Peter experiences a moment of clarity in today’s Gospel (Mark 8:27-33). Briefly the clouds part and he speaks from the heart: “You are the Christ.” It is the discovery of one who has followed, asked, watched, and questioned. But as our story unfolds we realize Peter knows almost nothing about the implications of his declaration. He speaks a seed of truth without knowing how, when, or where it will grow.
Jesus’ identity was widely debated. The disciples give a number of answers reflecting the speculations of the people: John the Baptist, Elijah, a prophet of old. All they really know is this one is very different.
But no one has a clue just how different Jesus really is.
For the disciples the declaration implies political freedom, armies, war, riches, and power. God’s Messiah will set Israel free from the clenched fist of Rome. They are imagining a king, a court, and multiple thrones.
So Jesus begins the monumental task of redefining their expectations. He speaks plainly of suffering, rejection, death, resurrection. Peter offers his quiet word of correction. After all, no one will follow into battle if Jesus talks like this. They expect blood to be shed – but not the blood of Jesus.
Jesus’ words are clear but, with the exception of Peter’s rebuke, each time the disciples have nothing to say. Mark offers the only word of explanation later in the Gospel: “Though they failed to understand his words, they were afraid to question him.” (Mark 9:32).
After all, it is so unexpected. So Jesus must slowly open a space in which to reveal God’s suffering, death and resurrection which will lead the disciples to understand how they will be freed by the ultimate sacrifice of God’s love.
Let us pray that we may have that same revelation.