And he asked them,
“But who do you say that I am?”
Peter said to him in reply,
“You are the Christ.” – Mark 8:29
My husband’s aunts have a wonderful story about being in the airport in Memphis once, when they saw a woman walk in with a bit of an entourage around her. People started surrounding this woman, and all of a sudden my husband’s aunts were swept up into this crowd of people. Folks were pushing and shoving to get to this woman, asking for autographs, and the aunts were at the forefront. They just stared at her, and the woman finally said to them “well, don’t you want my autograph”?…to which the aunts replied, “want your autograph? Lady, we don’t even know who you are”. It was Annie Lennox.
This week in the readings, we are being both told first who God is, but then asked if we truly know who God is. We are given descriptions in the first and second reading and the psalm about who God is; a present help, one who stands near, One who is gracious and just, One who frees us from death, the One we walk before, our salvation. But in the Gospel reading we are challenged in our knowledge, when Jesus himself asks his disciples, “who do YOU say that I am?”
Peter is able to say “You are the Christ”, because he has walked with Jesus; he knows him, has truly befriended him, and has seen his works and miracles. Peter is in close relationship with Jesus. For us, we walk in faith, in what we know, and believe in our hearts. But it’s hard to know Jesus if we are not seeking relationship with him.
Jesus is asking more than just “who do you say I am?”….he is saying “I want you to get to know me, so that you may know who I am, and we may be in relationship”. Jesus is asking us for more than just to know his name. He wants us to know his identity; as our Lord, friend, brother, savior, so that we might be able to profess him to the world… and not just with our words, but by our love and actions.
And what happens when we enter into the true knowledge, as Peter did, that Jesus is the Christ? What happens when we move beyond knowledge of God into relationship with God? We are then asked to deny ourselves, and lay down ourselves for His sake. We are asked to take up His cross, and follow. We are asked to be willing to lose our life, that we might save it. These are incredible things to be asked of us. And they are not things, I submit, that we would be able to do easily or readily for a stranger. But when we truly know and believe in who Jesus is, as we go deeper and he truly becomes Lord, friend, brother, savior to us, the burden of having these things asked of us is made light.
You should know through this week’s readings that God is more than a name. God is someone who wants real, true, lasting relationship with you. He wants to know your heart; and for you to know his.
You should also probably quit wondering who the heck Annie Lennox is, and go look her up now.