24th Sunday in Ordinary Time B18
Scholars often say the passage we read from Mark’s Gospel today represents a turning point in Mark’s narrative. Up to this point the disciples have heard Jesus preach and teach, witnessed his healing and other miracles, and gotten excited thinking he’s someone special and we have been chosen by him.
Now he asks them a question: Who do people say that I am? After giving him the answers which include John the Baptist come from the dead, Ezekiel who was taken up to heaven in a fiery chariot and would come back to announce the coming of the Messiah, and any one of the prophets, he then asks: But you, who do you say that I am? A pivotal question that requires them to pierce through the opinion of others and declare what they have learned up to now.
As usual, Peter speaks up for the whole group: “You are the Christ!”1 He got the right answer but didn’t get the result for which he was hoping. Jesus told him and the other disciples what the Christ meant for him: he will be rejected, killed, and rise after three days. Not the result Peter was anticipating. So it’s no wonder Peter took Jess aside and began to rebuke him. Jesus in turn strongly rebuked Peter, calling him Satan, the Tempter, but renewing Peter’s call to “get behind me”, a different translation of the same words when Jesus asked “to follow me”. Continue to follow and learn God’s ways.
We are asked the same two questions. To the first we can respond by repeating our creed and by quoting theologians or various authors. But Jesus asks for more than intellectual answers but personal and heartfelt ones that we have come to from “hanging out” with Jesus in our reading, reflection and prayer.
But be careful! The response you make could lead to unexpected results as Peter found out. One example: If we consider Jesus as “friend”, it means more than we find comfort and security in his presence, for a true friend, a real friend, would also offer us challenges to our thoughts and behavior.
And so Jesus asks: “Who do you, personally and individually, say that I am?”
1 Not a divine title. Only means “the anointed one”. Another title for the Messiah.