Are you on the path to becoming a fully alive human being like Jesus was?
by Carl Gregg
Gospel Reading: Mark 8:31-38
For Sunday, March 4, 2012: Year B — Lent 2
The verses preceding this Gospel lesson are a climax in Mark’s Gospel. Jesus asks the disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter answers, “You are the Messiah.” Rather than commending Peter, Jesus prohibits them from speaking about him (perhaps because they misunderstood him).
“Christ” Is Not Jesus’ Last Name
In our opening verse, Jesus does not echo Peter’s word “Messiah,” but instead refers to himself as “the Son of Man.” The Hebrew word mashiach (literally “anointed one”) is transliterated into English as messiah. It was translated into Greek as christos, which was transliterated into English as “Christ.” So, messiah = anointed one = Christ.
Thus, at one level, anyone who has been ritually anointed is a messiah. To name only a few examples, in Leviticus 4:3, we read about the “anointed priest” or “messianic priest.” In 1 Samuel 24:7 and 2 Samuel 1:14, Saul and David respectively are called “the Lord’s anointed” or “the Lord’s messiah.” In Isaiah 45:1, the foreign King Cyrus of Persia (modern Iran!) is even called a “messiah” or “anointed one” for ending the Babylonian Captivity.
How is it that have we misunderstood the term messiah? And why do many Christians almost exclusively emphasize Jesus Christ, neglecting a title Jesus repeatedly calls himself: “Son of Man?”
“Son of Man” or “Human One?”
The Common English Bible recently made headlines for its decision to translate “Son of Man” as “Human One.” If the disciples did not at first “get” who Jesus was, perhaps we can get clarity from later writers such as the early church father Irenaeus who said, “The glory of God is the human being fully alive!” We could accordingly hear the “Human One” as Jesus saying, “I am a human who is fully alive.
Why then would Jesus accuse Peter of “setting your mind not on divine things but on human things?” Peter wants to protect Jesus from the messiness and risk that is essential to the human condition. Jesus rebukes Peter for “merely human” beliefs, whereas we are called to a God-infused, grace-filled abundant life. [Read more...]