“Who do people say I am?” “But you, who do you say I am?”
Monday, 13 September 2021
“Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me.” (Mark 8:34)
To Jesus’ question, “Who do the people say I am?” the disciples reply that some think Jesus is John the Baptist or Elijah or one of the prophets. Jesus’ closest followers, however, have eventually come to believe that Jesus is the awaited Messiah, the anticipated son of David, and Peter now speaks for them all as he proclaims this faith, “You are the Christ.” They recognise that Jesus truly is the One promised by God, the Christ.
The Christ, the Messiah, was expected by the Israelites for generations. However, they were expecting a political leader who would set them free from their subjection to Roman rule and freedom in their religious, economic and political expression. If the crowds tried to make Jesus a political figure -their idea of his role – then Jesus’ mission would be compromised. Jesus could not risk this, and so he asked the disciples to keep their newfound conviction a secret.
And Jesus also immediately turns their ideas of the Messiah upside down, saying, “the Son of Man is destined to suffer grievously.” How uncomfortable and confused they must have felt. Now after two thousand years, we know the story and accept without a blink that Jesus, the Incarnate God, who came to connect heaven and earth, suffered crucifixion, a punishment both deeply humiliating and an agonising way to die. How different from what they expected.
Let me pause for a moment and consider Jesus’ question now put to me, “But you, who do you say I am? Will I align myself with God’s ongoing mission even when it seems confusing to me?
“.. for anyone who loses his life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.” (Mark 8:35)