Who Do You Say that Jesus Is?
"Who do you say that I am?" Mark finally takes us to the central, objective point of his Gospel, that is, to know Jesus as "the Christ" and accept him as "the Son of Man" who is to suffer, die and rise for our sins. More than being an existential question that reveals Jesus’ messianic identity and mission, this is a behavior-based question that evokes our faith in Jesus and engages us in a demanding life of discipleship. He could have also asked his disciples: Based on what other people and you have seen me doing, who do they and you say that I am? In fact, Jesus answered John the Baptist’s Christological question "Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?" with a behavioral response "the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them. . ." (Matthew 11:3-5) that sets the life-giving tone of our faith in him.
Knowing Jesus as "the Christ" is to know ourselves as his disciples and do what is implicit in that, for he describes our discipleship in terms of his messiahship, which is to tread the way of the cross as God’s Suffering Servant does in Isaiah’s first reading. We can therefore say that today’s Gospel’s Christological question is as relevant to us as it was to first-century Christians who lived in a different historical and cultural context than ours. But, what exactly do we imply when we say that Jesus is "the Christ" or "the Messiah?" Do we really understand the evangelical implications of professing our faith in Jesus Christ? We obviously do not have the same historical messianic problem that Jesus’ intimate friends faced, as they lived in the pre-resurrection period expecting their promised Messiah with a belligerent, liberating attitude towards the Romans. However, I dare to say that many "modern Christians," and perhaps I am one of them, still fail to commit to our faith. For we still fail, like Peter and the others, to understand that once we profess our faith in Jesus by acknowledging him as "the Christ," we embark on a life of discipleship that demands our self-denial and willingness to take up our crosses and follow in his footsteps.
For the above reason, Jesus warns us that our Christian life and discipleship will always ask of us to die to ourselves in order to rise with him, so that we can say with Paul: "I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me." (Galatians 2:19b-20a). In doing that, we can come to understand and follow James’ advice, that is, to live a living faith that engages us in a fraternal relationship with our sisters and brothers to whom we are to demonstrate the social works of our faith by responding generously to their human needs. We will thus echo the words of Isaiah’s Suffering Servant: "see, the Lord GOD is my help; who will prove me wrong?" Hence, as Christians, we should ask ourselves: Who do we follow? And what kind of works do we do to witness to our faith in Jesus Christ?
Fr. Alfredo Ocampo, C.P. gives retreats and parish missions. He is stationed at Holy Name Passionist Community in Houston, Texas.