Who do you say that am I? Reflections 9-8-2021

Texts for Sunday September 12, 2021

Isaiah 50:4-9a
Psalm 116:1-9
James 3:1-12
Mark 8:27-38

If I remember nothing else from my seminary class on Mark (we are talking 39 years folks), I remember that this moment in the Gospel is the big turning point. Up to this point in our story, Jesus was baptized, was traveling, getting followers, preaching, teaching, healing, casting out demons, feeding thousands. #JesusHeals was trending and many people crowded around him. He did, of course, tell the people who were healed to keep their mouths shut. And his disciples seemed flummoxed about his identity and ministry most of the time. But he was a big deal in the neighborhood.

So, this turning point begins with just his disciples around him. He asks the first, the easier question “Who do people say that I am?” They share from the rumor mill: John the Baptist’s ghost, Elijah, or another venerable prophet. Then Jesus moved on to a harder one “But who do you say that I am?” It was one of those moments when people look down, squirm a bit, and hope against hope someone else raises their hand. And as usual, Peter did (whew). “You are the Messiah”. Well, yes and no. Jesus was sent by God to bring freedom to the captives. But Jesus was not an imperial Messiah who was here to overthrown Rome. So he STERNLY told the disciples not to say that again….at least until they can understand what shape Jesus’ messiah-ship was going to take.

This is the point where Jesus turns toward Jerusalem, toward rejection, suffering, death, and resurrection. And tried to instruct the disciples about this different direction. Peter, not really listening well and still hoping that his vision of the Rome-crushing Messiah was accurate, rebukes Jesus. Then Jesus even more sternly rebukes Peter. I wonder if Jesus called out Satan because of Jesus' encounter with that one out in the desert (Mark 1) and/or because, at this point, a glorious take-over of the Roman government was tempting...

Then Jesus calls the crowd to him and describes this vision of his mission to them as well. If you follow Jesus, you are heading toward Jerusalem. You know Jerusalem, the place where Jesus will suffer because he reached out to those who are outcast, unclean, marginalized – the people who societal norms say to stay away from. You are called to follow Christ into the suffering of those who are broken, oppressed and marginalized.

“Who do you say that I am?” is a question we face our whole lives. Our answer impacts our choices and decisions about using our time, resources, energy and gifts. Our answer impacts our goals, plans and priorities. Our answer impacts how we see other people and how we treat them, whether we judge them or accept them. Depending on where we fall in all those answers, Jesus would call those impacts “taking up our cross”.

We are called to be God’s love in the midst of injustice, controversy, or just messy old daily life. Commentator Elisabeth Johnson from Working Preacher describes the cross as “losing our lives by spending them for others”.

So, “Who do YOU say that I am?” asks Jesus.



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Written by Pam Larabee-Zierath


Gathered by Grace, Scattered for Service
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