After a short though very intense week, I find myself asking if it isn’t too late to go back to the weeks of “bread?” I know clergy often find those weeks to be repetitive and, therefore, challenging. However, these tense encounters with Jesus in Mark’s gospel might cause discomfort more than challenge. Last week was the Syrophoenician woman who revealed Jesus’ humanity in an uncomfortable manor. This week is a revelation of Jesus’ divinity that I find no more comfortable.
Scholars have written plenty about this passage. The fact that Caesarea Philippi was a Roman stronghold made this whole public conversation between Jesus and his disciples rather risky. As one of my colleagues put it early this week, the disciples probably said something like, “Jesus, please don’t mention crosses here! We all know what Romans use them for!” The anxiety Jesus provoked in the disciples when he asked, “Who do you say that I am?” is no mystery.
This question has haunted me through the week. Who is Jesus? What does my answer say about who I am? As the stories of Kim Davis filled the headlines, I wasn’t particularly drawn to the rigid, unforgiving Jesus she claims. After the images of the dead boy on the beach, some said that these things are “God’s will.” Surely Jesus is not one who wills the death of a child, the death of any innocent. On the anniversary of 9/11 and remembering the fear and hatred that both caused the events and consumed so many in the early days, I am not drawn to a Jesus who condones hatred and rejection of those who call God by another name.
It is easy enough to say who Jesus is not. My answer to who Jesus is at this moment is that Jesus is divine love incarnate, the Christ. The Christ who makes forgiveness, grace, healing, and, ultimately, love, the final word. This poses no problem. However, when I think about what this says about who I am in response…
If Jesus is Love Incarnate, then I am to be the embodiment of that same love. Then I am also to “take up my cross.” I don’t think this is a reference of how I bear my own suffering as has often been preached. Instead, I think this is a reference to what I choose to bear on behalf of another in order to alleviate, or at least lighten, the suffering of that person or persons.
Who do you say that Jesus is? And what does your answer say about who you are called to be?
RCL – Year B – Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost – September 13, 2015
Psalm 19 or Wisdom 7:26-8:1
Photo from Pixabay. Used with permission.