There have been so many views about the personality of Jesus Christ, both among Christians and non-Christians alike. In Islam, Jesus Christ is known as Isa, one of God’s highest-ranked and most beloved prophets. They consider Him to be neither God nor the Son of God as they hold a strong view of monotheism. Some Christians debate if He is God or just the Son of God. However, among the numerous teachings about His identity, Christianity teaches that He is the Messiah foretold in the Old Testament whose face is set like a flint. The first reading presents to us one of the Songs of the Suffering Servant in the book of Isaiah, the prophecy about the submission of Jesus Christ the Messiah to the Lord. This prophecy speaks of the chilling details of the sufferings of the Messiah. We know Jesus Christ was beaten on his back, on his face, he was mocked and was spat upon. We can imagine the deep humiliation and suffering Isaiah speaks of regarding the Messiah.
In all these, He said, “For the Lord God helps me; therefore I have not be confounded; I have set my face like a flint’ and I know I shall not be put to shame…” Setting his face like a flint (meaning hard rock) has a figurative expression of hardness and the inflexibility of an unwavering determination. The prophet uses this expression to describe the Messiah’s unwavering determination in carrying his cross. Christ, who is the Suffering Servant would endure humiliation of His journey to the cross to die for our sins. In the midst of all suffering, humiliation, and pain, the Messiah has an unshakable confidence in the help of the Lord God. Despite knowing the agony awaiting Him, He had a steadfast determination to obey the Lord God and to follow His way. It is quite unfortunate that Some Christians will say, “I am not a fool to undergo such agony or slander. I cannot take this cross anymore…” However, a true servant of Christ must make for himself no reputation when he takes upon himself the work of His Lord. In realization of the prophecy of Isaiah on the Suffering Servant, Christ in the Gospel presents to us the way of the cross. The Evangelist Mark has his style of writing.
Mark presents Christ as a teacher and healer. As a teacher, there was a moment Christ wanted to know how far his students (disciples) have understood him and his mission on earth, having taught them for three years in his “institute”. Christ sets an examination of two questions for them. First, he asks, “Who do men say that I am?” Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah or one of the prophets (Mark 8:27-30), they responded. These answers were not so clear on the identity of Christ and he asked the second question, “But who do YOU say that I am?” It was Peter who gave the correct answer to the identity of Christ, but with the Jewish understanding of the Messiah; a messiah that would be a conqueror, who would neither end in agony on the cross, nor suffer. This is the picture of the messiah Peter and the Jewish people had; when Christ realized what was at stake, He began to teach them about his type of Messiahship, a Messiah that must go to Jerusalem to suffer, which is contrary to their general belief of the Messiah.
This became the hardest truth for them, the choice of following Christ and the cost of discipleship, to deny oneself, take up one’s cross and follow Christ. The humiliation, pain, suffering and sacrifice of Christ on the Cross was His love for humanity in praxis. This is what St. James draws our attention to in the second reading about faith and good works. James reminds us that faith without good works is dead. Christ proved his love for us despite the flints or roughness of the journey to the cross. We too must prove our love for Christ despite the challenges that confront us. We must learn to carry our crosses with Christ, as it requires setting our faces like flint, with our eyes fixed on Him as the metal or goal of our race. Happy Sunday!
Fr. Ken Dogbo, OSJ