Ecclesiastes 3:1-11; Psalm 63:1-8; Luke 9:18-22
Already we have of Jesus praying in the Spirit several times in Luke:
‘When Jesus…had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and… a voice came… ‘You are my…Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’
‘At daybreak Jesus departed and went into a deserted place. And the crowds were looking for him…’
‘Now during those days he went out to the mountain to pray; and he spent the night in prayer to God. And when day came, he called his disciples and chose twelve of them…’
But in today’s reading, Jesus, though ‘with the disciples’ is said to be ‘praying alone.’ Is there an implication that the Lord alone is actually praying, going beyond surface appearances, to comprehend the call of God. Suddenly Jesus seems moved by the Spirit to inquire of those disciples who they understand the crowds to be saying he is. Who do the five thousand just fed with but five loaves and two fish believe Jesus to be?
The question “Who is this?’ has already been voiced by the amazed disciples in the storm-tossed boat; and also by Herod who wrongly sees Jesus as a resurrected John the Baptist. Now the crowds are giving answer from religious lore and popular expectation.
Now Jesus asks the disciples, ‘But who do you say that I am? Their answer in that moment is voiced by Peter and is not contradicted by Jesus: ‘You are the Messiah of God.’ This response reflects a deepening insight of God’s purposes and vision for the world, and the increasing heart-knowledge that has come from a growing intimacy and companionship with Jesus.
In this response, there are glimmers of realization that this Jesus is at once the royal figure in whom God’s reign of justice and peace would be restored; the heavenly figure of prophetic vision who rewards the persecuted saints of God; and the servant who through vicarious suffering and death brings all nations to the knowledge and love of God. But the full nature and meaning of Jesus’ identity as Savior is as yet only gradually being made known to Jesus in his daily prayer—and to the disciples by Jesus’ example and choice of their companionship.
For Jesus has learned to pray for the grace to see this present world as it is, rather than as he might have it be. And he in turn invites disciples to pray with him in the same way—and to trust that God is making all things right as he and they surrender to God’s gracious will and vision.
As he feeds and nourishes us today with his true and risen life, Christ draws us each to seek our own unique identity by continuing to respond to his question, ‘Who do you say that I am?’ We are invited to enter into prayer with him with the whole of our lives, to respond Christ’s question in our prayer with a question of our own: ‘Who, Lord, do you desire to be in me—this and all my days, for your sake, for mine and of the world which God loves?’ Seek your truest identity and self through union with God in Christ!
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