Who do you say, I am?

Twenty Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Isaiah 50:5-9

 James 2:14-19

 Mark 8:27-35

Today we remember that tragic day when the planes crashed into the World Trade Center. We watched as people ran away, and we watched as the police, fire, emergency personal ran to the buildings to help. We watched in horror as the buildings tumbled down, knowing there would be 1000 causalities. I listened to an interview of a woman who lost her husband that day. The man was a New York City Fireman, and he left his wife a voice message, and this is what the man said, “I must go, I don’t know what will happen, but I love you!” After playing this voice message, she said, “He was doing what was expected of him, and he gave his life.” We have expectations of “First responders,” and that is when they show up, help has arrived. Our readings all ask us, “What do we expect of God this day?”

In our Gospel, there are a few things we should all know. We are at the halfway point of Mark’s Gospel, and things will change as Jesus is at the height of his popularity, and it will be all downhill from here. In our story, Jesus is traveling with his disciples, and along the way, he stops and asks a question of them. Let’s be clear about one thing, Jesus does not need to ask a question because he knows the answers! He asks the questions so that everyone will know the answer. We get an excellent example of this in our story today.

Jesus knows what the disciples think, but he asks the question anyway, “Who do the people say that I am?” All the disciples respond, “Some say, John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others one of the prophets.” Jesus then asks, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter steps forward and says, “You are the Christ.” Peter gives a great answer, but when Jesus goes on to talk about rejection, suffering, and death, Peter takes Jesus aside and says, “We gave our lives to you to take away our pain and suffering, not to add to our pain and suffering. We want you to overtake the Romans and put us on top.” Jesus now rebukes Peter by saying, “Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking like God but like men.” Those are strong words of Jesus to Peter.

But I think what Jesus says next is even more frightening. I would bet when asked, “What is your favorite scripture passage? I would guess that no one will say, “It is Mark 8:34” because it is too difficult. Here is what Jesus says, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow me!” We expect Jesus to take our cross away and make our life simpler! 

My friends in Christ, Jesus looks at us and wants to know, “Who do you say that I am?” I hope we would respond, “You are the Christ, who is always with us when we suffer and are in pain. You are there to help carry our cross. We commit ourselves to you because you have suffered and died for us, and we want to see you in everything we do.”

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