This episode holds a central and decisive place in Mark’s account. The disciples have spent some time now with Jesus. The time has come to declare clearly: Who are they following? What is it that they find in Jesus? What do they grasp of his life, his message and his project?
Ever since they’ve joined him, they go about questioning his identity. What surprises them most is the authority with which he speaks, the power with which he heals the sick, and the love with which he offers God’s forgiveness to sinners. Who is this man in whom they feel God so present and so close as a Friend of life and of forgiveness?
Among the people who haven’t been walking with him, there are all kinds of rumors; but Jesus is more interested in his disciples’ position: «But you, who do you say I am?». It’s not enough that among them are various opinions, some more and some less certain. What’s fundamental is that they who have committed themselves to his cause recognize the mystery he enfolds. If they don’t, who will keep his message alive? What will happen to his project of God’s Reign? Where will that group that he’s trying to get going, end up?
But the question is also vital for his disciples. It radically affects them. It’s not possible to follow Jesus in an unconscious and casual manner. They have to know him all the more deeply. Peter, recalling the experiences that they have shared with him up to this point, answers in the name of all of them: «You are the Christ».
Peter’s confession is still limited. The disciples don’t yet know about Jesus’ crucifixion at the hands of his enemies. They can’t even suspect that he’ll be raised up by the Father as the Beloved Son. They don’t have any experience that lets them grasp all that is enfolded in Jesus. They just follow him closely, gradually discovering this with growing faith.
For Christians it’s vital that they recognize and confess all the more deeply the mystery of Jesus the Christ. If the Church ignores Christ, she goes about ignoring her own self. If she doesn’t know him, she can’t know what’s most essential and decisive about her work and mission. But in order to know and confess Jesus the Christ, it’s not enough to fill our mouths with wonderful Christological titles. It’s necessary to follow him closely and work with him day by day. This is the principal task we must advocate in our groups and Christian communities.
José Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf