“Who do you say that I am?”

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The question in today’s gospel is aimed not just at Peter, but all of us. Let me offer my own answer, my answer to the question asked by Jesus, “Who do you say that I am?”

He is king of all, but in particular he is my king. I acknowledge him as such. I celebrate that fact. But what sort of king? He is not a king in the usual sense. He is a different sort of king. After all, a king is supposed to be distant, wealthy, and powerful. But Jesus as king overturns this image.

The story is told of a man living in London during the Second World War. Every night German planes appeared overhead dropping countless bombs on the city below. Buildings burst into flames, sirens wailed incessantly, entire blocks were reduced to rubble. One day this Londoner was sitting in the wreckage of his home. The walls remained, but the roof was gone. The man himself was near despair. His home ruined, his city devastated, his country under attack. These thoughts were interrupted by a knock on the door. The man opened the door and was shocked to see a small regal figure. It was the king! King George VI! He was touring the war-damaged neighborhood and had stopped at that particular house. The startled man welcomed the King of England into what was left of his home. Jesus is a king like that. He comes, of his own accord, to the ruin that I am, and knocks firmly on the door of my heart. He comes not once, but often, always knocking on that door. This king comes to me in times of crisis, across the devastated landscape. This king comes to me Sunday after Sunday on the paten and in the chalice. The kings that we are familiar with have wealth; own gold and jewels, castles and palaces, fine horses and elegant clothing. But this King Jesus, this Prince of Peace, has become a pauper. His birthplace is a stable. His palace is a hillside. If I am to catch a glimpse of him today, then I must look in the right place: among the poor, the disinherited, the helpless and homeless. It is there that the king will be found. He is there today as he was two thousand years ago.

Perhaps the greatest problem today is not that we will insult him or reject him, but that we will simply overlook him. For no longer is his uniform a robe, sandals, long hair. Now he appears as a weary woman raising her kids alone; an old man dying slowly and alone in a nursing home; a displaced family who has lost everything in a flood; a man who has lost his job and can no longer support his family. He even appears as someone who commutes daily to work, suffocated by success, numb to inner emptiness. In each of these disguises King Jesus appears to us. Pray that we may recognize him and serve him. For there’s no calamity we have known or can ever experience which remains unknown to him. All our dark rooms are places he has walked before. Is this Jesus a king? Yes, a king like no other.

Let us recognize him, take up our daily cross as he has asked and follow him.

Sylvia Bates