The Messianic Secret and the Cross
Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio -
The Messianic Secret -- why does Jesus not want the word to get out that he is the Messiah?? Could it have something to do with the cross and the enigma that the only way to find yourself is to lose yourself? And, with Father's Day occuring on June 20 this year, might this not shed light on the authentic role of the father in a Christian family?
Jesus asks a simple question. “Who do the crowds say that I am?” (Luke 9:18) All volunteer an answer, because describing other people’s opinions requires no personal commitment whatsoever. But then Jesus asks them a tougher question: “Who do YOU say that I am?” Answering this one entails sticking your neck out a bit.
The impetuous Peter blurts out what they are all secretly thinking. “The Messiah!”
Just as we are getting ready to break into applause, Jesus throws us a curve ball. “He strictly forbade them to tell this to anyone.”
First we need to remind ourselves what the term “messiah,” (“Christ” in Greek). For the people of the Old Testament including Jews of the first century, “messiah” simply meant the “anointed one,” namely, the anointed king of Judah. The model king of Judah was, of course, David (the Bathsheba incident notwithstanding). What did David do for his people? He was a mighty warrior who drove Israel’s enemies out of the Promised Land and made the Jews an independent, proud, and prosperous people.
The last “messiah” to sit on his ancestor’s throne did not manage to do so well. Far from conquering Israel’s enemies, he was led into exile in Babylon with the few leaders that the Babylonians had not slaughtered. For 500 years there was no “messiah,” no reigning king of Judah. During this time the prophets spoke of a new David to come who would liberate Israel from its enemies. Victory parades, vengeance on the hated Romans, prosperity, jobs, maybe even a new empire, as under Solomon–that’s how people inevitably interpreted such prophecies. When the mother of Zebedee’s sons asked if the boys could sit at Jesus’ right and left hand, this is how she was thinking.
True, Jesus was the Messiah. But the enemy he had come to deal with was much more formidable than the Romans. It would have been easier to drive the Romans out of Palestine that to drive sin out of the human heart. Tiberius Caesar was a tin-horn dictator compared to the Prince of this world.
Yes, Jesus was to ride in triumph into Jerusalem, but on a donkey, not a war horse. Yes, he was to wear a crown, but of thorns, not of gold.
And, yes, his closest associates would share in his exaltation. But he is lifted up not on a dais but on a cross. So simply calling him the Messiah, without explanation, would definitely give people the right word but the wrong idea.
If you look at the total biblical picture and put all the prophecies together, you can see that the cross is part of the basic requirements of the long-awaited messiah. And if you read the entire New Testament, you also see that the cross is part of the basic, required package for the Messiah’s followers. It is not any optional extra for the all-star team. You cannot be a Christian with the proviso that you’ll do anything as long as it remains within your comfort zone.
When Jesus says each disciple must deny his very self and “lose his life,” it should not be misinterpreted. Some people think that means losing their unique identity and personality, that Christianity is like being in a cult where everyone looks, acts and thinks the same.
It is precisely the opposite. We often do not know who we really are, what our true gifts are, what will truly make us happy. God knows us better than we know ourselves and loves us more than we love ourselves. After all, he made each of us. Denying our “selves” means here denying our self-will, which is often naive and, in some cases, self-destructive. The cross means laying our lives down for others, which ultimately fulfils who we are at the core of our being, since we are made in the image likeness of a community of self-giving love, the Holy Trinity.
The cross means that when my will and God’s will cross swords, I drop my sword and God wins. And I trust that His will ultimately will lead to fulfillment of my unique call and personality, even if in the short run, it hurts. If you look at the saints, you see how this plays out. St. Francis of Assisi is very different from St. Ignatius of Loyola. Mother Teresa and St. Therese, the Little Flower couldn’t be more diverse in personality and lifestyle. It just proves that submission to God’s will means becoming not a clone, but an amazingly unique masterpiece of the Divine Artist.
This article originally appeared in Our Sunday Visitor as a reflection on the Scripture readings for the 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time, cycle C (Zechariah 12: 10-11; Psalm 63, Galatians 3:26-29; Luke 9:18-24). It is reproduced here by permission of the author.
Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio writes from Texas. For info on his resources or his pilgrimage to the Holy Land, visit www.crossroadsinitiative.com or call 1.800.803.0118.
Follow Us -
Join us on Facebook
Join us on Twitter
Be a part of the “new springtime” of evangelization! Your tax-deductible gift helps us use TV, radio, and the web to proclaim the message without compromise but in language even the young can understand. Click here to donate now.
To download, print and share - click here!
I Believe - The Heart of the Catholic Faith - DVD Set
In this dynamic, four-part faith formation series, on the Creed, Dr. D'Ambrosio explains how this expression of the basic beliefs of Roman Catholicism is relevant to our personal relationship with God.
Feast of Faith -
The Transforming Power of the Eucharist
"The Feast of Faith," is an enlightening, four-part adult faith formation series (on 2 CDs, or 2 DVDs) guaranteed to unlock the life-changing power of the Eucharist in your life. Be sure to order the Feast of Faith Workbook, you may view it online, to get the most out of this amazing Eucharist Series!
Feast of Faith DVD - $49.95
Feast of Faith – CD - $19.95
Feast of Faith Workbook - $6.95
Confirmation - The Sacrament of Champions
Why do we need the sacrament of confirmation? What is the purpose and meaning of this sacramental anointing? These questions and more are answered by this dynamic talk appropriate for both teens and adults.
God's Seven Gifts: The Seven Sacraments of the Catholic Church
The Catholic Church has always emphasized how important the seven sacraments are for our lives. Yet many take these 7 sacraments for granted. With little understanding of the sacraments, many are simply going through the motions. This CD will give you new insight into the meaning of these seven unique embraces of divine love that will unlock the power of the sacraments in your life!
BioLean® of the BioLean® Weight Management System - free-shipping
Ephedra-free BioLean®, of the BioLean® Weight Management System, is an excellent natural choice to help jump-start your healthy lifestyle. Designed to help curb your cravings, promote healthy energy levels, and satisfy your appetite, BioLean® is powered by Advantra Z®, the only patented citrus aurantium extract for weight loss on the market today. The great thing about BioLean® is that is can help reduce body fat even while promoting the development of lean muscle mass --the only path to long-term, healthy weight loss.
Exploring the Catholic Church: An Introduction to Catholic Teaching & Practice
Exploring the Catholic Church: An Introduction to Catholic Teaching and Practice by Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio is an accessible, affordable Roman Catholic Book--perfect gift for anyone!! -- the inactive Catholic, the Sunday Catholic wanting to know more, Protestants who want to know why Catholics do what they do. In fact there are TWO chapters devoted to the meaning of the Eucharist and how to get more out of it! An enjoyable approach to faith formation and religious eduation.