What's My Line?

On the old quiz show “What’s My Line?” a panel of celebrities tried to discover the occupation of a contestant, who was required to answer their questions honestly but without revealing any pertinent clues. The contestant won if the panel failed. In today’s Gospel Jesus asks that same question: What’s my line?—“Who do you say that I am?” The difference, a significant one, is that Jesus really wanted the people to discover who he was, and he provided clues that should have revealed his identity.

Zechariah called attention to the house of David, the line of Jesus’ ancestry. We know that on many occasions Jesus was identified as the son of David. Those who mistook Jesus for John the Baptist, Elijah or one of the other prophets were correct in recognizing his religious nature. Still, their perception of him fell far short. It was Peter who cried out in the name of the other disciples, “You are the Christ of God.” But even this answer was unclear. Since Christ means anointed one, was Peter thinking of a political son of David, an anointed king who would restore the independent nation of Israel? Or did he have an anointed priest in mind, a cultic leader after the model of Aaron? Jesus never denied that he was the anointed one. But according to which tradition was this to be understood?

Actually, it was according to neither of the more popular traditions. Instead, Jesus referred to himself as the Son of Man, the mysterious individual who appeared in the clouds of heaven (see Dn 7:13). But to this majestic image Jesus adds a disturbing element—he will suffer, be rejected and be killed. Such a fate corresponds to Zechariah’s vision of the one who is pierced.

This slight but significant modification of the Son of Man tradition does not suggest that it was initially wrong or is now irrelevant. On the contrary. We reinterpret and reshape theology that is too significant to be lost. This is precise

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