WHO DO YOU SAY THAT I AM?
February 20, 2014
Today’s gospel: Mark 8:27-33
Jesus is the Savior of the world. But many do not know this good news. This is why we need to evangelize, to proclaim this gospel, to help bring people to Jesus.
But even those who have met Jesus do not really know him. Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” (v.27b). Many cults say that Jesus is a great prophet (v.28) but he is just a man, he is not God. Christians do believe Jesus is God, but what is his real importance in their lives? Is he a distant God who lives in heaven? Is he interested in our day-to-day lives? Is he really there for me?
Thus it is important for one who has met Jesus to get to know him. He is Savior and Lord. He is brother and friend. He is my personal Savior and friend. He is not an esoteric God. He is not uncaring. He is not distant from my day-to-day circumstances. Thus Jesus asks everyone, “But who do you say that I am?” (v.29a). We need to come to a true personal encounter with Jesus. We need to know him as the living God who is my personal Savior and friend. He died for me. He lives for me. He suffered for me so that I might make it to eternal life in heaven with him.
Now many Christians do have a personal relationship with Jesus, but have not really gotten to know him, to know what kind of a God he is. They look to a great King; right. They look to a Savior; right. They look to a God who helps them in their need; right. But what they do not want to face is that Jesus is a God who went to the cross in weakness. Jesus “began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days.” (v.31). People love the gospel of prosperity, but they disdain the gospel of the cross. They look to bountiful blessings but shun trials and suffering. They look to self-fulfillment but not to self-denial and self-emptying. But the cross is precisely the locus of the gospel, of our life in Christ, of empowerment for proclaiming the gospel.
It is the same case with you too, isn’t it? But don’t feel too bad. It happened too to the would-be first pope. “Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.” (v.32b). We have our own ideas of who God should be, what He should do, what work He should give us to do. Now realize this. If this were the case, then we are making ourselves God. Then we are saying we know better than God. Then we are proud and not humble. Then we are self-referential rather than self-emptying. When God does not answer our prayers, when God does not do what we want Him to do, or make us go where we want to go, then we are disappointed, perhaps even bitter, perhaps we even lie low and turn away from God. Or, God forbid, we rebuke Him!
But see how dangerous this turn of events become. Jesus “rebuked Peter and said, ‘Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” (v.33b). When we do not take on the mind of God, when we insist on our own human thinking (defective as that often is), then we are putting ourselves in league with Satan! There are only two ways in the world–the way of God and the way of the enemy of God. If we are neither hot nor cold, then God spits us out of His mouth. When we do not go with God, even as we would not consciously say we are going with Satan, that is in effect what we will be doing. If we are not with God we are against Him. If we do not gather with God then we scatter (the very work of the evil one).
Now notice something. Peter took Jesus aside to privately rebuke him, and Jesus could have rebuked Peter in turn privately as well. He could have spared him the embarrassment of being called Satan. But Jesus “turned around, and looking at his disciples, rebuked Peter” (v.33a). He was rebuking Peter but looking at his disciples. This was too important a lesson just to be given to Peter. If his disciples were to carry on after him, then they needed to know who he was, and what he was.
So to proclaim Christ is why we are now called to the New Evangelization. People need to meet Christ. They need to know Christ. They need to start to live Christ. So those of us who know Jesus and are living his way of life need to share Christ. Jesus then had “warned them not to tell anyone about him.” (v.30). It was not yet the opportune time. The Jews were awaiting the Messiah and had false notions about him as a mighty King who would liberate them from their enemies.
Now indeed Jesus is the mighty King. Indeed he is the Savior who liberates us. Indeed he is the One who has defeated our enemies–the evil one, death, sin. And now, as has been from the time Jesus ascended into heaven, is the opportune time. Jesus, rather than warning us not to tell anyone about him, actually commands us to tell everyone about him.
We are his disciples and he sends us forth, promising to be with us, until the end of the age. “Now Jesus and his disciples set out for the villages of Caesarea Philippi.” (v.27a). It is our turn. Let us set out, with Jesus, for all the villages of the world.
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God bless you.
“For to me life is Christ, and death is gain.” (Phil 1:21)