Read Luke 9:18-27
Jesus is about to walk his disciples into a greater revelation of Himself. He will ask them, “Who do you say I am?” He will tell them plainly of his upcoming execution at the hands of the rulers and his returning from the dead on the third day. He will then give them his strongest definition of what it means to be a Christian: self-denial and taking up a cross. Yeah, losing your life and dying.
That is hard stuff. It’s also great stuff, as we will soon see.
Before we go there, let’s to the bottom of the hill where this whole journey begins. This conversation that leads to greater revelation begins in the place of prayer with Christ. See how they were magnetized to Him in prayer.
“And it happened, as He was alone praying, that His disciples joined Him, and He asked them, saying, “Who do the crowds say that I am?”” (Luke 9:18, NKJV)
If you had to choose between hearing Jesus preach or to hearing Jesus pray, what would you choose?
There is no place where the disciples say, “Lord, teach us to preach.” But they did say, “Lord, teach us to pray.”
“Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.”” (Luke 11:1, NKJV)
Luke is rightly called the Gospel of prayer. The other Gospels have narratives of many of the same events: His baptism, his choosing of the disciples, teaching the “Lord’s prayer”, and the Mount of Transfiguration, to name a few. It is only in the Gospel of Luke that it is clearly stated that Jesus was praying before or during these happenings.
Matthew and Mark record this same event before us in this text, but only Luke mentions this greater revelation coming in the place of prayer.
Prayer is where Christ reveals Who he is, what He is going to do and what it will look like when we follow him. A prayer-less Christian is soon, a Christian without revelation.
Read Luke 9:18-21
“Who do the crowds say I am?” Recently executed John the Baptist is who some thought him to be. The disciples reported other popular opinions of the crowd: Elijah, one of the Old Prophets risen again.
Jesus zeros in on them, “Who do YOU say I am?”
On the last day. It won’t matter what someone else did or did not do with Jesus Christ. It will only matter with what you do or do not do with Him.
What you think about Jesus is the most important thing about you. What you think of God will determine your conduct, your life course and your conclusion in life.
Do you ever wonder how man can sink to such a low moral state? A.W. Tozer gave a good answer:
“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. The history of mankind will show that no people has ever risen above its religion. Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts on God. Perverted notions about God soon rot the religion in which they appear. The long career of Israel demonstrates this clearly enough and the history of the church confirms it.” A.W. Tozer
We needn’t read Tozer. Some of us need only to read our own story. Some of us had a good start toward heaven but took a bad turn toward hell. Some had parents that raised them up in the “things of God”. Others of us didn’t have parents who raised us in the things of God, but we had God’s gracious dealings with us. Somewhere we though more of something else, or someone else, than we did of God. When we surrendered a high opinion of God, it was our first step down that did not stop until we were sorely abased.
Romans 1:21-32 is a long road down to depravity for mankind when he exchanges God's glory into a traded-down version of a god that doesn't even exist.
But it is equally true that when we, by God’s grace, regain a right view of God, we were greatly lifted.
Jesus is clarifying with them who He really is. “Who do YOU say I am?” Peter replies, “The Christ of God.” No wonder these men rise to the heights. They didn’t see a teacher, a guru, or a charismatic personality with a fifteen-minute claim to fame. They saw Jesus as the CHRIST, the long-awaited Messiah. They saw the image of the Invisible God right in front of them. These men’s lives were lifted far beyond anything they could have ever imagined. It is the same for many of us. When Christ was lifted rightly to the highest place in our opinion of Him, we saw the same rise upward in our lives.
What you think about Him is the most important thing about you.
Read Luke 9:22
“The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.”” (Luke 9:22, NKJV)
Having now revealed who He was, He is now to reveal to His disciples what He is going to do. He has not spoken to them about His sufferings and death until now. But now that they are sure in belief that He is the Christ, He speaks clearly of His sacrificial mission to save.
Many Jews read the Old Testament with one eye when it comes to the coming Messiah. They choose only to see the Scriptures concerning the Anointed of God in visible victory over their enemies. With one eye, they see Daniel’s prophecy of Messiah’s Kingdom “shattering” all ot the earthly kingdoms (Daniel 2:42-45). But they close their other eye to Isaiah’s prophecy of Messiah as the suffering servant who came to make atonement for sin.
“But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5, NKJV)
Psalm 2 sees a vanquishing Messiah dashing the hateful Kings of the earth to pieces. “Kiss the Son, lest he become angry and you perish in the way.” But the same book of Psalms pictures a suffering Messiah. Psalm 22 saw twenty-six prophecies of the Messiah being crucified long before Roman crucifixion was ever invented.
Messiah isn’t either a suffering servant or a vanquishing king in the Scriptures.
He is both!
This revelation by Jesus to the Disciples shows them His greatest work for men: Atonement and salvation. He is Isaac offered and resurrected. He is rejected Joseph alive again. He is the Passover Lamb who saves from Death. He is the tabernacle and Temple where sacrifice reconciles men to God. Make no mistake about it, Jesus is preaching the Gospel to his disciples.
They are told to be quiet about it, because the story isn’t completed yet.
“The wonders that would attend his death and resurrection would be the most convincing proof of his being the Christ of God.” Matthew Henry
Therefore, they had to wait until that was done. Know this: His second coming is reaping the fruit of His first work. He will, in His second coming, fulfill every vanquishing scripture unrealized.
Read Luke 9:23-24
Jesus has revealed who He is. Jesus has revealed His mission. And now he reveals the call of a true Christian: to die and lose his life.
“Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.” (Luke 9:23–24, NKJV)
It was Leonard Ravenhill who famously said,
“We know one thing about a man who leaves with a cross, He isn’t coming back.”
The best thing I ever did was pick up a cross and lose my life.
For those of you walking in Christ, you’ll know what I mean. The old life was corrupted by sin and sin’s consequence. I was experiencing, in this life, the outcome of my sin: wrecked relationships, loss of opportunity because of irresponsibility, monotony, addiction, and even physical sicknesses from lapsed living. And I had not even reached the judgment seat.
Stepping on a bee last week reminded me of how sin hurts now but will hurt even more later. There is the pain of the penetration and then there is the pain of the poison.
“At the last it bites like a serpent, And stings like a viper.” (Proverbs 23:32, NKJV)
Who can look back on their old life and not remember the pain and feel shame? Left alone, the old self would have walked you and me both into God’s final wrath. The last pain of poison is death itself.
“What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death.” (Romans 6:21, NKJV)
But Paul put it supremely, when he talked about picking up a cross and losing a life:
“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20, NKJV)
The best thing you will ever do, is pick up the cross and lose your life. I am happy I will no longer see the person I was. He is never coming back.
Jesus didn’t just talk only about losing a life. There was a promise attached to it: “Whoever loses his life will save it.” Losing your life is wrapped up in gaining a new life in Christ. Look at these verses:
“knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him,” (Romans 6:6–8, NKJV)
“if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:21–24, NKJV)
Losing the old life means gaining the new life and becoming a new creation. I saw an exchange among some friends about what it meant to be a Christian. One said, “You don’t have to go to church to become a Christian. You can pray at home.” We know what is implied.
Another said, “Just put your faith in the Lord and no more is needed…you ticket is punched and you're good to go.”
Friends, there is a lot of erroneous religious advice given by well-meaning friends. Don’t listen to what people say the Bible says. See what the Bible says yourself.
Don’t listen to what people say Jesus said. Go directly to what Jesus said.
Jesus said that a Christian “takes up his cross and loses his life” for His sake. Jesus says that a Christian is someone who died to his old life and picked up a new life in Him.
If you aren’t a new creation, you aren’t a Christian and you have not passed from death to life.
“But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but the only thing that counts, is a new creation.” (Galatians 6:14–15, NKJV)