It is not enough to know Christ.
One of the greatest painters of the century – Picasso – painted images that mainly affected us. The figures in his paintings are often human caricatures with multiple faces, according to which the outward poses are more severe than the man himself. Many people do not know how to take the right attitude to his works and judge them as not being to their liking, not knowing what the painter meant to say.
Similarly, with the evaluation of the life connected with God. Many evaluate this connection by church attendance or willingness to help the parish. Many consider cursing a great sin, but gossiping, slandering, persisting in anger or hatred, or breaking up a marriage is nothing. They see only one side, and they form a kind of caricature. Two-facades. Uncritical of themselves – but also not knowing themselves. Today’s Gospel speaks to this theme as well.
Before a people of fear and turmoil, the Lord Jesus stands and asks, “Who do the crowds think I am?…? Who do you think I am?” (Lk 9:18-20). It is not difficult for a person of the 21st century who knows history to answer with Peter, “For God’s Messiah” (Lk 9:20).
But it is not enough to know Christ. The Christian must want more. The Lord Jesus proclaimed his kingdom. Many people listened to His sermons. The miracles He performed drew crowds. Up to this point, the Lord Jesus had not said much about Himself. Later, He wants to know who the groups consider Him to be. Answers are pouring in from all sides. Then Peter answers on behalf of all, “For the Messiah of God” (Luke 9:20).
What tremendous courage on Peter’s part! The Jews want to see in the Lord Jesus a bland figure from the prophets of old who inspires in their recognition and human hope, and here Peter says something entirely new, yet improbable. In these words, he portrays that the Lord Jesus is the one for whom the generations are eagerly waiting, that he is the messenger of God who is to bring to men the glory foretold by Abraham.
Peter regards him as such. The Lord Jesus does not reply to these words of Peter, does not confirm them, but tells them not to tell anyone about it. Why such an emphasis on silence? Isn’t it strange? After all, for centuries, Israel has been expecting and longing for the Messiah. He was to deliver the nation through the favor of the highest God. The country longed for him and now must remain silent, hiding the news from everyone. Why? Many answers could be given. The most common explanation is that the nation of Israel was bent on a temporary messianic mission. We need not look for a particular answer, for Jesus himself gives it to us in the following words.
The Lord Jesus does not contradict Peter’s words but expands on them and explains, “The Son of Man must suffer many things; the elders, chief priests, and scribes will reject him and kill him, but on the third day he will rise from the dead” (Luke 9:22).
After Peter’s confession, the Lord Jesus explains to the apostles the further course of events concerning his person. The prophets have long foretold this, but the point here is to remind us that the Lord Jesus is indeed the messenger of the highest God. The Lord Jesus is the Messiah from His birth, but He will only reveal Himself as the Messiah when He rises from the dead. He must first accomplish His mission. Let’s help ourselves with an analogy: We do not know a butterfly until after it has left its larva.
He also asks us and gives us the last demand: the price we must pay to know him and become his friends: “Whoever wishes to come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Lk 9:23).
A person who wants to belong to Jesus does not have to have heroic strength to do so; nor does he have to pride himself on the approval of men and lofty morals, nor does he have to do extraordinary things, nor does he have to belong to a certain elite. But one must deny oneself and decide to follow Jesus, to carry one’s cross daily – a symbol of one’s consent to death.
Whoever wants to save his own life must lose it. This is true, even if it sounds strange. To keep one’s life is to renounce life here on earth and take up the cause of salvation. The Lord Jesus points out the other side: “… but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it” (Lk 9:24). This assurance is solemn because it is not enough to renounce one’s life, for not every form of renunciation of life is essentially good.
We know that suicide has nothing to do with the Gospel. It means that we are to renounce our lives for the Lord Jesus through our faith and give ourselves wholly to the plan of Christ. Into the program, we know because of His resurrection.
In the moment of baptism, we are reborn in Christ and become one with him. This is the beginning of when we forget ourselves and learn to see others; that is, we are to open our hearts to doing good and loving the other person. Only love can be the enrichment of others. Whoever gives love to another becomes a gift to Jesus.
“Whatever you did to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me” (Mt 25:40). He who lovingly gives his hands fulfills Christ’s words and takes up his cross daily. But how our hands tremble when the cross is heavy…
Cardinal Salier was beaten-paralyzed a few years before his death. In his diary, we read: ‘Lord, I loved to walk so much, and you took away my legs! I enjoyed talking, and you took away my speech! Thou canst take it away, for Thou hast given it all to me. Give me also Your love. Without it, neither my life nor my suffering has any meaning.”
Behold, an extraordinary plea for the true face.
An enslaved person came to Socrates and said he was giving himself to him with all he possessed. He asked nothing in return.
We stand before Christ, and he now asks us who we think he is. What shall we answer him? Can we act like slaves in Socrates?
Can we say: “You are our God, our Lord?” Or we can say with Paul, “In Christ Jesus, we are all one!”
As we know, Jesus expects nothing of us except that we can renounce our “I” and do so out of the conviction of our faith and love.
where our love is, so will he be;
where there is peace, there will he be also;
where it is good, there will he be also;
where man is, there will he be;
where the cross is, there he will also be;
where he is, there will be no humiliation and contempt of man.
We have realized that our life is the only Bible that the world around us reads. Therefore, we must not have two faces of our faith. One for the church and our private life, and the other for our public and social life.
Many don’t understand Picasso’s paintings; they don’t understand them and don’t know how to appreciate them. But those who are experts, connoisseurs of Picasso, understand what others do not know. And this is also true of our faith. We must convince the world of the beauty of Christ’s teachings with one face.
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