The suffering servant of Yahweh is assured of God’s help.
A prayer of praise to God for his salvation
James teaches that faith must be demonstrated in one’s works.
Peter declares that Jesus is the Christ, and Jesus teaches that those who would follow him must take up his or her cross.
Gospel: Mk 8:27-35
Jesus and his disciples set out
for the villages of Caesarea Philippi.
Along the way he asked his disciples,
“Who do people say that I am?”
They said in reply, “John the Baptist, others Elijah,
still others one of the prophets.”
And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Peter said to him in reply, “You are the Christ.”
Then he warned them not to tell anyone about him.
He 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.
He spoke this openly.
Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.
At this he turned around and, looking at his disciples,
rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan.
You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”
He summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them,
“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself,
take up his cross, and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake
and that of the gospel will save it.”
Today’s reading is the turning point in Mark’s Gospel. In the presentation of the life and ministry of Jesus found in the Gospel of Mark, the deeds of Jesus have shown Jesus to be the Son of God. Yet many, including Jesus’ disciples, have not yet realized his identity. In today’s Gospel, Jesus asks the disciples for a field report by asking what others say about him. He then turns the question directly to the disciples and asks what they believe. Peter speaks for all of them when he announces that they believe Jesus to be the Christ.
The word Christ is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word for Messiah, which means “the anointed one.” At the time of Jesus, the image of the Messiah was laden with popular expectations, most of which looked for a political leader who would free the Jewish people from Roman occupation. Jesus does not appear to have used this term for himself. As we see in today’s reading, Jesus refers to himself instead as the Son of Man. Many scholars suggest that the phrase Son of Man is best understood to mean “human being.”
Now that the disciples have acknowledged Jesus as the Christ, Jesus confides in them the outcome of his ministry: he will be rejected, must suffer and die, and will rise after three days. Peter rejects this prediction, and Jesus rebukes him. The image of Christ that Jesus is giving is not the image of the Messiah that Peter was expecting. Jesus then teaches the crowd and the disciples about the path of discipleship: To be Chris’s disciple is to follow in the way of the cross.
We can easily miss the fear that Jesus’ words must have evoked in his disciples. Death by crucifixion was all too familiar as a method of execution in Roman-occupied territories. The path that Jesus was inviting his disciples to share meant tremendous suffering and death. This is the kind of radical commitment and sacrifice that Jesus calls us to adopt for the sake of the Gospel.