Reflection Mark 8: 27-38

At this roughly mid-point in Mark’s Gospel, Jesus begins teaching about what will happen to him. This passage is the first occasion and is introduced by the discussion about who Jesus is; Jesus eases the disciples into the discussion by asking first what others are saying.

Who is Jesus?

The disciples say what others think, then Peter speaks boldly of what he thinks. What do we answer, 2000 years later? He was a great teacher – Yes, except he made extraordinary claims about himself! He seems to have had the power to heal; even to raise the dead at times, and to multiply food and walk on water – or do we think those are the legends? He was also human, he wept and bled and walked and ate- like we do.

He was a leader who spoke of a Kingdom, who confronted the world as it is and here it gets challenging; the disciples and others wanted that leader to conquer through military might and by destroying the Romans. Jesus who has accepted the title of Messiah from Peter rebukes him strongly when Peter challenges what Jesus says will happen. Jesus will be the Suffering Messiah, the crucified Saviour, the sacrificed Lamb for our sakes.

Who is Jesus?

Is he really the Messiah, the chosen one of God, the “son of God”, the Word made Flesh as John puts it? What then does that mean for us? If I am honest, like my name-sake, the disciple Peter, I am not comfortable with a suffering Messiah, and I want to be swept up in a triumphant successful Messiah’s entourage (because it is better for me!). I am excited by the Jesus who feeds the crowds, who heals the sick, who welcomes the needy; I like that Jesus, but I am less keen on taking up my cross.

And in the final verses of our passage today the challenge gets clearer. This mortal life ultimately, however successful we may be, is finite – we cannot cheat death or buy our way out. We know that, yet our instinct is to cling on and accumulate in this world. And -if I am honest – I am sometimes ashamed, or embarrassed about standing up as a Christian – I would prefer to keep quiet, keep anonymous, keep in the shadows. We would like an alternative!

Who is this Jesus?

He is the one who invites freely, but the invitation is a challenge. He invites us to see his gift as the deepest meaning of true living, as the Way the Truth, the Life. Yet too often or too much, we still cling to what we have, and we find the challenge too fearsome. Peter, the “lead” disciple, he finds it a challenge, so we should not be too surprised if we do, but the question still needs answering by each of us:

Who is Jesus? 

Rev’d Peter Reiss