Sunday Readings: Isaiah 50.5-9 James 2.14-18 Mark 8.27-35ho do you say that I am?
Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter replied, “You are the Messiah.” Then Jesus sternly ordered his disciples not to tell anyone about him. He began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be put to death, and after three days rise again. Jesus said all this quite openly.
Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him. At this Jesus turned around, and looking at his disciples, rebuked Peter, saying, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on divine things but on human things.” – Mark 8.29-33
Mark’s gospel explores how the faith of Jesus’ disciples matures. For all of us, faith develops across the life cycle. As children, our brains limit our understanding. As adolescents, we share the faith of our families, neighbors, and the church in which we grow up. Some of us never examine the faith we receive.
In Sunday’s gospel Jesus begins correcting the disciples’ popular image of the prophet Daniel’s popular image of the Son of Man, who will come on the clouds to rule all people, nations, and languages. Jesus insists the Son of Man will suffer and die at the hand of officials in Jerusalem and rise on the third day.
Peter has to examine his faith in Jesus. He objects to a suffering Son of Man and clings to his popular kingly notion of who Jesus is. Only Jesus’ death destroys Peter’s received idea. Only Jesus’ resurrection radically transforms his disciples’ understanding.
The empty tomb is the ultimate threshold that invites Jesus’ disciples to a profoundly new, committed relationship with him, the crucified and risen one. It is this leap to which Mark calls his hearers.
For us in our time, the young adult years are critical to examining received faith and establishing a firm sense of self. Young adults often leave their churches if they disagree with their teachings or stands on issues. Either/or thinking tends to rule.
Today the 26 million former Catholics are the second largest Christian denomination after Catholic. Parents lament their children leaving the Church after years of costly Catholic schooling. Homosexuality, women’s ordination, same sex marriage are critical issues that lead young people to resist belonging to the Catholic Church.
Some people grow able to hold tensions without resolving them. They welcome others’ views, appreciate differences, and negotiate conflicts. Both/and replaces either/or thinking. In our polarized political and religious climate we badly need folks like this.
Jesus’ disciples keep growing after his death and resurrection. Peter, whose vision is blurry in Sunday’s gospel and teary after he denies Jesus at his trial, later gives his life as a martyr during Nero’s persecution of Christians in A.D. 64. Mark wants those who hear his gospel to recognize that faith can begin in fear and confusion.
Who do you say Jesus is? What popular ideas of Jesus and religion have you outgrown?