Luke 9:18-27 [Audio at bottom]
Preparing for Phase II of the Messianic Ministry: Luke 9:18-51
Then he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answered, “The Christ of God.” “And he strictly charged and commanded them to tell this to no one, saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”
- First time Jesus is called the Christ by one of his followers.
- First time Jesus reveals to His disciples that his mission will end in His death and resurrection.
In 9:51 Jesus literally sets out on the path to his suffering and rejection and ultimate death. Jesus would be literally walking to the cross, every day faced with the choice of walking South on the path closer to Jerusalem, tarrying where he is at, or going back North, away from the cross. In a very real sense - Jesus carries his cross even here in Galilee even before the start of phase II of the Messiah’s mission. He preparing to leave, He is in the process of taking up His cross. The key word is “must”. The Son of Man “must” suffer. The Messiah “must be rejected. “Must” was a word that set the direction of Jesus’ life. Jesus’ Messianic mission fails if He does not take up his cross and daily set His course to Jerusalem, to the hill upon which he will suffer, be rejected and die. The Mission of the Messiah was not merely to proclaim the compassion of God, or to display the power of God. The Mission of the Messiah was not merely to be the Man of Marvels, but to be Rejected and Risen Regent (King). It is not that Jesus’ mission is only to suffer and be rejected and be killed, but to suffer and be rejected and be killed and to be raised from the dead. So that’s important to keep in mind: Phase II of the Messianic Mission is to suffer, rejection and death and to rise again over suffering, rejection and death.
The Non-Metaphorical Call to Discipleship
Keeping in mind that Jesus is prepping himself for Phase II of his ministry amplifies the call to discipleship found in Luke 9:23-26.
And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”
I want to first look at this passage in the context of Jesus preparing himself to set out on Phase II of his Messianic ministry. He said to all - He’s turning and calling to the crowds of those who have been marveling at his words and his teachings and now is asking for a response. Let’s try to consider for a minute at least that Jesus is not speaking metaphorically. What would it mean to literally come after Jesus here? Would it not mean to pack up your life into a backpack, to sever yourself from relationships and entanglements that would keep hold on you, and hit the road with Jesus when he sets out on Phase II? Wouldn’t it mean to accompany Jesus into his sufferings and rejection? Wouldn’t you have to make the same choice daily - do I keep on going with Jesus today, or do I turn home and go back? Daily - like Jesus do i take up the mission of the cross and keep heading to Jerusalem? Notice this, the promise of suffering and rejection is extended to the disciples. What’s the opposite of suffering - wouldn’t it be gaining the whole world? The path Jesus is calling us to walk on most assuredly will not gain you the whole world - but you may just save yourself. to be ashamed of Jesus is to reject Jesus - yet why might be be ashamed of Jesus? Isn’t it that we ourselves are scared of rejection? So yes, if you are to pack up and follow Jesus on his path you most assuredly are walking to his fate. One of my favorite lines in the gospel of John when Jesus wants to go back to Jerusalem and they are telling Jesus that if He goes back He’s going to people are going to kill him and yet Jesus wants to go and Thomas(!) says basically, we might as well go with him and die with him, too. So this was the literal call. Pack your bags, walk with me and die. But yet remember, we’re given more information - Jesus is not simply going to Jerusalem to die, but to live! It is necessary that the Christ dies, yes, so that He can be raised again! Luke’s theology of salvation is primarily resurrection-focused, meaning this: the death of Christ is necessary because the Messiah must stand in victory over death so that He can offer forgiveness of sins to the nations. Therefore, the invitation to the path of death is actually a invitation to the path of life!
The Call to Discipleship
Here then is the principle that we want to take out of the literal, contextual, if-we-were-there scenario and put it into todays life: Pushing the boulder of self-glory vs. taking up the cross of self-denial. here’s what I want to say: we are all carrying something. See we think that we live our lives free and unencumbered, and so we see Christ’s call to take up our cross as taking on an unbearable burden, but I want to submit to you that you’re already carrying something. Who knows the story of Sisyphus? The story of Sisyphus is a greek tale, a legend or a myth. If you know a little of the story, you might be familiar that we was assigned by the greek god Zeus to roll a large boulder up a hill for all eternity. The tragic part is that Zeus had enchanted to boulder so that if Sisyphus ever got close to the top of the hill, the boulder would roll away back down the mountain. Sisyphus was doomed to an eternity of repetitive failure, a fate worse than death. What you might not be as familiar with is that the story of Sisyphus is a morality tale. What did Sisiphus do to earn his fate? The story is that King Sisyphus’s life is a monument to self-glory. Sisyphus was extremely greedy and deceitful. He killed travellers and guests, taking pleasure in these killings because they allowed him to maintain his iron-fisted rule. In whatever stories told of Sisyphus, he is famed as the craftiest of men. So the story of Sisyphus is a tale of the futility of striving to preserve self. The mountain is self-glory, and the boulder is all of our efforts to attain glory of self. So we push ourselves up the mountain, seeking our own glory and our comfort and our ways and our ends and our name and our joy. And everytime we push higher up on the mountain, the weight of our pursuits fall back on us again, yet we still strive on.
I was sitting in a restaurant not too long ago with a friend who had made some bad choices in his life. Like, decades of bad choices. Decades of bad choices and devastating consequences. Now the consequences are not surprising. For there is a moral law revealed in Scripture (and through life experience) that what a man sows, he shall reap. God has set up the universe so that, in general, we may butt our heads against God’s moral laws, but we can’t get around them. They hedge us in and our sin and bad choices lead to self-destructive consequences.
- Gossip is a wildfire, scorching lives and ruining reputations.
- Sexual promiscuity does many times lead to STD’s, shame, and broken hearts.
- Drunkenness does ruin lives.
- Idleness does drive a man to ruin.
- Pride does blind us to the things that will lead to our ruin.
Yet our conversation was not simply about choices, actions and consequences. It was about the terrifying fact that through the decades, even in the face of devastating consequences, my friend had continued making the choices he made because he genuinely thought he was preserving himself, even as his life was falling apart around him. Pushing the boulder of self-glory leads to destruction.
So when Jesus calls us to take up our cross, he’s actually calling us to stop our fruitless pursuit of self-glory and to follow him carrying the cross of self-denial. Some of you are exhausted because you’ve been pushing that boulder for years.
Now i wish I could say that if you set down the boulder of self-glory life would get easier. The cross of self-denial is not ease, but it is life. I can promise you it is life. We may carry the cross of self-denial and of suffering for a time, but we follow Jesus and it leads to life.
[If time] What boulders are people pushing?
- Talk with Hans about Apple.
- Jesus words speak to this “what does it profit a man to gain the whole world?”
- People deny themselves for a company. Company does not love them like Jesus. Company does not produce anything as important as the gospel. Company does not offer the benefits of Jesus: eternal life.
- Cultural idols of marriage and sex lead single people to make bad decisions.
- The cultural idol of marriage lead Christians to date whomever’s availible.
- Interested in me - therefore he must be the one.
- He says he’s a Christian - therefore he must be the one.
- He’s sensitive and he listens - he must be the one.
- The cultural idol of sex leads us to destruction - Proverbs 6:27: can you heap burning coals on your lap and not get burned? Adultery. Pornography. Using you body or another’s to seek pleasure is a boulder that will roll back down on you.
- I want to make a name for myself. So destructive when it is in business or career, but what about in the church. How many ministries are simply pushing our own boulders up the hill rather than carrying the cross of self-denial and following Jesus? Check your motivations. This is not about ambition it is about glory. Is it your aim to magnify Christ in all you do? Or do you use Christ as a platform to magnify yourself?
- What boulder are you pushing?