“Who do you say I am?”  

In Luke Gospel (Lk 9:18-20) we see the apostles recently returned from having been sent out by Jesus, with power and authority over demons and to cure diseases. They had walked through the land, preaching, casting out demons and curing people. Rumours were spreading and even Herod had heard them.  People were wondering whether John the Baptist had been raised – this would have concerned Herod seeing he had him beheaded. Or had Elijah returned or another of the ancient prophets.  People were seeing and hearing of the wonders that Jesus performed, and his followers were performing them too in His name. Who could this Jesus possibly be?

I’m sure that as they returned the apostles would have told Jesus stories of the amazing experiences they had just witnessed. Then whilst praying Jesus turned to them and asked, “Who do the crowds say I am?”. They told Jesus enthusiastically what they had experienced on the road and how people were comparing him to the greats who had come before.  And then Jesus asked a killer question.  “Who do you say I am?” I imagine there to be a stunned silence after this question with apostles looking at their feet for a short while and then looking to each other hoping for inspiration.

Peter then boldly answered “The Messiah (The Christ) of God.”  What did Peter mean by these words?  The Messiah in Jewish thought would be a great political leader driving away enemy occupiers, particularly the Romans. In Matthew’s account Peter goes a bit further claiming Jesus not only as the Messiah, but also the Son of the living God.

This is the key turning point in Luke’s Gospel. After Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Messiah, Jesus commands his disciples not to tell people who he is. Then he begins to tell them that he would undergo great suffering, be rejected, and killed and on the third day be raised. And if we want to be his followers, we need to deny ourselves, take up our own crosses and follow him. So, Jesus would not be driving out the Roman occupiers, rather he would be reuniting us with God the Father.

Like the apostles, we too are sent into the communities within which we live to introduce people to Jesus, to heal, and even to cast out demons!  This is one way by which we can take up our own daily crosses and follow Him and show that we are not ashamed of Jesus or of his words. But who is it that you are going to introduce people to?  

Pope Francis in Evangelii Gaudium has invited all Christians everywhere to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ. But who is Jesus and how do we meet him and have a personal encounter?  Unless we know Jesus: who he is, where he is, and how to find him; we can’t introduce other people to Him! Sure, we can introduce people to a philosophical concept, but our faith is based on a living relationship with a person – Jesus.  

Of course, we meet Jesus here at Mass.  Jesus is in the Eucharist, in the supersubstantial bread from heaven which we eat as the climax of the Liturgy of the Eucharist. But we also meet Jesus in the Gospels, the climax of the Liturgy of the Word. To have an intimate relationship with Jesus you must read and understand Jesus as portrayed in the four Gospels.  We are currently in year C of the three-year cycle, and we read from the Gospel of Luke.  Luke is the longest of the Gospels and there simply are not enough Sundays to read it all.  If you want to know Jesus and have a renewed personal encounter, read the whole of the Gospel of Luke over the coming month. 

Not as an academic exercise, but a spiritual exercise to be done in prayer. Read each chapter and imagine the scenes portrayed, imagine that you are one of His disciples and in your imagination interact with the Jesus you find.  When people do this, they often find Jesus to be much more ordinarily human than they expect. You may be shocked by some of the words he uses or the way he treats people.  You may be surprised by the Jesus in your imagination being more of a clown and enjoying life and his encounters.  

When we read the Gospels, we meet a Jesus who is human, limited as we are, who had to learn who God is, had to grow in faith, experienced the same intense emotions as we do, was hungry, thirsty, and tempted.  When we read the Gospels, use it like a mirror.  We are called to be Christ-like.  Let’s mould our life and character to the Jesus we read in the Gospels. Does it highlight areas of your own life that need to change? Is it time to return to Jesus through the sacrament of Reconciliation?

Jesus is also divine – when we read the Gospel examine the relationship between Jesus and the Father.  The intimate relationship between the Father and the Son.  Jesus the human used that relationship to reflect the Father’s love and discern the will of the Father in His own life.  We are to do the same. Imitate the life of Jesus – to know Jesus is to know the Father.  By reading the Gospel, we can know Jesus, imitate his lifestyle, and so reflect the Father’s Love and discern his will in our own lives.  When we do this, we can go out into our communities with confidence to introduce Jesus, who is then truly present in our lives. The we can heal and even cast out the demons. 

But it starts by prayerfully knowing Jesus, personally meeting Him in the Gospels and then answering His question to you “Who do you say I am?”