“Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved!”
Verse 17 says: “But let your hand be on the man of your right hand, the son of man who you have made strong for yourself!”
Today’s passage from the Gospel of Luke closely echoes the language of this psalm. In it, Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do the crowds say I am?” He gets a variety of answers, mostly variations on a reincarnation or re-appearance of a historic prophet. Then Jesus asks them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter, ever the impulsive one in the bunch, blurts out: “The Messiah of God.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote: ““What is the difference between Peter and the others? … Peter is nobody really, nobody but a person who confesses, a person who has met Christ standing in his path and has recognized him, and who now confesses his faith in Christ.”
The Messiah! God has sent his Messiah to Israel! If that’s not the face of God shining on his people, nothing is! There were so many hopes and expectations bound up in that single word. But they were all unmistakably triumphant. The Messiah would lead Israel to glorious victory.
In the rest of the passage, Jesus does not deny the title John has given to him, but neither does he prophesy triumph or glory for the Messiah: “The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed...” Perhaps being the Messiah is more complicated than the disciples had realized. Maybe following the Messiah is more complicated too.
Who do you say I am? Who do we, Covenant Church, say Jesus is? I bet if you asked this question of 10 members of our community, you would get at least 15 different answers. Jesus was a teacher. He was a culture warrior. He was a Gnostic. He was a peasant revolutionary. He was a preacher. He was an Essene. He was a carpenter. He was a Socialist. He was a healer. He was a liberator. He was a prophet. He was a Communist. He was the Son of God. He was a feminist. He is our Savior.