Reflections on Scripture Twelfth Sunday Ordinary Time Gospel C

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Once when Jesus was praying by himself, and the disciples were with him, he asked them, "Who do the crowds say that I am?"

Jesus is praying alone, even thought the disciples are with him. Jesus is aware that he is on the way to Jerusalem for his death on the cross. Maybe he is being comforted by the Father in his prayer. Maybe he is experiencing desolation. We don’t know.
To be a disciple is to be with Jesus.
In reality, he is not interested in who the people say he is, but, after being with him for these past months, who do the disciples say he is.

They said in reply, "John the Baptist; others, Elijah; still others, ‘One of the ancient prophets has arisen.’"

They respond what they have heard among the crowds. The response is the same that Herod Antipas in v 8 was given when he was inquiring about the identity of Jesus.
Jesus was aware of what others thought of him. That was not the real purpose of his question.

Then he said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"

He is more interested in whom did they know him to be. That is why he asks the question more directly.
It is really the same question he is asking of each of us. Not what we heard about him but who do we see him to be in our lives.

Peter said in reply, "The Christ of God."

Peter says the right words, without fully understanding the full meaning. In saying Jesus was the Christ of God, he was saying that Jesus was the promised Messiah.
In Matthew’s Gospel we have a fuller picture of this event. There Jesus said that Peter came to this realization by the inspiration of God.

He scolded them and directed them not to tell this to anyone.

Why did he scold them? Because they still did not fully grasp what it meant for him to be the Messiah, promised by God. They were still expecting a political Messiah, not one who would save them from the bondage of sin.
He said, "The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised."

So he once more reminded him that the Messiah would suffer, died, be buried but rise again. Still they did not want to embrace this.
Then he said to all, "If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it." 
Jesus is no longer alone with his disciples but back with the crowd, who may have heard from the disciple what he said to them.
Jesus says that to be a true disciple of Jesus is not only to be with him but to live the life of total surrender by embracing the will of the Father, even it means the cross.
He ends with a paradox. In order to truly live forever in the life he promises, we must deny ourselves, embrace the cross of the moment. Then we will truly live.
Jesus is calling for radical discipleship.

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