Who is Jesus? Each of us may give a slightly different answer. In today’s Gospel Jesus asks both a general question and a specific question. The general question is “Who do the crowds say that I am?” The crowds give various answers, e.g., John the Baptist, the prophet Elijah, or one of the other prophets. The more specific question Jesus addresses to his disciples: “But who do you say that I am?” Peter replies that Jesus is “The Messiah of God.” The Hebrew word “messiah” means one who is anointed. Priests, prophets, and kings were all anointed. One is anointed for a special task or mission. The Hebrew word “messiah” was translated into the Greek word “christos” which also means the anointed one. Later Christians forgot the original meaning of the word “christos” and it became Jesus’ second name: Jesus Christ.
When Peter confesses that Jesus is the Christ (Messiah) he is probably thinking of a powerful king like King David. Jesus acknowledges that he is Messiah, but he will be a humble and even Crucified Messiah: “The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priest, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.” For anyone expecting the Messiah and Son of God to be a powerful conqueror like King David this was a difficult teaching to accept. Peter and the other disciples struggled to accept this teaching and to accept that God’s ways are different from their ways.
You and I today are asked this same question: Who do you say that Jesus is? We can give a general answer as we have learned from the Creed and Catechism. These answers are true and a good guiding light. Ultimately though we must give our own answer: Who do I say that Jesus is? I can only give a personal answer to this question by encountering Jesus each day. In the Gospel Jesus encounters us personally as one of his disciples and he asks us: “Who do you say that I am?”
Image: “Jesus on the Cross” by trish1380 is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.