Since moving to Peoria, Kim and I have been working hard to connect faces and names. For the most part we are doing pretty good – we know most of the people and have either had them in our house or have been in theirs. People loves and we them. However, there are some names and faces that we just cannot make stick. For example, there is a young couple (whom I will leave nameless not because I can’t remember their name but for privacy) which it took several weeks for us to finally get their names to stick. It is just one of those things…
The worst is when you think you have someones name but it is the wrong name and you call them by that name you think you know. Color me embarassed. There is the briefest of awkward moments before I say, “Yeah, so about that thing,” and try my hardest to move on.
This is sort of the thing that was happening in Jesus day with him: people, for one reason or another, we confusing him with all sorts of people – the disciples tell us that people thought Jesus was John the baptist, Elijah, even one of the prophets of old. Some people just could not get it right. So Jesus, in Luke 9.18-27, is going to set the record straight.
Question 1: What about the crowds?
Luke tells us Jesus is in a private place praying. Lots of emphasis on prayer in Luke. Sometime go through and study this great theme and see what it says about Jesus, his life, and prayer. He is praying, his disciples are with him, and he asks them a question: “Who do the crods say I am?” A simple question – I mean everyone knows Jesus; he is the great miracle worker, the healer, the awesome teacher, everyone loves him. But the answer given is not as easy as it should be. Everyone is confused about the character of Jesus. No one is identifying him for who he is, the Messiah, the Anointed one of God, the Son of God. In fact, he is every other great prophet except the prophet he really is.
Question 2: What about the disciples?
Ok. So everyone else has it mixed up, but certainly those men who are around him 24/7, in ministry with him, have seen the miracles…surely they know. Peter speaks up and hits the nail on the head: “The Christ of God.” And for the moment they have it. They know who they are dealing with, the one who was promised and will bring Israel back into prominience. Such great news cannot be kept to oneself , right? Well, Jesus tells them not to tell. The text says he “strictly warned them not to tell this.” And we scratch our heads and say “Why not?” I think the answer is very simple: to avoid further misunderstanding. The crowds have got it wrong thus far, why add this to the mix to further confuse them. At the present time, the crowds could not handle it and (as will be seen later) neither could the disciples. However, there is coming a time when the people will be ready and the apostolic band will give them all they want concerning the Messiah.
Question 3: What about the Son of Man?
So now that the disciples have this truth in hand, what about Jesus? Does he understand all this stuff about the Christ? He does, he knows his mission and seeks to do the will of God. But to the ears of the disciples,it sounds as if Jesus do not know what he is talking about. The Messiah did not come to die, but to lead Israel back to preeminence. Right? Not exactly. In fact, the disciples had it so wrong with their ideas of the Messiah that Peter, in the parallel accounts, takes Jesus aside and rebukes him. “Don’t talk that kind of talk, Jesus.” This results in Peter being equated to Satan (cf. Matt 16.22-23). So to the Jewish, what Jesus speaks in Luke 8.22 is down-right silly. This is not the Messiah they sought. This, though, is the mission of Jesus, the Son of God. He is to die a gruesome death at the hands of Israel’s leaders according to the plan of God.
Question 4: What about us?
In Luke 8.23-27, Jesus lays it out there as far as the identity of a disciple. This is what is called by some “the rugged plain of reality.” Christianity is not for the faint-hearted nor the lightweights. Jesus commands a kind of faithfulness many refused to live (cf. John 6.66). The reason it is so difficult is because of what it entails. Jesus calls for a daily death of self. Daily we put the cross upon back. Daily we walk where divine feet trod. Daily we follow Jesus to Golgotha. Daily we crucify the old self. We deny ourself, just as the Master has taught us to through his example. It is only through the denial and death of self that we can truly find unity with Christ. That’s not Nick talking; that’s not man-made doctrine. That is just what Jesus said. That is what the whole business of saving and losing your life is about. Only Jesus can save your life. If you try to do it yourself, it will slip through your fingers like a handful of sand.
Tell us, O lifesaver. Explain to the Lord, once you have gained the whole world at the cost of your soul, what will you give to get it back. Half the world. All of it! No, you cannot buy back your life once it is lost. When a disciple gives up all for Christ, he enters life that is life more abundant. It is this life that we share with others. For it is not enough to hord unto ourselves this abundant life; we must share it with others and that boldy, lest we be found “ashamed” of Jesus and his words. What a said thing it would be to stand outside the gates of heaven and learn that your were nothing but a coward for Christ.
The disciple who lives a life to God and not unto himself is a member of the King’s house. You are brought of the kingdom of darkness and brought into the kingdom of the Son, Jesus. It was this kingdom that was ushered in by Jesus when he poured forth the Spirit which the Father had given onto the disciples. They proclaimed this kingdom and preached this very same unity with Christ with a death to self (cf. Rom 6). The reason the death to self is so important is because of what it means. The old self is a slave to sin and unrighteousness. But “anyone who has died has been freed from sin.” No longer does death, sin, Satan have mastery or dominion over you. Instead you are a slave to righteousness, seeking the godly and good and denying self all for the blessing of God to rest upon you.