Who do you say I am? – Br. Jonathan Maury

Ecclesiastes 3:1-11; Psalm 63:1-8; Luke 9:18-22

There is poignancy to the opening phrase of our gospel from Luke: “Once when Jesus was praying alone, with only the disciples near him…”

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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  1. Graham Cotter on July 5, 2018 at 20:36

    I like this. Thank you for sending it Graham Cotter

  2. Beverly Cone on July 5, 2018 at 06:57

    Amazing – almost 80 years old, and I am “seeking my own unique identity through union with God in Christ.”
    My prayer is asking God what is next in my life, as I am now. Open my eyes, Lord.

  3. Elizabeth Hardy on December 13, 2017 at 10:18

    Very interesting twist on a passage we all think we know – and have preached on many times. Great to get fresh insight – and fresh self-examination.

  4. David Cranmer on February 18, 2017 at 19:41

    I am really struck by the question at the end of the homily: “Who, Lord, do You desire to be in me?” This helps me to take the focus off self and put it on Jesus, while still understanding that my place is to serve.

    • SusanMarie on December 13, 2017 at 06:37

      Well said. That was very close to my own response when I read that question. It’s a good way to begin a time of prayer — again and again.

  5. Ruth West on February 15, 2017 at 19:23

    Who do I say that He is? I say He is the risen Lord Jesus, the Messiah. How do I know? Two ways: by reading the Biblical accounts and by my own experience. I sought Him as a child, and He sought me. I still seek Him and know His presence as He is in me and I in Him. Bless His holy name!

  6. anders on February 14, 2017 at 12:31

    Thanks. You help me realize that the question “But who do you say that I am?” is one of living faith which allows me to take risks and grow. Several years ago I found the iconic Jesus portrait I grew up by the local artist Warner Sallman off-putting and misrepresentive of my beliefs. So I tore it up in my mind, figuring Jesus already knew a thing or two about showing up resurrected. Now I call him Yeshua and am so sacrilegious to believe he’s not even Scandinavian. More importantly, this question allows me a framework of his humanity and vulnerability to pervade, which I need over the divine risen guy floating in the clouds whom I can’t relate to, and it is good.

    • Ruth West on February 15, 2017 at 19:26

      Anders, it seems to me that you have traded the fictional for the real. That is good.

  7. Jane Goldring on February 14, 2017 at 11:38

    I believe we are put here for a purpose. It is our Lord I look to for the help and guidence I need. I think if we do the best we can, there is always room for improvement.

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