September 14, 2012

24th Sunday - B

Mark 8:27-35

Who Do You Say that I am?

A look at the context of this Sunday’s Gospel from Mark 8: 27-35 could provide some insights in our appreciation of Jesus’ question to Peter and the other disciples, “Who do you say that I am?”

In terms of geographical location, the dialogue takes place in the vicinity of Caesarea Philippi. It was here that in 20 BC, Herod the Great built “a magnificent temple” out of white marble “in honor of the [Roman] emperor.” Then in 3 BC, Philip the Tetrarch, one of Herod’s sons, built the city up to be the capital of his territory. He renamed the city and “dedicated it to his imperial protector [Caesar] Tiberius.” (The name Caesarea Philippi was used to distinguish it from Caesarea Maritima, another town in the territory). [1]

In terms of the location of the passage in Mark’s Gospel, Jesus poses this question after the disciples have witnessed first hands a number of miracles that Jesus performs and have been spell-bound by his teaching. (In the Sunday Gospel readings, the passages for last two Sunday reported first how Jesus surpassed the scribes and Pharisees in his teaching. Next, Jesus opened the ears and mouth of a man, and people acclaimed, “He has done all things well”).

Consequently, Jesus has been the talk of the town.

Against the background of all these worldly glories, both the physical location and Jesus’ success, he asks the disciples, “Who do you say that I am?”

No wonder does Peter give the correct answer, “You are the Christ.” Besides, Peter, his fellow disciples, and in fact the whole of Israel, have been waiting for this Christ.

Peter’s answer is correct. But not his understanding of who the Christ is.

In the Gospel of Mark, the true identity of Jesus is only revealed on the cross. There, the gentile centurion identifies Jesus correctly. In the suffering and crucified Jesus, the man recognizes, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39)

What is my understanding of who Jesus Christ is?


[1] Information found on The Catholic New Encyclopedia,

Image of niches of Greek gods carved into the rocks in Caesarea Philippi from

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