20. Peter's Confession of Christ
Luke: A Walk Through the Life of Jesus
In Luke’s narrative on the life of Jesus, there is a transition in chapter nine. At this stage in the life and ministry of Christ, scholars believe that Jesus had been teaching on the Kingdom of God and healing the sick for around 18 months. Now it was time to take the training of the disciples to the next level. It was time to send them out on a short-term ministry trip on their own. The disciples had been watching and learning from Jesus while He had taught the Sermon on the Mount and the Parable of the Sower. They had seen him raise the dead, heal the Roman Centurion’s servant, heal the paralyzed and the lepers, cast out demons, and also take authority over the wind and the waves. Now it was their turn! Jesus had explained while they listened, He performed while they watched, but now it was time for them to begin doing the things that he had been doing.
1When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, 2and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. 3He told them: "Take nothing for the journey--no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra tunic. 4Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that town. 5If people do not welcome you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave their town, as a testimony against them." 6So they set out and went from village to village, preaching the gospel and healing people everywhere (Luke 9:1-6).
Power and Authority
It must have been very daunting to be told by Jesus that they were now expected to follow in His footsteps and do what he had done. There must have been all sorts of fears in their minds, especially when Jesus told them that they were on their own, that He would be with them only in Spirit and not in the flesh. Mark tells us they went out in pairs (Mark 6:7), six teams to go to various towns and villages. I wonder if they began competing with one another as to who would go with whom? Perhaps one said, "Please don't send me with Peter, he always says stupid things and is so impulsive!" I'm sure nobody wanted to go with Thomas too, for he was such a realist and well known for looking at things from an earthly point of view; how on earth could he be used of God to heal people? These were not super-saints, they were people just like you and me, people with all kinds of insecurities and fears, yet were now being prepared to go out as sheep among wolves.
They were given power and authority by the Lord to do what He had been doing—to preach the gospel of the kingdom and to heal the sick. It would have been a very exciting yet sobering event for them. I imagine that in a quiet time when they were all together, He laid His hands on them and His authority and power rested on them from that time. What do we mean by the words, power, and authority? Looking at these twelve, viewing them as they were, without the eyes of faith, they looked like such unsubstantial tools for the job that was ahead! Just like you and I, they had to trust that when Jesus said anything was possible for them, it was possible. The Greek word exousia is translated as "authority," and means to have the right to exercise dominion in the spiritual realm. Invisible evil spirits inhabit the spiritual realm and recognize true authority and are bound to obey the Lord's authority that rested on the twelve.
Along with authority, they were given power too. The Greek word dunamis is translated as “power.” This power is the divine ability to accomplish things in the physical realm, which would generally be impossible. The physical realm gives way to the spiritual realm. To illustrate the difference between power and authority, we can use the analogy of a traffic cop. Authority is exercised when he puts up his hand at a busy junction. You must stop because behind the police is the authority of the government. If you do not stop, he has the power to make you stop—the gun in his holster! Authority is nothing without the power to back it up. They were sent to heal the sick and cast out demons, and those demons had to flee because of the Lord’s authority on the twelve. Power was exercised in the physical realm as bodies were healed by the Spirit of God working with them.
Training for Ministry
Jesus’ training wasn’t full of just head knowledge; it was also very practical. The men He had chosen had not been educated men. They were learning as they walked with Jesus. After the resurrection of Christ and the filling of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost, the Jewish leadership was astonished at what the training of the Lord had accomplished in the apostles:
When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus (Acts 4:13).
Jesus had a method of mentoring his disciples. The best form of training is:
1. Leader or trainer explains,
2. The leader walks through the skill to be learned by the disciple
Trainee explains, leader or trainer listens.
3. Trainee or disciple demonstrates knowledge, leader, or trainer checks for understanding.
Leader or trainer performs,
Leader models good performance.
4. Trainee performs, leader watches.
Trainee practices the skill; the leader provides feedback.
Everything they learned was in close relationship to the Master. They watched Him live His life for around 18 months, and now it was time for them to go out and do what He did.
Question 1) Why would the Lord command them not to take anything for the journey, no staff, no bag, no food, money, and no additional shirt or jacket? What was the Lord hoping to accomplish with such a directive?
To take no staff meant to have no defense against robbers on the road. It was also handy to have a staff in walking over the hills of Galilee. Not to take a bag meant to have nothing to carry anything in, no knapsack, backpack or anything—they were to travel light and with no provisions for the journey. They were to have no bread with them, which means they were not to take a packed lunch and no dinner for when they got to the town. He also commanded that they carry with them no money to buy food when they got there. No extra tunic, jacket or coat if it got cold. They were to depend on the Lord and learn how to walk in God's provision for them. There is a new dependence on the Lord Jesus that comes to our lives when we lean totally on the Lord for His provision to keep us and protect us. We get in line with the sparrows when we willingly lead this kind of life: “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Matthew 6:26). Several months later, in His last hours with them in the Upper Room, He asked them this question as to how they were provided for when He had sent out the twelve:
35Then Jesus asked them, “When I sent you out without purse or bag or sandals, did you lack anything?” “Nothing,” they answered. 36"Now, however, He told them, “the one with a purse should take it, and likewise a bag; and the one without a sword should sell his cloak and buy one” (Luke 22:35-36).
At this stage of their lives together with Christ, their training was complete, and as they go from then on, they were to take a purse, a bag, and even a sword to defend themselves. Part of their training was to learn to trust Him to provide for them in their mission. When we are mission-centered, we can trust Him to provide.
They were told to seek a worthy person in whatever town they entered. Matthew gives us more information:
9"Do not acquire gold, or silver, or copper for your money belts, 10or a bag for your journey, or even two coats, or sandals, or a staff; for the worker is worthy of his support. 11"And whatever city or village you enter, inquire who is worthy in it, and stay at his house until you leave that city. 12"As you enter the house, give it your greeting. 13"If the house is worthy, give it your blessing of peace. But if it is not worthy, take back your blessing of peace. 14"Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet. 15"Truly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city (Matthew 10:11-15).
Their ministry was to center on a house in the town; they were not to seek better accommodation. This strategy was not only for that particular time but for after the ascension of Christ and when they took the gospel beyond the land of Israel. To the most part, the early church grew by the people of God building a relationship in a household, starting a house church and multiplying it. The house church strategy was why Saul's (later to become the apostle Paul) persecution of the early church was against believers in house churches: “But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison” (Acts 8:3). In obedience to the Lord's training in this passage, this was why the early church was situated in homes. Saul went from house to house because that was where the church was meeting.
Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my co-workers in Christ Jesus. They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them. Greet also the church that meets at their house (Romans 16:3-5).
Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house (Colossians 4:15).
…also to Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier—and to the church that meets in your home (Philemon 1:2).
The churches in the province of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Priscilla greet you warmly in the Lord, and so does the church that meets at their house (1 Corinthians 16:19).
They were to be aware that there could be opposition and rejection of their message. When persecution took place, they were to do what the Jews did when they left Gentile and pagan lands; they were to shake the dust off their feet. It was a gracious way of reminding Jewish people that this was the New Covenant spoken of by Jeremiah the prophet (Jeremiah 31:31-34), and they were rejecting it.
Luke now focused his readers upon the question that everyone was asking at the time—just who is Jesus?
7Now Herod the tetrarch heard about all that was going on. And he was perplexed, because some were saying that John had been raised from the dead, 8others that Elijah had appeared, and still others that one of the prophets of long ago had come back to life. 9But Herod said, "I beheaded John. Who, then, is this I hear such things about?" And he tried to see him (Luke 9:7-9).
Luke’s evidence is building with each passage explaining Christ’s teaching and His works, and, of course, in this chapter comes Peter’s revelation from the Father that Jesus truly is God incarnate. This same question was on Herod Agrippa’s mind, along with many others at the time.
When the apostles returned, they reported to Jesus what they had done. Then he took them with him and they withdrew by themselves to a town called Bethsaida (Luke 9:10).
Question 2) What would be the reason Jesus wanted them to report to Him? What do you think took place when He got together with them?
The Greek word translated reported means to conduct a narration through to the end, to recount and relate in full. They shared all the stories of what God did among them, with one another and with Jesus. We can be confident that He encouraged and clarified things for them as they recounted to him what had happened, and instructed them further based on their report. More than likely, the reporting back was what we call the Ready, Fire, Aim method of training. This method is to initially instruct the disciple before firing them out on their mission, and in their reporting to Him, He further aimed them and honed the skills they learned in the heat of ministry. People need time to share and process what happened.
We learn so much faster when training and feedback are given to a specific situation that one has encountered. Three years of seminary education is one thing, but some lessons in ministry are only learned by being on the front line, rubbing shoulders with people with real needs among the people we serve. There is no better way of learning to live the Christian life than to walk with others who will give you feedback on areas of your life that still need some correction. That’s why they were sent out in relationship with another, and why they were to share with the One who was mentoring them when they returned. Do not underestimate what can be achieved by just enjoying time together with others involved in front line ministry.
The place where they retired was Bethsaida, a fishing village on the north side of the Sea of Galilee. The name means house of fishing, although some commentators say that it means house of hunting. Bethsaida was about 4 miles by direct sailing or rowing and 8 miles around the northern side of the lake if one walked it from Capernaum. When the people saw Jesus' route, they started walking to where He went, carrying their sick and needy to the Lord. The disciples were probably tired after their short-term ministry trip. Ministry can be demanding and energy depleting. There is an impartation of oneself through ministry. We must take care to be aware of our own spiritual needs and not let ourselves come to a low point through exhaustion. Constant vigilance and awareness of the strategies of the enemy to discourage and intimidate us have to be at the forefront of our minds. A good night’s sleep, nutritious food, and time to pray, reflect, and listen is good medicine to a time of energy-depleting ministry.
I wonder how the disciples responded when they saw thousands of people descending on them when all they wanted to do was rest. Perhaps if it was you or me, we might resent people coming to us when all we want to do is rest, but, instead, we find that Jesus welcomed them (v. 11). How beautiful it is to think that Jesus is always available. Many ministers are protective of their privacy and ‘family time,' not so Jesus. His body language told them that He was happy to see them. I imagine His delighted heart smiling and warmly welcoming them. Mark tells us that “He was moved with compassion towards them” (Mark 6:34).
The disciples had the best mentor in the world. They lived with Him and enjoyed close intimate fellowship as they observed how He lived His life. I believe this is the key to moving in power and authority. Their anointing came out of their close relationship to Christ. It is the same with us. Education is useful if you can get it, but never let it be a substitute for a relationship with Christ. Get close to Him, live a life of love and devotion to Christ and obedience to the Spirit, and you will enjoy power and authority to do the same things that Jesus did. He has promised it to you:
Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father (John 14:12).
The second thing I see here in verse 10 is the need for accountability. Nothing is as dangerous as an unaccountable person. Jim Jones, the man who led 913 people to commit suicide with his cult, the People's Temple, was an unaccountable leader. David Koresh, the self-proclaimed leader of the Branch Davidian cult, was another, 76 people died when a confrontation ensued with the government after they had stockpiled many weapons. The Lone Ranger mentality is destructive to the Body of Christ. Every one of us needs to have someone that we can be accountable to in the Lord. We all need someone who loves us enough to give us perspective and feedback, instruction, and encouragement. The enemy loves to see an unaccountable leader; he often causes great damage through leaders that have no one overseeing them.
I don't believe we need to report to our leader everything that is going on in our lives. A leader that seeks to control your life is not really leading you. Think of how Jesus led. He led by example and challenged people by causing them to recognize and question their motives and choices. He did not cross the line into controlling behavior. We all need someone who will care for where we are at and can ask us the hard questions.
Question 3) What type of questions do you think Jesus may have asked His disciples? What does Jesus being “moved with compassion” look like in your mind’s eye?
The Feeding of the Five Thousand
11but the crowds learned about it and followed him. He welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing. 12Late in the afternoon the Twelve came to him and said, “Send the crowd away so they can go to the surrounding villages and countryside and find food and lodging, because we are in a remote place here.” 13He replied, “You give them something to eat.” They answered, “We have only five loaves of bread and two fish—unless we go and buy food for all this crowd.” 14(About five thousand men were there.) But he said to his disciples, “Have them sit down in groups of about fifty each.” 15The disciples did so, and everyone sat down. 16Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke them. Then he gave them to the disciples to distribute to the people. 17They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over (Luke 9:10-17).
In recounting the same incident, the apostle John writes that Phillip was tested along with the others: 5“When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” 6He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do” (John 6:5-6). I wonder how many situations we go through in life are a test from the Lord for us to find out the measure of our faith. Are you quick to respond with, "where am I going to get that from?" How pleased He is when we respond with a heart that says, "I am at the end of my resources, Father, would you please help me?" It is my persuasion that God often leads us into situations which are entirely beyond our resources that He might stretch our faith beyond our capacity. People are like elastic bands; they have to be stretched to be effective. Alexander Maclaren once said:
It is often our (God-given) duty to attempt tasks to which we are conspicuously inadequate, in the confidence that He who gives them has laid them on us to drive us to Himself, and there to find sufficiency. The best preparation of His servants for their work in the world is the discovery that their own stores are small.
Luke writes that there were five thousand men (Luke 9:14). Five loaves of bread and two fish are not much when you consider we estimate there were probably 12,000 people that sat down to eat. Furthermore, John 6:9 tells us that we are talking about five small barley loaves, which in the Mishnah, a Jewish Commentary, was the bread which the poorest of the poor ate.
It is the apostle John who tells us about Andrew finding a boy who was willing to share his lunch (John 6:9). We are talking about just enough food for one person, perhaps hurriedly stuffed on his person by his mom as he is dashing off. John uses the word opsarion to describe the two fish in the boy’s lunch. This word describes the small and generally dried or pickled fish eaten with bread, similar to sardines or maybe in England what we call Sprats. We’re talking about fish that are a maximum size of 6 inches. When the boy's packed lunch was brought, it consisted of five barley loaves, more than likely smaller than your average pita bread size. The pickled fish would add a bit of taste to get it down. As the disciples looked at this boy's lunch, the Lord uttered something startling, “Have the people sit down” (v. 10). This was another way of saying "let's sit down to eat," when there was nothing to eat but this boy’s lunch. What marvelous faith! Luke tells us that Jesus directed the people to sit down in groups of fifty and hundreds:
Question 4) Why do you think Jesus led them to sit in groups of fifties? Where did the miracle take place? Do you think it was at the hands of Jesus or in the hands of the disciples as it was passed out, or both? If you were a fly on the grass, describe what you think you would have seen.
The things of God are better received and enjoyed when we are fellowshipping with friends and relatives in a community. To be put together into groups of families and friends gave no room for the doubters that would say that no one else ate.
After He broke the bread He said the blessing which was probably the traditional blessing from the Mishnah: “Blessed be you, O Lord our God, king of the world, who causes bread to come forth from the earth” (Berakcot 6:1). He then broke the bread and fish into pieces and “gave.” The Greek imperfect tense of the verb says that He “kept giving.” Wouldn’t that have been wonderful to watch?
As they began to eat, I would think that the noise level began to rise as each person ate bread and fish beyond the amount of five loaves and two fish even just for each group of fifty. I wonder if each of the groups was told beforehand that all they had on the menu was a little boy's packed lunch.
There are some, the doubters of this miracle, who would have us believe that lots of people kept their lunches from Andrew, and when the time came to eat, they all ate their packed lunches. How absurd! The miracle was attested to by each of the gospel writers with more than enough evidence as to time and place, so it could be verified, and of course, there were twelve baskets of left-over pieces taken up later on.
The more they were given, the more they ate. I can see each disciple going back to the Lord for more because each group ate more than each disciple could carry. It was astonishing to them that so little food was now filling each of them up. I'm sure they asked for reassurances from the disciples as to the truth, "Are you sure that this was just one boy's lunch that we are eating?" As they ate, they looked at one another in amazement at the impossibility of it all. With God, all things are possible!
How amazing it would have been to be one of the disciples sent by the Lord with a basket to collect the leftovers! As each group of fifty or a hundred threw their leftover pieces of fish and bread into the basket, they would each look into the basket and see way more fish and bread than when they had started! John mentions just pieces of bread in the baskets (John 6:13), but Mark records there were pieces of fish and bread that were left (Mark 6:43). You would think that all the fish would be eaten because it was a smaller amount and tastier, but there was more than enough fish as well as bread to go entirely around the crowd. How glorifying to the Lord as each family and social group confessed as to all they had eaten, with so much left over. One wonders why He didn't just allow the people to take the leftovers home, but how much more beautiful for all the people to see all the remaining bits in twelve baskets before they left for home and realize just how wonderful the Lord is to prepare a table in the wilderness.
John tells us that when the people began to realize the miraculous nature of the feeding of the five thousand, they started saying, “This is truly the Prophet!” (John 6:14). Moses, many hundreds of years previously had told them that God would send them a prophet like himself and that they should listen very carefully to Him:
The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him (Deuteronomy 18:15).
Here before them was the One about which Moses told them. He was the prophet who should come into the world, and like Moses, He had fed them miraculously. Moses brought them heavenly bread that came down, the Manna. He also multiplied meat miraculously by feeding them quail that fell all around their camp (Numbers 11:31-34). When they began to realize that this was the One spoken by Moses, they wanted to take Him and make Him king. It was not God's timing for Jesus to be crowned king—God planned to crown Him with thorns. He withdrew by Himself and left the disciples to return to Capernaum by boat.
What impossible situation are you facing that you need prayer for right now? Pray about the things you are facing that are beyond your own resources. Maybe as a group, you could close in prayer for the Lord to meet your need for resources.
Prayer: Father, I pray that your people would be stretched beyond their abilities and resources to know You as their great provider. Indeed, you are a wonderful Father.
Luke: A Walk Through the Life of Jesus
Life’s Most Important Question
18Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, "Who do the crowds say I am?" 19They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life." 20"But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?" Peter answered, "The Christ of God" (Luke 9:18-20).
After the feeding of the five thousand on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, Luke takes us to a time several weeks later to Jesus’ praying alone, but yet not far from the twelve disciples. Christ was dependent on the Father in all that He did, so He was probably asking the Father if it was the right time to share the true mission of why He had come, ti.e. to die as a substitutionary sacrifice of redemption for (and as) man. Before He shared what lay before them in Jerusalem, He was to ask them life’s most important question: “Who do you say I am?”
Luke does not record for us the place where this question arose. It is Matthew who tells us that it was the region of Caesarea Philippi (Matthew 16:13). The city lay twenty-five miles in a northeasterly direction from the Sea of Galilee. Caesarea Phillipi was outside of the domain and authority of Herod Antipas, and Luke had already told us that Herod wanted to see Jesus. Herod was worried that, maybe, John the Baptist was back in the form of Jesus but even more powerful (Luke 9:7-9). It was possible that there was a reason for Jesus’ bringing them to this city before posing this question that is a spiritual test for all men.
At the time of Christ, the area of Caesarea Philippi had several temples to false gods, Baal’s being one of them, along with Pan, the god of nature. Over the last several hundred years up to the time of Jesus, the Israelites had several clashes with pagan worshippers. Both Elijah (1 Kings 18) and also Jehu (2 Kings 10:18-28), had spiritual showdowns with the false gods who were demons posing as gods (1 Corinthians 10:20). Thomson, in his book, The Land and the Book, tells us that no fewer than fourteen temples were in the adjacent neighborhood. This town was a place of many gods. Close to Caesarea Philippi was Mount Hermon with a deep cavern, which was said to be the birthplace of the god Pan. The name of the town was called Panias before Herod the Great’s grandson, Philip, changed the name to Caesarea Philippi, in honor to himself and Caesar. This area is the source of the river Jordan. The name of the town is now called Banias, and most tours of Israel will take you to the site. Herod the Great built a magnificent temple here, too, built to the godhead of Caesar. It was a temple of white marble close to the source of the Jordan River.
Question 1) What are the two questions Jesus posed to his disciples? Why do you think Jesus took this opportunity alone with his disciples in this particular place to ask them these questions?
I find it interesting that Jesus would come to this place of false gods and idol worshipping temples as well as those dedicated to the worship of a man, Caesar, and ask two questions of his disciples. In the backdrop of all these temples to false gods, Jesus, the King of the Universe, the Creator of all things (John 1:3), was looking to see if the disciples yet perceived and recognized Him.
The Creator of the Universe longs for us to receive a revelation of Who He is. When we come to grips with Who He is and the depths of His love for us, the revelation will transform our hearts and minds. He is yearning for each of us to have this revelation. First of all, He asked them what the consensus about Him on the street was, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” (v. 18). The crowds had witnessed His power and authority in so many ways that it was rumored that John the Baptist or Elijah had come back from the dead. Then, He made it personal, “But what about you?” he asked, “Who do you say I am?” The phrase in Greek is plural, for He was asking the question of all of the disciples. He would also ask it of us, “Whom do you say that I am?”
Luke has taken up much room on the scroll that he is writing, answering this very question with the testimonies of numerous people. The disciples themselves had asked this very question when Jesus calmed the waves of the Sea when they were with Him in the boat. He rebuked the wind and the waves, and they both were stilled. The disciples said, “Who then is this, that He commands even winds and water?” (Luke 8:25). We have heard the testimony of an angel to Mary, angels at Bethlehem to the shepherds, the angel Gabriel to Zachariah, the angel to Elizabeth when Mary was carrying Jesus in the womb, and the two in the temple, Anna and Simeon. Then, there were testimonies of demons being cast out and, of course, the testimony of Satan at Christ’s testing in the wilderness. When Christ raised the widow’s son from the dead, the people of the town of Nain spoke their testimony, “God has visited His people” (Luke 7:16). Do we require any more witnesses? I hope by now, in reading this, you have already come to the same conclusion that Luke is putting forward: Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God!
It was Peter that responded to His question, but I wonder if the other disciples had grasped the truth. Jesus was more than a mere man; He is the Christ of God. The word Christ is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word, Meshiach, transliterated as Messiah. Both words mean “Anointed One.” When a person was set apart for a special purpose, an amount of oil was poured over his head. It was an honor given for courage displayed in battle or for a job of special choosing, such as the anointing of David by the prophet Samuel when God chose him in place of King Saul. Over time, the word began to be used to describe a special One of God, the Anointed One, who would come and receive the Kingship passed down from David. He would be the Son of David, the Anointed One, the Messiah, or the Christ. When Peter says his confession of who Jesus is, the Messiah of God, Matthew in his Gospel gives us Jesus’ reply: “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven” (Matthew 16:17). We have the benefit of hindsight as we look back to what Christ accomplished on the cross, but when the twelve heard the response of Jesus, acknowledging that He was, indeed, the Messiah of God, in their mind, they had a different image of what the Messiah would do.
The Warrior Messiah
The prophets had foretold of a glorious warrior King, a superhuman being who would come and deliver them from all their enemies. They had heard these stories as they had grown up, i.e., the descriptions of what He would do. Zechariah, the prophet told them that the Messiah would appear over Jerusalem and fight for them (Zechariah 14:1-5). Isaiah, the prophet had also written:
27See, the Name of the Lord comes from afar, with burning anger and dense clouds of smoke; his lips are full of wrath, and his tongue is a consuming fire. 28His breath is like a rushing torrent, rising up to the neck. He shakes the nations in the sieve of destruction; he places in the jaws of the peoples a bit that leads them astray. 29And you will sing as on the night you celebrate a holy festival; your hearts will rejoice as when people playing pipes go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the Rock of Israel. 30The Lord will cause people to hear his majestic voice and will make them see his arm coming down with raging anger and consuming fire, with cloudburst, thunderstorm and hail. 31The voice of the Lord will shatter Assyria; with his rod he will strike them down. 32Every stroke the Lord lays on them with his punishing club will be to the music of timbrels and harps, as he fights them in battle with the blows of his arm. 33Topheth has long been prepared; it has been made ready for the king. Its fire pit has been made deep and wide, with an abundance of fire and wood; the breath of the Lord, like a stream of burning sulfur, sets it ablaze (Isaiah 30:27-33).
In some marvelous way, this superhuman anointed King would also be the Son of God and free the nation from the shackles of Gentile control. By the time of Christ, they had been under the dominion of the Babylonians, the Medes and Persians, the Greeks, and were now under the dominion of the Romans. However, in their minds, that would all change when the Messiah, the conquering King would come:
1Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? 2The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed, saying, 3“Let us break their chains and throw off their shackles.” 4The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. 5He rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying, 6“I have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain.” 7I will proclaim the Lord’s decree: He said to me, “You are my son; today I have become your father…12Kiss his son, or he will be angry and your way will lead to your destruction, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him (Psalm 2:1-7 and 12).
The Lord Jesus knew what they were thinking, and now that He knew that they had begun to see just who He was and is, He began to warn them not to speak to others about what they understood as to His identity:
21Jesus strictly warned them not to tell this to anyone. 22And he said, "The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life" (Luke 9:21-22).
Question 2) Why were they strictly warned not to tell anyone about their revelation of Jesus’ true identity?
The Way of the Cross
Some had already talked about forcibly making Him king (John 6:15), so He strictly warned them about sharing the information that they had received. This was not the time for fighting. There was a different purpose to His coming. Matthew wrote, “From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life” (Matthew 16:21). The intimation is that the message of the cross and of the sacrifice that had to be made was not given to them until they had received the revelation that this Person with them was God incarnate, the divine Son of God.
23Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it (Luke 9:23-24).
The very root of our problem is that of our default sin nature. Because of the Fall, rooted in our very being is the problem of sin and disobedience to God. We are separated from God and dead in our spiritual nature (Ephesians 2:1 and 5) until we receive the gift of life in Christ. When we repent of sin and invite the Lord Jesus to forgive us, the Spirit of God comes in us and makes us truly alive to God. We are “born again” or born from above (John 3:3). We are made right with God and given peace and assurance of our salvation. With the Spirit of God living within us, we now have the power to say "no" to sin and disobedience. Even though the child of God is now alive in a spiritual sense, he still has a sin nature that seeks to rule over him. This sin nature must be put to death. Overthrowing the Roman government was not on His agenda. The revolution that Jesus was bringing at this time was a revolution of the heart where the root of the problem was.
The disciples did not realize that there were two comings. The first would be to redeem a people to Himself. He would come as a Lamb that would lay down His life for His friends in the act of supreme sacrifice that would deliver those who placed their trust in Him. Without the Spirit revealing the truth of Who He is, the disciples were locked into the strong warrior Messiah. He had to wait until the Spirit had made it plain to the disciples before He told them of the cross.
Question 3) What did Jesus mean by His words, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me?” How would you explain this verse to a child?
Imagine how that must have felt to the disciples to be told that the great Warrior Messiah Whom they had come to know was not going to beat up all the Romans, kick them out of the land of Israel, and bring all the saints to reign in Jerusalem. The worst part of all would be that He then told them that they, too, needed to pick up their cross daily. Remember that the model of teaching during that period was for disciples to do what their master did, a show–and–tell style of teaching. When he said to them the words, “Follow me,” He was not just asking them to be with Him. To follow was to do what He did. What a shock it must have been for Him to tell them that they, too, must be ready to take up their cross. A cross was an instrument of death; we have made it into a religious icon, but it was a terrible form of death reserved for the worst of criminals.
25What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? 26If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. 27I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God" (Luke 9:23-27).
In 771, Charlemagne became king of the Franks, a Germanic tribe in present-day Belgium, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and western Germany. He had gained an empire, but yet in his dying days, he had found out the truth that to live for oneself and to gain an empire without Christ seated on the throne of one’s life was to die a miserable death. One hundred and eighty years after the death of Charlemagne, about the year 1000, officials of the Emperor Otho opened the great king’s tomb where, in addition to incredible treasures, they saw an amazing sight: the skeletal remains of King Charlemagne seated on a throne, his crown still on his skull, and a copy of the Gospels lying in his lap with his bony finger resting on the text, “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?”
Too many people rush about seeking for fame and fortune, desperately putting all their time, energy, and money into climbing the ladder of success, only to find at the end of their lives that their ladder has been against the wrong wall. Life is too short to have regrets about how you have spent your years in frivolous things. He tells them, and us, that if we want to follow Him, to be His disciple, there are three things we must do: deny self, take up a life of cross-bearing, and do it daily.
Some feel that to deny oneself would be not to do anything pleasurable, not to ever eat chocolate, or see a movie. They say that to deny oneself means to do nothing that would be fun. However, Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). If to follow Jesus means never to enjoy life or never to have fun, it sure doesn’t sound like it would be a life of living to the full. So what does it mean?
1. To deny ourselves. I believe that this means that pleasing our Lord is to be a higher priority than pleasing self. We must put His will first and foremost in our lives. If we can imagine a throne room in the temple of our hearts (1 Corinthians 3:16), Christ needs to sit there, and not ourselves. He must rule and reign. The Greek word translated as deny means not only to say no to something, but also it is used to refuse someone. William Barclay, the Bible commentator, further defines it, saying:
Ordinarily, we use the word self-denial in a restricted sense. We use it to mean doing without something, giving up something. For instance, a week of self-denial is a week when we do without certain pleasures or luxuries, usually to contribute to some good cause. But that is only a tiny part of what Jesus meant by self-denial. To deny oneself means in every moment of life to say no to self, and to say yes to God. To deny oneself means to obliterate self as the dominant principle of life, and to make God the ruling principle, more, the ruling passion, of life. The life of constant self-denial is the life of constant assent to God.
2. You and I, as disciples, need to take up our cross daily. A cross was an implement of death. When a man was seen carrying a cross, people knew he was on his way to death. A life of purpose (a life of dedication to Christ), i.e., real life, has a way of coming to us when we dethrone self and place Christ at the center focus of our lives. This life that we have on earth is but a seed to be sown into the lives of others. Selfishness is gone when an attitude of heart that is dead to self reigns. Paul, the apostle, was an excellent example for all of us in his words: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). To be crucified with Christ is to live to do God's will daily, even when our flesh life craves the opposite. This is a Spirit-controlled life.
3. We are to follow Him. Many seem to follow the way of self. They bow at the shrine of I, Me, Mine, Myself. To the follower of Christ, his heart is to be like Jesus in every way that He lived His life. We are to follow His example. He modeled to us how we are to live. Christ Jesus has bought us, not with silver or gold, but with the most valuable thing that He had: His blood, His life in this world. Jim Elliot, one of five missionaries who died seeking to reach the Auca Indians of South America with the message of Christ, said this: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose” (Shadow of the Almighty, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Page 15).
We can live out our lives, running after the things of this world, but at some time, one must come to a place where he or she says, “In this world, is this what life is about? Is there not more to life than what I am experiencing?” There are those who spend their lives chasing the wind. There can be no more significant disappointment than, at the end of life, to find that the things into which one has invested time, energy, and money was worth nothing of eternal value. Paul, the apostle talks about the investment of time, energy, and money toward the Kingdom of God in this way:
12If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. 14If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. 15If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames (1 Corinthians 3:12-15).
Question 4) What does it mean when Paul the apostle says that he will suffer loss? What type of loss is referred to here?
The different building materials speak of our motives, i.e., the reasons as to why we do what we do. Our lives are spent building something. It is when we step into eternity that we discover what we have built. Have we added to the Kingdom of God, or has our work, our time, energy, and money been spent on trivial pursuits, i.e., wood, hay or straw, that will be burnt up, and we are left as a pauper in eternity, e.g., just a small shack instead of a mansion? Paul was not writing to those outside of Christ when he made that warning. He was reminding Christians that, one day, we will see a return on our investment in this life, whether by little or by much. “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19-20).
26“For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. 27“But I say to you truthfully, there are some of those standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:26-27).
You may think to yourself, “How am I to pick up the cross daily?” Crucifixion is not something that you can do to yourself. We can only present ourselves to God and say with a willing heart “Here I am.” Do you know and believe God’s love for you? This is important if we are to live a life of sacrifice. Jesus was able to lay down His life because of His great love for us and His obedience to the Father. It was for the joy which was set before Him, that He endured the cross and scorned the shame (Hebrews 12:2). For Jesus, it was not just about going through the pain and sacrifice, but He could see beyond that and was reaching forward for the joy that was set before Him! The Lord was free to make His choice, and He chose to die for us. He could see the triumph and knew the outcome!
The disciples did, indeed, follow Jesus in His way of self- sacrifice. Ten of the twelve disciples were said to be martyred for their faith. Many more have followed in their footsteps. In fact, more Christians have been put to death for their faith in the last century than in the first century. How could they do this? How could they make the ultimate sacrifice? I believe in the same way, i.e., they were allowed to partake in that all-consuming love that makes sacrifice possible.
My prayer is that we will never be ashamed of Him and His words. When we understand His great love for us, we are given the power to love as He loves.
Prayer: Lord, give us a revelation of Who You are and Who You are to us personally, and help us to be vessels of Your great love.