Readings: Isaiah 50:5-9; James 2:14-18; Mark 8:27-36
Mark’s Gospel begins: The Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God. But for the next eight chapters there will be no mention of the title Christ until Peter uses it today.
In between, however, Jesus is identified in many ways: a voice from heaven calls him My Beloved Son, while demons call him the Holy One of God or even the Son of God. The Syro-Phoenician woman calls him Lord–an inflated address for a carpenter; one Jew calls him Teacher. The scribes and Pharisees address him directly with no title. So do the Twelve Apostles, John the Baptist and Jesus’ own family, who believe he’s crazy.
Jesus refers to himself as the Son of Man.
People have opinions about him and his question is a fair one: Who do people say that I am?
Peter’s obvious flaws may indicate a personality so transparent that Jesus discovered in him a safe place to be himself. Peter can see Jesus for who he really is. He is the Christ, the Anointed One, the long awaited Messiah. Is it a symptom of their intimacy that Jesus calls Peter “Satan” when his perception hasn’t surpassed his denial? Pater can take it; he listens and digests the remark. Perhaps “Satan” was a private joke between them–guys show their affection like that.
What Peter doesn’t grasp is what one else has: the Messiah, to be himself, must be rejected and killed. Would you want that to happen to your best friend? But to miss that point is to take the Christ as just another piece of information.
Who Christ is must get under my skin, shake up my expectations and turn my priorities on their head. Is that my real self-denial to follow the Lord? Doesn’t this happen again and again, in each season of my life? Is this why Jesus ordered the people he cured to tell no one: so they wouldn’t mistake him for useful information?
The Syro-Phoenician woman absorbed Jesus’ initial rejection and insisted on the actual potential between them. It was not what he could do for her but who they became in the encounter, that she wanted.
Is that how I know the Christ?