Luke 9:18-27 Jesus: Who is He?
Mike and I are fans of Jackie Chan movies. During half term we watched his 1998 film “Who am I?” As a member of a multinational black ops special forces unit created by the CIA, whose latest mission was to kidnap several South African scientists working on a highly volatile and secretive compound, Jackie is the victim of a staged "incident" which results in the death of his colleagues and massive loss of memory. When asked by natives for his name, he replies "Who am I?" which is then mistaken as his real name by the natives. Jackie proceeds to befriend several attractive female characters, all the while having insufficient flashbacks as to his true identity. As it turns out, renegade ex-US Army officers and black market arms dealers are involved in illegal activities involving the exportation of the secretive compound, Jackie is the only potential threat to their operations. Thus, agents are sent out to stop Jackie before he can expose their devious activities.
Besides including a fifteen minute fight that leaves you exhausted just watching it, the film also contains what is billed as the world’s most dangerous stunt. Jackie is fighting two opponents on the top of the Nedlloyd building in Rotterdam. After battling with them around the roof, he finally takes the (second) quickest route to the street below -sliding down the side of the 21 story building, which is slanted nearly 45 degrees.
Even though one of his stuntmen proved it could be done (from a lower level, of course), it took Jackie two weeks to get up the nerve to try it himself. Naturally, Jackie is able to defeat all hostile oncomers with both fluid effortlessness and style before finally coming to terms with his own identity. Who am I? is a great film. Have you ever thought what it would feel like to forget who you are? Who am I? The world out there has plenty of ideas. Some would say I am who I was - the popular quest to trace our ancestors somehow helps define us. Others insist I am what I achieve. For others I am what I drive. Many believe I am how I look. In our community I am where I live. My postcode says it all. For some I am where I eat or where I buy my food. For many I am what I do. For some I am what I know. For others I am who I know. For lots of people I am what I possess. Many people around us are trapped not knowing who they really are. Who am I? You will never know who you are until you decide who Jesus is. Because Jesus says you are who you follow. Ultimately I am who I follow, because what ever I give my life to, I will become.
Our passage comprises three paragraphs:
The Ultimate Question about Jesus
The Unambiguous Calling of Jesus
The Uncompromising Commission from Jesus
1. The Ultimate Question about Jesus (Luke 9:18-21)
“Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say I am?” 19 They 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.” 21 Jesus strictly warned them not to tell this to anyone.” (Luke 9:18-21)
If you were to go around asking your friends, “What do people say about me?” Or “Who do you say I am?” they might take it as an evidence of pride or dementia. But what we believe and say about Jesus Christ will determine our destiny.
Your answer is a matter of life or death. Some people clearly thought Jesus was John the Baptist. Some said he was one of the prophets, like Jeremiah. That is how Muslims typically view Jesus today. I recently spoke at a conference on the Middle East organised by a Muslim student society in Glasgow. I was picked up from the airport in Glasgow by two polite young Muslim students. Born and raised in Glasgow they spoke with broad Scottish accents and clearly knew very little about Christianity. The very first question I was asked when I got into the car was this “Would you please explain the difference between Islam and Christianity”. I politely said that it all had to do with who we think Jesus is. In His words and His works, Jesus gave every evidence to the people that He was the Son of God, the Messiah. Immediately prior to asking his disciples this question, Jesus has just miraculously fed 5000 people, just as God had fed the Israelites in the wilderness.
To the question “who do you say I am?” Peter’s confession appears bold and uncompromising: You are “God’s Messiah” (9:21). Here Luke is being clear but discrete, probably because he is writing for a Roman audience. In Matthew’s account, writing for Jews, Matthew record’s Peter’s full affirmation “”You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God” (Matthew 16:16) The word Messiah, or Christ as it is translated in Greek, means “the Anointed One, the promised one.” Prophets, priests, and kings were all anointed before they began to serve. Jesus fulfilled all three roles. Prophet, Priest and King. So why does Jesus warn them to keep quiet about this? The disciples would only truly begin to understand what kind of Saviour Jesus was until after the cross and resurrection.
How much more so for the ordinary people who flocked to hear Jesus. They were looking for a political Messiah. The last thing Jesus wanted was to lead a revolution against the hated Roman authorities. The disciples needed to know who Jesus claimed to be but they could not proclaim it until they understood why Jesus had come. So, the ultimate question is: Who do you say I am? Have you decided?
The ultimate question about Jesus.
2. The Unambiguous Calling of Jesus (9:22)
“And 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 9:22)
Having confessed their faith in who Jesus was, he began to explain why he had come. He was going to Jerusalem where He would die on a cross as the Passover lamb. This announcement stunned the disciples. If He is indeed the Christ of God, as they had confessed, why would He be rejected by the religious leaders? Why would they crucify Him?
Didn’t the Hebrew Scriptures promise that Messiah would defeat all their enemies and establish a glorious kingdom for Israel? There was something wrong somewhere and the disciples were confused. In Matthew and Mark’s account, true to character, it was Peter who voiced their concern.
One minute Peter was led by God to confess his faith in Jesus Christ, and the next minute he was thinking like an unbeliever. Indeed expressing the thoughts of Satan. This is a warning to us that when we argue with God’s Word, we open the door for Satan’s doubts and deceptions. Peter began rebuking his Master, and Mark uses the same word that describes how Jesus rebuked the demons.
Peter’s protest was born out of his love for his Lord but also his ignorance of God’s word. One minute Peter was a “rock,” and the next minute he was a stumbling block. Peter did not yet understand the relationship between suffering and glory. When Jesus rebuked Peter, He looked at His disciples for they too needed to hear. When we are tempted to try and mould Jesus into the kind of ‘Jim will fix it’ kind of Messiah our materialistic generation is seeking, we must hear this same rebuke. “The Son of Man must suffer” said Jesus. He uniquely came to die in our place. As Isaiah predicted, “By his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5)
was Jesus unique calling, his purpose and destiny.
The ultimate question about Jesus.
The unambiguous calling of Jesus.
The Uncompromising Commission from Jesus (9:23-27)
“Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. 25 What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? 26 If 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. 27 I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:23-27)
Jesus calls us to follow Him, to take up our cross and follow him. The world doesn’t understand the cost of being a Christ-follower. Because it doesn’t understand who Christ is, it cannot understand what he has done for us, and therefore why we owe him everything. Until we have knelt at the foot of the cross in repentance and praise, we will not have the motivation to follow him, where ever he leads, what ever the price.
3.1 Following Jesus involves difficult decisions about our priorities
“Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)
“Taking up our cross” means following Jesus today and doing his will. It invariably involves self denial, complete dedication and willing obedience. Not my will but your will. Not my priorities but your priorities. It involves a daily choice to follow Jesus and do his will and not my own. Jesus promises that following him may shorten our lives. It may require us to review our career options or place of work or dwelling. Not - what will make me most happy, wealthy or secure, but how does Jesus want me to invest my life? And with it, Jesus also promises “whoever loses his life for me will save it.” (Luke 9:24)
Incredibly poor - maybe, but indescribably fulfilled? Certainly.
Following Jesus then involves difficult decisions about our priorities.
3.2 Following Jesus involves hard questions about our values
Jesus asks a question to crystalise the issue. “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?” (Luke 9:25).
Jesus asks us what it is that we value most? Most people gain none of the world, a few gain some of the world, but no one has ever gained the whole world. What is it that you value most? What is it that consumes your every waking moment? The world is full of temptations towards profitable dishonesty. George MacDonald tells of the draper who used his thumb to shorten each yard measure of cloth by a few inches. In a life time he took from his soul and put it in his pocket. Shakespeare paints the picture of Wolsey, the great Cardinal, who served Henry the Eighth, with all the ingenuity and wit he possessed, "Had I but served my God with half the zeal I served my king, he would not in mine age have left me naked to mine enemies." The real question, the question that everyone in the end will have to face is not, "What did people think of me?", but "what does God think of me?"
Following Jesus involves difficult decisions about our priorities.
Following Jesus involves hard questions about our values.
3.3 Following Jesus involves ultimate choices about our destiny
“If 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.” (Luke 9:26)
Too few of us spend sufficient time reflecting on our mortality and our destiny. We are too busy enjoying the ride. Every time I see those tell tale white ear phone cables that indicate another iPod, they remind me of a world that is blotting out the voice of God screaming at us through the beauty of creation, through the travesty of climate change, through the tragedy of crime statistics, that all is not well with this world, and our owner wants our cooperation, wants our full attention and undivided cooperation in his rescue mission.
If we live for ourselves, we will lose ourselves, but if we lose ourselves for His sake, we will find ourselves. When we live for Christ, we become more like Him, and this brings out our own unique individuality. We become the people God intends us to become. But note the motivation for true discipleship: “lose their life for me” (Luke 9:24). To lose yourself for Jesus and for the gospel is not an act of desperation; it is an act of devotion. James Caviezel who played Jesus in the film the Passion, was asked how he felt in the role. He replied, “I love him more than I never knew possible. I love him more than my wife, my family. I don’t want people to see me. All I want them to see is Jesus Christ.” Is that how you feel? Are you ashamed of Jesus or honoured to be associated with Jesus?
Who am I? It depends on how we answer the question Jesus has set us. “Who do you say I am?” When we find him, we find ourselves. Then we find that we are not an evolutionary accident. We are more than our exam grades. More than a number, a grade, a class, a rank, a status, a postcode, a space in the company car park, a seat in the boardroom. Above all, we are not alone any more. We are who God has made us and, by God’s grace, we are becoming who God has destined us to be. That is really all that matters. Who am I? If I have received Jesus as my Lord and Saviour he is my brother. God becomes not just my creator but my heavenly Father. “The difference between Christianity and Islam,” I said, as we drove away from Glasgow airport, “is that the One you call Allah, I can call Abba - Daddy, because of what Jesus has done in our place.” When we find him, we find ourselves. The Ultimate Question about Jesus. The Unambiguous Calling of Jesus. The Uncompromising Commission from Jesus. Lets pray.