St. Augustine of Hippo

Episcopal Church


Peter Answered: “You Are The Messiah!


The Rev. Dr. Nathanael Saint-Pierre

(Mark 8: 27-38)

September 12, 2021

I have studied, but I need your strength.

I have prepared but I need your power.

I am willing and I want to, but only you can make me able.

Silently now, I wait for you, ready my Lord your will to see.

Open my eyes and illumine me, Spirit divine!

Have you ever cared what people think of you or about you? Yeah, right! You are going to rush answering that you don’t. The text today from Mark 8:27-38 shows us that Jesus did care about what people said and what his disciples said.

Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. Mark placed this story in Caesarea Philippi for a reason. This town was a stronghold of Roman domination. And, on the way, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” And they answered him, “John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” He asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter, the impulsive, and one who could not accept to be second in any context, rushed to answer Jesus, “You are the Messiah.” And Jesus sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about his real identity.

Why did Jesus care about who people say that he is? Did he need people’s confirmation? Was he seeking acknowledgment? Was he trying to unveil what the true meaning of the title Messiah is? Was he trying to educate his close circle about discipleship? Is there a contradiction between Jesus asking the disciples not to tell anyone about his identity and his command at the end of his earthly life to go tell it to the mountain?

I have often heard people affirming that they don’t care about what people say of them. They assert that they are so self-confident (or indifferent) that nothing people may say or think of them can affect who they are and the way they feel about themselves. I believe this to be a misrepresentation of oneself, pure hypocrisy. Most of us do care even when we fake not to. We don’t like to be seen at our worst angle. We seek people’s appreciation, acknowledgment, and compliments. It is human to care about our reputation and make sure the image we are trying to present, the person we are trying to be, is the person perceived by those surrounding us.

To educate people is never easy. Teachers always wonder if what they are teaching is understood. That’s the purpose of tests and questioning. One can speak whatever one believes is the truth. The way people receive one’s message and act upon it, is not under one’s control. Jesus knew who he was and was not looking for reinforcement. Jesus also knew that many people were following him for the wrong reasons. Some were after what Jesus could offer, not after Jesus.

Even those who proclaimed Jesus to be the Messiah did not know what it meant for Jesus to be the Messiah. They thought Jesus would be crowned king; they thought that he would free their country from the Roman occupation forces. Peter got the title right, but the meaning wrong. His confession used technically accurate language, but he could not yet see what this language entailed. But Jesus had to rebuke Peter and those who still believe that violence is the solution to the evil in the world. People following Jesus could not capture the depth of his message. Jesus spoke in parables, sometimes, difficult to decipher. In the same way, people nowadays, despite being churchgoers, bible readers, and pretending they are born-again Christians, still do not grasp or comprehend the sacrificial nature of such choice.

Just the way the Church is judgmental proves that we are not inhabited by Christ. To follow Jesus is to understand who Jesus is and what was his mission in the world. To follow Jesus is not to be friends with someone important who will bring us fame and celebrity or wealth by allegiance. It is to be ready to sacrifice our lives or what might be considered important for the sake of others. The king is among us to serve, not to rule. To follow Jesus is to engage and be committed to a movement of social transformation and souls’ salvation. That movement is not just preached, it is practiced.

Jesus is teaching again today that the solution to the wrong in the world is not violence. It is love, the sacrifice of disinterested and unconditional love. It is love that can still transform the hearts of the brokenhearted and offer a balm to the suffering in the world. It is love that led Jesus to suffer and accept the cross and die for you and me. It is love that can repair our relationships, help us to live in solidarity without one having to lord over another. It is love that can allow to forgive the unforgivable. It is love that can cure the incurable. It is love that makes us consider that freedom has its limitation. Love is the source of understanding. Jesus embarked on a new chapter in which he became the sacrificial lamb who took away the sin of the world. He recast who Christ is and what is his mission. Jesus is the king of grace who knew who he was enough to demonstrate that we cannot achieve anything on our own, but we can do all things through him, who redeemed us by grace. That is why Jesus mandated us to go tell it to the mountain that Jesus is the king! Not the king who stands above humankind considering them as subordinated. But the king who saves; more importantly the king who serves in the name of the Father through the Holy Spirit! Amen