Once when Jesus was praying alone, with only the disciples near him, he asked them, ‘Who do the crowds say that I am?’ They answered, ‘John the Baptist; but others, Elijah; and still others, that one of the ancient prophets has arisen.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Peter answered, ‘The Messiah of God.’
He sternly ordered and commanded them not to tell anyone, saying, ‘The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.’Luke 9:18-22
Yesterday we reflected on Herod’s curiosity, today we see the unswerving faith of Peter. Yesterday we thought about the difference between curiosity and commitment, today we revisit that same issue, but from a different perspective. Yesterday we heard of Herod trying to see Jesus, today we are with the disciples who are spending most of their time in Jesus’ presence. However, we are still seeing hesitation, even uncertainty.
Jesus is in prayer, that is Jesus is putting himself in a place of intimacy with his Father in heaven. As Jesus is close to his Father, so his disciples are physically close to him. And then Jesus asks: Who do the crowds say that I am? If we pause at this moment in the story, we can imagine the reverie and calm of the disciples being abruptly interrupted by Jesus’ challenging question. We have heard of Jesus’ mission for his disciples and Herod’s uncertainty. In his unexpected question Jesus is drawing these threads together: Who do the crowds say that I am?
At this point we have to be observant to fully understand what is going on in today’s reading. The disciples gave Jesus the same answers as had occurred to Herod. Again we hear talk of a resurrected John the Baptist, of Elijah, of the ancient prophets. Yes, they are answering Jesus’ direct question, but not one of them can bring themselves to say: The crowds are saying this, but we know different! It is not until they are challenged directly by Jesus that Peter finally speaks up, saying that Jesus is: The Messiah of God.
We are all guilty of relying on human, rather than divine wisdom. Human wisdom causes us to doubt the reality of all the evidence we have concerning the divinity of Jesus. How else do we explain Jesus’ counter-cultural teaching, miraculous healing and inexplicable signs of power? It is so much easier to apply human wisdom than to accept the obvious; much less challenging to be ‘realistic’ than to accept the divinely obvious.
This week we have examined our response to God’s call. Today we are challenged to decide whether we are with the crowd or with Peter?