Jesus asks “Who do you say I am?” (Mark 8:27-38)
The question of identity is one of those big questions in life; ‘who am I?’ Am I simply a clone of my parents and grandparents, for example, or am I my own person? How do you perceive yourself, and is that how others perceive you? Or are you trying to live up to the person others see you as?
“Who do you say I am?” Jesus asks of his disciples.
This question is the turning point in the gospel of Mark as it’s here that Jesus takes stock of the teaching that his disciples have been given. Have they got it yet?
Who do you believe I am?
And Mark, the gospel writer, sandwiches this event between two others: Before this, a blind man partially recovers his sight before being fully healed (Mark 8:22-26) mirroring the disciples partial understanding of Jesus. After this, a blind man called Bartimaeus, is healed fully and at once asks to follow Jesus (Mark 10:46-52) mirroring the disciples new understanding of Jesus.
So, Peter says that others believe Jesus is John the Baptist, or Elijah or one of the prophets; in other words, a figure from the past, come to bring back the good old days. But its dawning on the disciples that the person before them is not a throwback to the past, but a new being who represents their future; God’s anointed One.
Who do you think I am?
We’re also at a pivotal point. There are many who yearn for the past, when life was simpler, and safer, when churches were full, when the world was black and white. But in an unsure and uncertain time such as now we need to look to the future, hopefully building on the best of what the past has bought us.
The disciples had grasped what was happening. ‘You are the Messiah’ Peter says. The penny has dropped. But don’t tell anyone, commands Jesus…not yet. They still haven’t got it. For now, Jesus can reveal to his disciples just what his mission really is, and for the first time ‘he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.’ Still too much information for them to take in, and they will have to be reminded of it again soon, but now Jesus knows that the time is right for him to set his sights on Jerusalem, at last, and to the Cross.
Who do you say I am?
For Christians, it’s an acknowledgement that we are all created in the image of God who sees things very differently. From God’s vantage point, everyone is of equal worth, everyone has equal value. We have to make a special effort in order to see the world that way, God’s way, to see someone, for example, who is very different to ourselves, as being of equal worth. After all, it was part of Jesus’ make-up, to engage with those on the fringes of his society.
It is striking that while there are some 7 billion people in the world today, everyone is different. God has deliberately created us to be unique, to glory in divine diversity, yet too often we try to be like others, try to conform to stereotypes. When Jesus asks; “Who do you say I am?” it is an invitation to us all to discover more about the person who we describe as The Christ. And to get to know more about Jesus is to get to find out more about his character, his purpose and his mission, and then to walk in the way of Jesus today.
Revd Jayne Taylor