In the name Jesus Christ, there’s an implication that Jesus is your Messiah. Christ is the Greek(ish) word for the Hebrew(ish) word Messiah. In Luke 9 you’re forced to think about what that really means.
Most importantly, it’s Jesus himself who forces the question on you. Because if you’re going to follow him, you need to know something about who you’re following and what the journey might be like. And you may well ask, “Is he worth following?”
Jesus explains why it is!
You must engage (18-20)
Throughout Luke chapters 8 and 9 we’ve seen Jesus doing some amazing things.
- He calmed a storm just by commanding it to stop. His disciples were amazed: Read Luke 8:25.
- “Who then is this man?” is the question that keeps coming back to you as you read.
- He commands demons, heals the sick, even raises the dead! He fed 5,000 people miraculously.
- Even Herod wondered: Read Luke 9:7-9.
Jesus is about to force the question on his 12 Apostles. But before he does, he prays: Read Luke 9:18.
As ever, Luke emphasises throughout his gospel and Acts that whenever something significant happens in the church, prayer comes first. Amazing things happen in such a way that God is glorified. That’s because we pray for him to do things only he can – and we glorify him even in the asking, honouring his power.
He starts with an easy question for them. It’s easy to talk about God, about Jesus, etc. And they just repeat what Herod had heard: Read Luke 9:19.
But that’s not really enough. These men have seen Jesus in action and heard him preach. They’re first-hand eyewitnesses of all he’s done. Which means they can see who he really is. And when they know that, they must respond.
A very pointed question
So Jesus is really pointed: Read Luke 9:20.
- And make no mistake, the “But you” is still pointed, but now it’s to you.
- Because Jesus is your only hope of salvation (as we’ll see shortly).
- Which means you must engage with him, on his terms, for who he is.
The reply from Peter is simple truth: “God’s Messiah.”
- The Messiah long promised, long expected.
- Messiah just means “anointed”. Instead of being crowned, someone would have oil poured over their head.
- And as “God’s Messiah”, this was someone who had been ‘crowned’ / anointed by God.
- But we know this already: Read Luke 4:18-19.
- And the Holy Spirit had descended on Jesus at his baptism – there’s no confusion about who he is.
But here’s the thing: There’s a world of difference between “People get cancer” (which we all know and agree is awful and sad) and hearing “You’ve got cancer” (rather more life-changing).
So Jesus might ask you today, “Who did Peter say I am?” and you’d say “God’s Messiah.”
But still, he’d be pointed with you: “But you, who do you say I am?”
- Because you need Jesus Christ, Messiah.
- Everyone does; there’s no hope for eternity without him.
Which makes what happens next a bit surprising:
Jesus is the servant king (21-22)
Read Luke 9:21.
“Strictly warned and instructed” – it’s a clear, strong command. No ifs or buts. Then he says why: Read Luke 9:22.
To which we might think, “Is it really necessary? Is that the right word?”
Now, it’s clear that Jesus came on a mission. The popular hope in his own time was that the mission was to restore Israel to a dominant nation in the world, overthrowing the Romans (at the least). (It’s even suggested that the 5,000 men who were fed by Jesus had actually gathered to make him king by force, to begin a rebellion.)
But we need to understand the Anointed Messiah’s task as described in Scripture.
- Jesus owned the term “Anointed” by the Spirit from Isaiah 61. The whole book of Isaiah speaks of Christ’s coming.
- In the first half we’re introduced to Immanuel, God with Us. He will be a conquering king, defeating all enemies of Israel – and the last enemy to be destroyed is death (Isaiah 25:8).
- But in the second half of Isaiah, we’re introduced to the Spirit-anointed Servant. He’s the Messiah who will die to save his people, “pierced for our transgressions” (Is 53) but who will also bring in a New Creation (Is 65)!
So when Jesus says “It is necessary” for him to die because he’s Messiah, it’s necessary because it fulfils Scripture (the plan).
But more, it’s necessary for him to die to save you.
- You were sinful from birth; no-one taught you to sin.
- You were dead in sin. Dead to God and all spiritual life.
- Being dead, you were without hope.
- You were very much in the Kingdom of Darkness (as 1 Peter puts it). Lost and hopeless.
So who is Jesus to you?
But then: Jesus. “Who do you say I am?”
- He is Son of God Most High.
- Jesus is God’s Messiah, the king.
- And he’s the Servant who left heaven’s glories to come to die as a substitute in your place, taking the punishment of death that you deserve.
He is worthy of all honour, glory, worship and praise as the very author of life! But he denied himself all that. He denied himself to come and save you.
Having done all that, it’s obvious why he wants to press on you the question, “But you, who do you say I am?”
Jesus today is the risen Christ and Lord. He is the eternal Messiah who reigns over you already. Jesus came to save you, and today offers you eternal life.
- Today, you are called to repent of the sin that condemns you. He stands open-armed to receive your petition for forgiveness.
- He came to die to take the punishment your sins deserve.
- He didn’t sin. You can be credited with righteousness by turning to him in faith. He will hear; he will forgive; and he will save.
“It is necessary” for him to die because he chose to do so for you. It was necessary for him to die, if you are to live. Today, your eternal life begins when you turn in repentance and faith; repent of your sin, cry out in faith for forgiveness. And then:
Follow him daily (23-27)
After Peter’s declaration of Jesus as “God’s Messiah”, the immediate news that “it is necessary” for Jesus to die was a bit surprising, to begin with.
But the shift to v23 is even more surprising.
Read Luke 9:23.
- What does it mean to deny yourself?
- Well, if your natural self has wrong desires, ungodly values, and tendencies to idolatry – it’s pretty clear you need to deny that version of your self.
- What does it mean to take up your cross?
- It was customary for condemned criminals being crucified that they carried the cross-piece themselves (the upright was permanently fixed in the ground).
- Jesus says you need to do that.
- Essentially, if you’re going to follow Jesus you need to be ready to put your head on the block if required – be ready for the ultimate sacrifice in his name.
At which point we need to ask Luke some questions…
- Earlier on, we read about the tax collector Levi repenting of his sins and having a feast in Jesus’ honour.
- We also read of a woman who had repented and been forgiven her sin and was so, so grateful and joyous.
- Then after the feeding of the 5,000 we saw how those disciples who served in Jesus’ name were themselves abundantly blessed with the over-abundance of Jesus.
So where did the joy go? Where’s the feast?
What’s this about denying myself and taking up a cross?
Have the goal-posts moved? Can I have my ticket money back?
It’s good to ask questions like that because they help you understand the true nature of following Jesus.
- In truth, when you deny your self you’re actually repenting of your sin and turning to God – something you’re to do daily.
- Repentance and faith in Jesus is the entrance into the kingdom of God; but you’re hardly the finished article. You will need repentance and faith daily.
- You need a living faith to see that the feast is fellowship with Jesus; the feast is Jesus, and the feast is serving him.
You think, “Whoa! I’m not ready for that! I’ll put this off.”
Read Luke 9:24.
- The word for “life” there is the same as “soul” – it’s not just the bones of you, or even the spirit of you, but all of you.
- If you give up all of who and what you are to Jesus you will receive fullness of life in him.
- But if you try to cling to your self, you’ll only lose it.
Because you will lose everything you can touch.
Read Luke 9:25.
- Financial security feels nice, but it’s an illusion of security.
- You will one day face God, who doesn’t care if you have £1M in the bank, and he will hold you to account.
But God himself wants to prepare you for that day! That’s why it was necessary for Jesus to die, for you.
And that’s why Jesus implores you to come to him today: Read Luke 9:26.
The kingdom of God
Come today, because there’s hope for today. Read Luke 9:27.
When is he talking about?
- Is it the transfiguration (next in Luke)?
- Or Jesus’ resurrection? Maybe it’s Pentecost?
- Some suggest the fall of Jerusalem in AD70 or even Christ’s second coming (yet to happen).
Well, what is the kingdom of God, so that we might “see” it?
- It’s anywhere that people are living under God’s Messiah Servant King.
- Anywhere that people are serving King Jesus, living in daily repentance and denial of self, living in daily faith that he is worth sticking your neck out for and living for.
What does denial of self look like for you? That depends on your own sinful tendencies that you need to repent of.
- Where sexual desires and attractions are portrayed in the Bible as sinful, denial of self calls for self-control.
- The Bible is clear that sex is only to be within the marriage of one man and one woman, as a symbol of the love and union between Christ and his church.
- For those with sexual desire outside that, Jesus calls for denial of self.
- Other people will have different sinful desires: Many desire the comfort of wealth, denying the sufficiency of Christ’s provision and comfort.
- You might have unhelpful obsessions and perfections, which robs you of joy and causes you to find fault in others.
- Maybe you’re just lazy. You know you ought to do certain things, and you make excuses to yourself, but deep down you just don’t want to do stuff. Deny your self.
- Lots of people fear stepping out for fear of causing offence. Jesus says you’re to put your head on the block, pick up your cross, take the risk (and the flak).
- Obedience to parents; telling the truth; dealing honestly; paying taxes.
Repent and turn again to Jesus
Where you fall short of God’s standard, repent. Realise your sin truly, and reorient from sin to God.
Is that easy? No, because we love our sin.
Is it worth it? Yes, because Jesus is the treasure you gain.
Following Jesus is always worth it, acting for his glory and pleasure. Does that sound like “jam tomorrow” and just pain today? For Christians suffering around the world for their faith, who only know pain today, Christ is certainly hope for tomorrow but also comfort for today.
Likewise, if you deny your sinful self and step out in faith for Jesus, you will be drawing closer to him.
Your nourishment and blessing will come to you from Jesus.
That is very much jam today! And tomorrow. To eternity.