“Who was that masked man?” This line was said by somebody near the end of every episode of The Lone Ranger. The response was usually: “I don’t know, but he left a silver bullet.” The hero was the sole survivor of an ambush, and as he worked to make things right in the old West, he had to hide his identity, wearing a black mask, almost moving from place to place. A very humble hero, to be sure, who tried to help people in trouble with telling them who he was or what his motivations were.
In the Gospel today, Jesus comes to Capernaum for the first time. It’s a little village on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee, it only had a couple of hundred residents or so in that time. Jesus shows up at the synagogue on Saturday, and teaches them in a way that blows their minds. Then he drives a demon from a possessed man. There weren’t multi-taskers in Jesus’ day: there were great teaching rabbis and there were exorcists, but nobody did both before this. The people are asking: “who is this?”
This question is the question that runs throughout the Gospel of Mark. Jesus true identity comes out in bits, and he silences anybody (like the demons) who already knows or who’s experienced him close up. It’s a question the Gospel wants us to figure out for ourselves: Jesus is many, many things, but we have to put the full picture together for ourselves. The people of that time didn’t figure everything out, and we still have trouble with that today.
When I was in grad school, the best advice I got for tests was to understand what the question is asking before looking for an answer. So it is with Christ, the journey of figuring out who Jesus is to us is as important as the destination, and how we answer that questions means everything to how we live out our faith. If we focus on one thing too much, we miss something, and that’s one reason I think we come together are Church: to work out that question together. Some people see Jesus as the Warrior, or the Teacher, or Healer, or Judge, and He is all these things and more. But if our answers are too far apart, it pulls us apart, and leads us to some wrong conclusions.
“Who is Jesus?” is a question we are called to work on for the rest of our lives. We are called to work on it separately, and we are called to work on it together. Perhaps the most challenging part of that journey is the realization that as we share the Eucharist, Jesus is part of us. If Jesus is part of us, how does that call us to live in the world today?