Do you realize how many books have been written about Jesus Christ in the past 2000 years? We take for granted the Gospels, but there are millions and millions of books about Jesus. Whether these books be speculations about the historical Jesus, contemplations on the divinity of Jesus, devotionals about the sacred heart of Jesus; there are explorations about Jesus and the Church, Jesus before the Church, Jesus and the whole Trinity, the mission of Jesus… the books are countless. Most recently, the best books that came out are N.T. Wright’s Jesus, the Victory of God, Gerard Lohfink’s Jesus of Nazareth, and Cardinal Ratzinger’s Jesus of Nazareth. So much has been said about the life, the times, the history, the effects, the possible descriptions, and the interpretations of the scripture of Jesus who apparently never wrote a word himself, except maybe some words in the sand once, and who died at the age of about thirty-three, around two-thousand years ago. The effects that this Jesus has had on the history of humanity is unfathomable. It is St. John’s Gospel that ends with the line that if all of the accounts of what Jesus did were written down, the whole world could not contain the books that would be written.
Who is this Jesus? Who do the crowds say that I am? Who do you say that Jesus is? Yes, this question is posed to each one of us. There are all of these books and all of these descriptions and all of these speculations, and yet when the question is really posed to us and we really think about it and consider it, we can be left wondering, questioning, and caught speechless.
What our readings propose today is that we do not know this Jesus, and, actually, cannot know this Jesus unless we have confronted suffering in our own lives. As Jesus told his disciples, the cost of following him is nothing short of carrying the Roman torture device known as the cross. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote about and then lived out entirely, “When Christ calls a person, he is calling this person to die…”(The Cost of Discipleship) Through prayer, the participation in the Sacraments, the contemplation of scripture, and ultimately, our perseverance through our suffering, even the small acts of daily suffering, let us be intentional about answering this question, who is this Jesus?