“And, you. Who do you say I am”?

Introduction.

For some, this week’s Gospel reading will be quite familiar or “familiarish” (if such a word might be allowed to enter the lexicon).

But.

Might we take this Gospel reading too lightly…for our own and others’ spiritual well being?

Maybe?

Have a wee read to yourself…

The Gospel reading.

The Messiah

27 Jesus and his disciples headed out for the villages around Caesarea Philippi. As they walked, he asked, “Who do the people say I am?”

28 “Some say ‘John the Baptizer,’” they said. “Others say ‘Elijah.’ Still others say ‘one of the prophets.’”

29 He then asked, “And you—what are you saying about me? Who am I?”

Peter gave the answer: “You are the Christ, the Messiah.”

30-32 Jesus warned them to keep it quiet, not to breathe a word of it to anyone. He then began explaining things to them: “It is necessary that the Son of Man proceed to an ordeal of suffering, be tried and found guilty by the elders, high priests, and religion scholars, be killed, and after three days rise up alive.” He said this simply and clearly so they couldn’t miss it.

32-33 But Peter grabbed him in protest. Turning and seeing his disciples wavering, wondering what to believe, Jesus confronted Peter. “Peter, get out of my way! Satan, get lost! You have no idea how God works.”

34-37 Calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to saving yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? What could you ever trade your soul for?

38 “If any of you are embarrassed over me and the way I’m leading you when you get around your fickle and unfocused friends, know that you’ll be an even greater embarrassment to the Son of Man when he arrives in all the splendor of God, his Father, with an army of the holy angels.”

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Reflection.

Amidst some time away from the demands and pressures of His ministry, Christ turns to his disciples and asks two very direct questions…

“Who do the people say I am” ? (Mark 8 v 27) and “And you…what are you saying about me”? (Mark 8 v 29).

In so,

so many ways,

the whole Gospel of Christ rotates on His two questions and maybe as importantly our response.

I wonder (for those of us) raised within a Christian setting, where we have heard many expound on this passage, have we become inured to the sheer shock and awe of Jesus’s interaction with His disciples? Have I, all these years “after coming to faith” (as a child) been over relying on stock responses to Christ’s troubling and soul searching questions?

Stock and well rehearsed reactions that no longer shock me, or awe me in my response to “And you…what are you saying about me”?

As I read the Gospel, I’m familiar with the sequence of events and conversation between Christ and His followers…

In response to Christ’s first query, the disciples seem at ease responding. They know what the crowds are saying that Christ is John the Baptizer, Elijah or one of the Prophets. As Christ pushes the disciples much more personally, it is Peter who utters the famous proclamation that…”You are the Christ….the Messiah”.

And it is Peter very quickly, (on hearing of Christ’s mission now taking a path towards suffering and betrayal), who messes things up by arguing with Christ that this path of self sacrifice; Christ wants His disciples to share should not happen, cannot happen.

In so many ways, Christ’s response is brutal… “Satan…get lost” (Mark 8 v 33).

So.

What’s behind the Messiah’s questioning of the disciples…as to how other’s see His identity and how they, personally see His identity?

Is Christ, unsure exactly of His identity, purpose, mission?

Is Christ having an “identity crisis” in beginning to face a new reality that His path will lead, must lead to “sacrifice” and “self denial”?

Going by this Scripture, such a reading of the text seems highly improbable…

In response to Peter’s proclamation

  • Christ wastes no time in telling Peter to be quiet and not to share this news.
  • He then in this reading goes onto explain to His disciples exactly what He is about to go though, by returning to Jerusalem (Mark 8 v 30 to 32).
  • And with His rebuke of poor Peter, He demonstrates a steely nerve in following the journey of His vocation.

What if Christ’s questions about how other’s and indeed how the disciples understood His identity, where much more about the disciples “identity” ?

We know that from the earliest of years their can be so many facets as to how each of us understand and experience our “identity”.

Age, gender, birth order in the family, life changing events both positive and detrimental, the shaping of “identity” through our peers, roles, jobs, names, biology, psychology and indeed culture and nationality all shape who we are.

Increasingly across all generations, the impact of social media on self image, identity, self awareness cannot be underestimated.

Who I am.

Who I am becoming…

Who you are and who you are becoming. Both fixed and yet more often than we might imagine, challenged and changed and changing.

But.

For the follower of Christ, amidst the changing seasons of life one thing remains unchangeable…

The need to daily answer for ourselves,

The need to daily work out in everyday reality,

Our personal and communal identity, first and foremost through answering Christ’s challenge

“And you. Who do you say I am?”

Is, surely what gives identity and rootedness.

Selah.

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