“You are the Messiah” Peter told Jesus in this Sunday’s Gospel according to Mark 8: 27-35. But Peter was never expecting that the Messiah would have to suffer and die. In this Gospel, we reach a pivotal moment in our walk with the Lord after weeks of listening to His words and witnessing His deeds. Now, along with the disciples we are asked to decide who Jesus is. Peter answers for them and for us as well when he declares; “You are the Messiah.” Peter gets the title right, but the meaning wrong. His confession of Jesus as “the Christ” uses technically accurate language, but he cannot yet see what this language entails. Like Peter, many expected the Messiah to be a miracle worker who would vanquish Israel’s foes and restore the political kingdom of David. What about our expectations? Are we repeating Peter’s mistakes? How do we take up our cross and follow our Lord, losing our lives in order to save them? Jesus this week reveals a different portrait. He calls Himself the Son of Man who has come to take the path of self-denial, suffering and shameful death. Perhaps, Jesus is clearly stating that self-denial and cross-bearing describes what it means to follow Him.
Jesus identifies the Messiah with “the suffering servant” that Isaiah foretells in the 1st reading. The words of Isaiah as ‘servant’ are Jesus’ words as He gives Himself to be shamed and bitten, trusting that God would be His help. Notice that Jesus questions the Apostles along the way. They are on their way to Jerusalem where the Lord would lay down His life. We too are on a journey with the Lord. We must take up our cross each day; giving to others and enduring all of our trials for His sake and for the sake of the Gospel. Our lives must be an offering of thanksgiving for the new life He has given us. We are called like Peter and the Apostles to “get behind” Jesus with the sense of following Him along our journey rather than standing” in His way. Our faith as we hear again in the 2nd reading must express itself in works of love. Love has a greater and better definition of Mercy and our call as followers of Jesus.