Luke 9:18-27 (NRSV)
Once when Jesus was praying alone, with only the disciples near him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” They answered, “John the Baptist; but others, Elijah; and still others, that one of the ancient prophets has arisen.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered, “The Messiah of God.”
He sternly ordered and commanded them not to tell anyone, saying, “The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”
Then he said to them all, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words, of them the Son of Man will be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. But truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.”
We have reached a critical turning point in the Gospel of Jesus according to Luke. Everything has been building to this point.
WHO IS JESUS?
Last week, Herod asked the question:
Now Herod the ruler heard about all that had taken place, and he was perplexed, because it was said by some that John had been raised from the dead, by some that Elijah had appeared, and by others that one of the ancient prophets had arisen. Herod said, “John I beheaded; but who is this about whom I hear such things?”
Who is this Jesus?
It is the question that Luke has been asking us over and over for the first half of the book.
And throughout the Gospel Luke has given us hints.
But now Jesus brings the question to the forefront.
“Who do the crowds say that I am?”
Jesus has gone to a private place with his disciples. And we are told that he was praying in that quiet place.
Jesus, in Luke's Gospel, is always found in prayer when he comes to a critical moment in his life and ministry.
A couple weeks from now, we will look more closely at how Jesus understood prayer.
But in a nutshell, prayer is that link --- that connection --- that intimate link with God.
So Jesus is praying --- and he turns to his disciples --- his closest friends and he asks them.
“Who do the crowds say that I am?”
Let's just stop right here for a moment.
I find this fascinating.
I love Jesus style.
Jesus doesn't sit down his disciples and lecture them on who he is.
He starts with his relationship with them.
“Who do the crowds say that I am?”
"So, my friends, what are the people saying about me?"
Jesus wants to listen to what they have to say.
Luke tells us:
They answered, “John the Baptist; but others, Elijah; and still others, that one of the ancient prophets has arisen.”
The crowds have some understanding, based on what they have seen and heard but it is limited --- like Herod.
Is Jesus, John the Baptist brought back from he dead?
Or maybe he is Elijah?
Or then again, maybe some other prophet --- Moses perhaps?
Jesus doesn't rebuke them for the people's failure to fully understand who he is -- instead:
Jesus said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Is there a scarier question that could come from Jesus?
How would you answer that question?
Seriously --- How would you answer?
Take a moment and ponder that question
WHO IS JESUS TO YOU?
Son of God
WHO IS JESUS TO YOU?
Anybody remember how Peter answered?
“The Messiah of God.”
And we all say --- Of course --- Jesus is God's Messiah!
BUT WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?
In the context of first century Judea, it could mean many things.
Of course, in the biblical context (the Hebrew Bible), Messiah meant God's anointed ruler.
And that could mean many things.
· A ruler like David who would reestablish Israel as a great nation
· A priestly ruler who would restore temple worship to its proper form
· A prophet who will usher in the end of times
Which one was Jesus?
How does Jesus answer Peter's "confession"?
He tells Peter not to tell anybody and then begins what will for the most part consume Luke for the rest of his telling of the Gospel.
What Discipleship is all about!
But I find it fascinating that Jesus doesn't correct, or just come out and tell who he is.
Jesus seems to want us to wrestle with it.
But he does, as we are going to find out, explain to us what being a disciple is all about.
But before we look at the five sayings on Discipleship that follow Peter's confession, I want to spend a little more time on WHO JESUS IS
Does anybody remember that great movie RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK.
The plot of the movie revolves around two teams of archeologists who are racing to find the Ark of the Covenant during the Second World War
One group wants to capture the Ark for Hitler
The other group, headed by an archeologist who doesn't seem to always play by the rules (Harrison Ford) is searching to get it for the free world.
When we read the Hebrew Bible we know that the Ark is they symbol of God being with us. The Ark was the presence of God!
After all kinds of crazy action sequences, the movie comes to a climax when the ark is opened up and literally all Hell breaks loose!
I think the movie makers got it wrong --- my hunch is that if the Ark were ever to be found that when it would open NOTHING would happen.
The Ark was a symbol of God's presence with us and God's covenant. Jesus is the new ark and the new covenant.
Jesus is God's power and presence with us!
I find it telling, that as soon as Peter announces who he believes Jesus to be, Jesus then goes on and begins --- very succinctly to explain what following Jesus --- what discipleship is all about.
He does it with five sayings that draw together a variety of images to convey the radical demands of following Jesus.
The central image of the first is the cross.
“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me"
To follow Jesus means to be ready to lay down one's life just as Jesus did.
Luke makes one slight modification from Mark in that he adds the word DAILY
In other words, he seems to be saying that discipleship requires a continuing daily yielding of one's life in order to follow Jesus.
Our cross is that difficult thing that we have chosen to do because we are God's people.
We choose a hard place, a difficult relationship, a thankless job.
We serve on a ministry team, feed the hungry, help a neighbor.
We do the things we DON'T HAVE TO, because we feel that is God's agenda for our lives.
The second saying echo's the exhortations given to soldiers about to enter battle. The first to die will be those who turn to run.
"For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it."
This saying might have had special meaning to those who were facing persecution --- but even for us --- Jesus is pointing out the paradox of life.
True fulfillment is found not when we indulge in our own ambitions or interests, but when we freely give up our life.
The third saying moves from the battlefield to the marketplace.
"What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves?"
Our desire to succeed, to acquire stuff, to prosper is powerful.
We are easily seduced into believing that our 401k is our security and salvation.
That fulfillment is found by means of financial prosperity.
Jesus is cutting the ground out from us when we are preoccupied with material wealth.
What have we gained --- Jesus asks --- if we own the whole world, but have lost ourselves in the process?
Jesus is reminding us that there are dimensions of life that are essential to happiness and fulfillment that are not satisfied with financial security and material wealth.
The fourth saying links our public profession of the lordship of Jesus to his acknowledgement of our discipleship at the end of time.
"Those who are ashamed of me and of my words, of them the Son of Man will be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels."
Jesus seems to be telling us that we cannot be "private" disciples. Our discipleship must be seen and lived out in the world.
We must not only say we follow Jesus --- our lives must demonstrate it.
The final saying really is about the kingdom and not discipleship
"But truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God."
This follows the forth saying about Jesus returning, reminding us that the Kingdom is close by.
Discipleship and Lordship are always inter-related.
These five sayings, following Peter's confession help us to understand what it means to confess Jesus as Lord.
This theme will continue through the rest of Luke's Gospel.
But clearly, Jesus is teaching us that discipleship requires a total commitment of life,
a willingness to take up the cross
a giving of one's life in obedience to Jesus' direction
forsaking the pursuit of wealth
and living out our discipleship publicly
So, let me ask you again ---
WHO DO YOU SAY JESUS IS?
And does your life match your words?