149. Mark 8.33/Matt. 16.23; cf. John 6.70. Others have suggested that if the command to silence and the Passion prediction are removed as redactional, then Jesus rebukes Peter for confessing him as Messiah (e.g., Hahn, Hoheitstitel 174-75, 226-30 [Titles 157-58, 223-28]; Fuller, Foundations 109; Theissen and Merz, Historical Jesus 539). But see Stuhlmacher, Biblische Theologie 1.114-15.
150. Cf. Galatians 1-2; 2 Corinthians 10-13.
151. Similarly Meier, Marginal Jew 3.236-38, citing the criterion of embarrassment.
place (eremos, 6.32). then it would probably carry strong messianic overtones for those with even half an ear. Such an event might well recall the manna miracle of Israel's wilderness wanderings or evoke the prophetic hope of a fruitful desert in the age to come (Isa. 32.15; 35.1-2). the expectation of another David who would feed the flock of Israel (Ezek. 34.23). or the same association as we find in the wilderness community of Qumran between the communal meals they were enjoying at that very time and the messianic meals awaited in the future (lQSa).152
Most striking is the note in John 6.15 that the episode ended with the crowd threatening to 'take Jesus by force to make him king'. causing him to withdraw from the scene. Had John's note stood alone it could well have been discounted. even though it is not particularly characteristic of John's own plot-line. But it seems to be matched by a curious feature at the same point in Mark's version: at the end of the meal Jesus 'compelled (enankasen) his disciples to embark on the boat and to go ahead to the other side' (6.45). Mark leaves the word without explanation: why should Jesus have chosen to force his disciples to leave. and to do so before he 'dismissed the crowd' (6.45)? The link with John 6.15. for which there is no evidence of collusion on either side. suggests an obvious answer. Part of the crowd had indeed seen a messianic significance in the event; the disciples had been caught up in a mounting wave of enthusiasm; Jesus responded first by forcing the disciples to embark on the lake; and then. perhaps only then. could he successfully dismiss the crowd. Mark also reports that Jesus himself then withdrew into the hills to pray (6.46). and since he reports only three such occasions during Jesus' mission. perhaps he intended to imply that a critical juncture in Jesus' mission had been reached (cf. 1.35. 38; 14.35-36).
To sum up. we have been able to identify a number of incidents during Jesus' mission which. in terms of tradition formation. all seem to be more or less firmly rooted in earliest memories and which all raised in one way or another the question whether Jesus was to be regarded as the expected royal Messiah.154 It would be simply unrealistic and (historically speaking) irresponsible to consign all these traditions to the post-Easter faith of Jesus' disciples. The question posed by Pilate. providing him with the legal justification for Jesus' execution. was surely posed by others at earlier stages in Jesus' mission.155 We can be
152. J. C. O'Neill. 'The Silence of Jesus'. NTS 15 (1968-69) 153-67 (here 163-64).
154. Although Mark undoubtedly saw christological significance in Jesus' talk of the bridegroom in and the reference to David in 2.25-26. it is quite another question as to what Jesus may have intended by these references (see. e.g.. Roloff. Kerygma 58; Davies and Allison, Matthew2.110; Guelich, Mark 1.123). See also above, chapter 12 n. 289.
155. 'It is inconceivable. in the light of the eschatological character of Jesus' message. that the messianic issue would not have come up either for Jesus or his contemporaries' (Rowland. Christian Origins 182).
fairlv confident, therefore, that one of the central props of Wrede's thesis is unsound. If the 'messianic secret' is indeed part of Mark's secrecv motif, then it is not because the secret was intended to cloak the fact that the idea of Jesus as Messiah had been conceived and achieved onlv as a result of Easter. Could this be the Messiah, the son of David? If the tradition reviewed above has anv historical value, that question must have occurred to manv who witnessed or heard of Jesus as his mission moved towards its climax before it became the formal ground for his execution.
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