Who is Jesus
Luke 9:18 – 36
Who is Jesus?
I’ve been having diary issues, in these last couple of weeks. I use an electronic diary on my computer and my phone, and a couple of weeks ago I changed something, to make it work better!
But since my improvement, events have been dropping out of my calendar.
I’d make an appointment with someone, and because it was important and I didn’t want to forget, I’d put it in my diary, only for it to have disappeared a few days later.
This happened a number of times, but of course I’m only aware of it for the appointments that I remembered making, so let me make a blanket apology, if you expected me to meet you somewhere in the last couple of weeks, and I didn’t turn up,
I didn’t get a better offer and ditch you,
I just didn’t have you in my diary any more!
So I’m very sorry!
It’s not that I don’t think you’re important!
In fact, you know the appointment is important to me because it went into my diary in the first place.
That’s the point of having a diary, isn’t it?
The things that aren’t important, I don’t need to write them down.
If I don’t remember it, well, it doesn’t matter.
But if I want to know what’s important, I just need to look in my diary. Well, that’s the theory!
Although it was so bad last week that someone suggested I go back to a paper diary! Can you imagine!
But all this thinking about how you know what’s important, came to the fore as I read Luke 9, because, from time to time, Luke, our author, signals something that he thinks is very important about Jesus is spending his time.
We’ve noted in the title that we’ve given this teaching series, that Luke was a very careful historian. He thinks everything he’s written about Jesus is valuable.
But more than any of the other gospel writers, Luke highlights particular, significant moments in Jesus’ ministry, by pointing out that on these occasions, or immediately prior to these occasions, Jesus prayed. Often withdrawing and praying in private.
You know what’s important in my week by what’s written in my diary. We know what Luke thinks is important in Jesus’ week, because he goes out of his way to tell us that Jesus took time out beforehand to pray.
It’s not to say that Jesus didn’t pray on other occasions, but that Luke deliberately tells us, he draws the line, between Jesus’ praying, and significant moments, where the story of the unfolding kingdom of God moves forward.
An important question: Who is Jesus? (v 18 – 20)
And we’re in one of these moments here. Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say I am?”
And Luke’s saying, “this is a conversation, this is an event, that we want to pay extra special attention to,
It has an important place in the development of Jesus ministry,
And we can be sure of that, because Jesus felt the need to pray to his father in private, before it all took place.
And if you were here last week, you won’t be surprised that events surrounding the issue of Jesus’ identity, are highlighted like this.
It was the question asked by the disciples in chapter 8 after Jesus calmed the storm,
It was the question raised by the fact that Jesus was giving people a taste of what life would be like in God’s perfect kingdom,
And so here Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do the crowds say I am?”
It’s not that Jesus didn’t know, “Is anyone talking about me? What are they saying?” He’s working up to something with his diciples.
And notice the 3 responses, 3 conclusions about Jesus that the crowds have reached.
Some say John the Baptist;, others say Elijah;, and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.”
Either John the Baptist,
Or another Old Testament prophet,
Everyone’s concluded that Jesus is one of those.
Everyone recognises Jesus as a prophet.
It’s because Jesus speaks God’s word, into their midst, that they notice him and pay attention to him.
I think I’ve always imagined that if I’d been standing there, it would have been Jesus miracles that most grabbed my attention, and I’d try and work out who he is from those.
And certainly God worked miracles through some of the Old Testament prophets, but first and foremost their role was to speak God’s Word to his people.
And that’s what the people see in Jesus ministry;, God’s Word coming to us,
And so the general consensus is that Jesus is another one of those prophets who speaks God’s Word.
But clearly Jesus thinks that there’s more to his identity than this. That these things might be true about Jesus, he does speak God’s Word,
That’s a true picture of who Jesus is, but not a complete picture.
It matters what you think of Jesus
So, I grow sunflowers. The kids and I planted sunflower seeds along the footpath in front of our house a few months ago, and now there’s sunflowers taller than I am, welcoming you to our home.
Actually they’re welcoming the cockatoos to our home, they sit on the flowers and tear them to bits.
And I had said to people who were coming to the Welcome Lunch last week, to find our house just look for the sunflowers, but by the time Sunday came around, the cockies had almost destroyed them, so I nearly had to go and buy fake sunflowers, to use as a landmark!
But if you described me as a “sunflower grower”, well that’s true, isn’t? I grow sunflowers.
And the evidence for that is spread all across our street, thanks to the cockies, But that’s not a complete picture of who I am.
That doesn’t entirely sum up my purpose,
And the things I’m committed to,
And how I spend my time.
It’s true, but incomplete.
And that’s the problem with the crowds’ understanding of who Jesus is. It’s true, but incomplete.
It’s not enough.
You don’t come to know Jesus,
You don’t get all the benefits of who is, and what he’s come to do, if your picture isn’t sufficient.
So 20, what about you?” he asked his disciples, “Who do you say I am?”
And Peter, acting as spokesman, answered, “God’s Messiah.”
If you were with us at Christmas, you might recall that we heard the words of the angel to the shepherds in Luke 2, 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord
The Messiah, or the Christ, it’s the same word, just in the 2 different languages of the first Century AD, The Messiah was God’s king,
God had promised that he would raise up a king for his people
And so they’d been waiting for this Messiah to come, for centuries.
Which raises the question, “well, why didn’t the crowds think that’s who Jesus was?”
Why isn’t the answer “Some say John the Baptist,
Some say the Messiah.”
And part of the reason, is that in the centuries that God’s people had been waiting for their Messiah,
In addition to the promises that God had made about this king, a whole lot of folklore and mythology, got built up around what God had said.
And so as time went on, lots of the people were less interested, and less looking out for someone who would lead them in obedience to God, and more on the lookout for some kind of military leader, who would kick out Romans who had conquered and occupied the nation.
And so, because Jesus wasn’t doing those things, most of the people didn’t recognise him as the Messiah.
I think almost everyone we meet, and probably every person here, has some idea, about who Jesus is. There’s a few people kind of squawking on the fringes insisting that Jesus didn’t exist, but there’s no credible historian who thinks that,
So most people that we know, believe that Jesus lived, and walked around, taught people, did stuff, in Israel, in the first Century AD.
But just as lots of people back then, missed out on what Jesus had to offer, because they had some other picture in their mind, so today, if people we know and share our lives with believe that Jesus is probably like this, or that, or something else,
If that’s not actually who Jesus is, then they’ll miss out on the benefits that Jesus brings.
It matters what you think of Jesus,
It matters what you’re looking for, what you think Jesus should be like.
Now, none of us, probably, are looking for a military leader, who’s going to get rid of the Romans and make Israel great again!
But if we think that Jesus is all about making our lives easier,
Solving all our problems,
Making me healthy, and rich, without a care in the world,
If that’s what I’m looking out for, someone like that,
What’s going to happen?
I’m going to miss Jesus.
When Jesus does what he thinks is important, what he has to offer, I’m not going to be ready for it.
I’ll miss out.
What you think about Jesus matters.
Our friends and family need to meet Jesus
I know that for lots of us, our conversations with our friends and family who aren’t Christians, can easily move into areas where Christian thinking is at odds with the prevailing worldview of our society, so the conversation ends up being about “what Christians disapprove of.”
Or we find ourselves in discussions about things where the Bible doesn’t give us heaps of detail. Maybe conversations about science and faith, because the Bible doesn’t set out to answer many of our scientific questions.
There’s lots of these dead ends, that our conversations can get stuck in.
But friends, we want to get, to Jesus.
But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
If you’ve got friends, family, colleagues, who don’t have the certainty of eternal life in Christ,
They don’t have the right confidence to stand before God, knowing that their rebellion against God,
Their polite rejection of him, the penalty for that has been taken away,
If they don’t know that,
If they don’t know that their sin and rebellion can be forgiven by Jesus’ death in their place, then they need to hear about Jesus.
The thing that you can do for them is to talk to them about Jesus,
Because who you think Jesus is, matters.
What you think Jesus came to do matters.
And this is always an encouragement to me, because it reminds me that my conversations with people who are far from God, don’t really need to be about all those secondary issues that perhaps I don’t really know much about, but I ought to be talking about Jesus.
I might not know enough to have very good answers to the scientific questions, or I may not have ever given much thought to the particular aspect of the worldview that my friend thinks trumps a Christian point of view,
But that’s not what my friend needs from me, actually.
They need to learn who Jesus is. And I can talk about Jesus, because I know Jesus.
All of a sudden my conversations about faith, are squarely in the realm that I’m familiar with. And even if you struggle to call to mind what you believe about Jesus, do what I do, and open the Bible and read, about Jesus, and ask, “well, what do you think about this?
How doe Jesus strike you?
How would you respond to him?
What questions do you have?”
I’m not saying we don’t answer the wider questions that our friends have about the implications of faith in Jesus,
I’m saying that’s not what matters the most,
Who is Jesus, and are you ready to respond to him?
An incomplete understanding of who Jesus is, what he’s come to do, can get in the way so much, that Jesus tells his disciples not to reveal that he’s the Messiah.
There in verse 21, 21 Jesus strictly warned them not to tell this to anyone.
Who is Jesus? That’s the question to wrestle with.
At this stage even the disciples are still in that stage of true, but not complete.
Because the kind of Messiah that Jesus is, how he achieves the work of rescue, and deliverance, and relationship, that his Father sent him to accomplish, well it’s really the opposite of how most people expect a king to rule.
Jesus came to suffer willingly (v 21 – 22)
This is the first explicit reference to Jesus’ suffering in Luke’s historical account. There’s been hints of it already, but from this point on, they come thick and fast.
And often Luke preserves Jesus’ use of the word “must” when he’s speaking about his sufferings.
I remember sitting in a church business meeting many years ago, when a new constitution for the church was being drafted, and there were endless discussions over the words “will”, “shall”, and “must”, and the relative strength conveyed by each word.
And as a uni student at the time, I must confess, my eyes glazed over, as the discussion entered, what felt like it’s 8th hour, of discussion, because the nuance was lost on me.
But feel the strength of the word here. “must” It’s not just that Jesus will suffer, or even that he shall suffer, but that he must suffer.
It is woven into the very fabric of the kind of Messiah that Jesus is, that he is required to suffer,
The things that Jesus is going to achieve as God’s chosen king, can only be achieved through suffering.
There is no other way,
There is no other kind of Messiah.
“The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders,
he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”
And so even though things happen at the hands of people, the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, they’re part of God’s deliberate plan. They must happen.
But the fact that these things will happen to Jesus is all the more remarkable in the light of the tremendous power and authority that we’ve seen Jesus demonstrate so far in Luke’s gospel account.
The only way these things could possibly happen, is because Jesus willingly submits himself,
Willingly chooses the path, to suffering and death, in order to pay the price for our sin and rebellion.
Think of Jesus multiplying food thousands of times, like we saw last week in chapter 9,
Even having such power that he can give that authority to his disciples so that they can heal disease, and triumph over evil,
Or at the end of chapter 8, Jesus calms a furious storm, and raises a girl from the dead.
What hope to the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law have against someone like this? To bring him down and cause him to suffer.
He gives life! How can they possibly kill him?
Because Jesus willingly, and humbly submits to suffering and rejection, so that the suffering and rejection that should be ours, and that we are powerless against, can be taken away.
The cost of discipleship is deciding, every day, to suffer (v 23 – 27)
And the willing submission, suffering and rejection, that we see in Jesus, well he says, it’s what’s in store for us also.
If you’re here this morning because you’re trying to figure out what becoming a Christian is going to mean for you, well here’s part of the answer!
And for those of us, most of us, who are Christians, my question, Jesus’ question, for you, is this what your Christian life looks like?
The cost of discipleship is deciding to suffer every day, to the point of death, Jesus says.
Verse 23, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me
It’s hard to be a follower of Jesus.
He doesn’t want his disciples to be under any illusions about that.
Being a follower of Jesus is not about what you can get out of it, but about being willing to pay the cost of following Jesus every day.
He’s not saying you necessarily will die, you can’t take up your cross daily, if you’re dead!
Jesus is deliberately using the metaphor based on how he will die, must die, remember, to say that his followers must be willing to walk the same path.
I was reading some articles late last year about the guillotine, as a means of execution. It was the 40th anniversary of the last person being executed by guillotine in France.
And you’re probably aware, the point of the guillotine, is that it was supposed to be a quick, painless, and cruelty-free means of execution.
The cross, was not that. It was very deliberately the opposite of all of that.
Crucifixion was about torture, and punishment, and deterring would-be criminals, as they watched someone take hours or days to die.
And the person who was about to die, was forced to carry their cross, or part of it, from their jail cell to the place of execution.
It was a way of marking them out, signalling to everyone, this person is condemned,
This person’s not one of us,
Their life is no longer their own.
And this is the picture that Jesus uses, to describe how we ought to think about our life, when we become his disciple.
Taking up your cross, as a follower of Jesus, is not just about giving up your preferences, for the sake of others, or for the sake of the gospel.
I sometimes hear Christians talking like that. Some minor thing that troubles them is their “cross to bear.”
You’ve heard people say it;, “I can’t stand bad coffee, but that’s just my cross to bear!”
No, carrying your cross meant being on your way to your execution! Not, having to drink International Roast!
It might mean giving up your preference, for what happens on a Sunday;,
But it certainly means a lot more than that.
The path to discipleship is not the one that seems comfortable, or safe, or sensible to a human way of thinking.
Taking up your cross, might include the ridicule and rejection you receive in your workplace or your home, when you invite someone to church, or to Simply Christianity, or when you ask someone what they think of Jesus.
It might include the cost of hours and hours, serving in some ministry area in our church, so that other people can hear the good news of Jesus.
It might include the cost on your relationships, if you leave to be part of our next church plant.
It might include the cost of stepping into some ministry area you really never thought you’d get involved in, because someone else is leaving with the church plant and created an opening.
It might be the financial cost of going without something that you would really like, maybe something you’ve been saving towards for a while, but you give that up, to enable one of our high school kids to go on Impact Camp in March, where they’ll hear the gospel, and where they’ll be taught and trained what it is to live as a disciple of Jesus.
Taking up your cross might look like any one of those things.
But friends when we choose the comfortable path,
When we make the comfortable choice,
When we put our preferences, our needs, our life even, before obedience to Jesus, we’re choosing to step off the path of discipleship,
Off the path that Jesus himself trod, and calls us to follow.
When we choose our needs, our priorities, our life even, in trying to gain, verse 25, even some small part of the whole world, we risk losing our very self.
Step off the path of discipleship, and we miss out on who we were made to be, and the life we were created for,
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me
There should be nothing we value more, than faithful obedience to Jesus, not even life itself.
And every day, we make the choice again, to follow Jesus whatever the cost.
It’s not enough to say, “Well I became a Christian last year,
Or, 30 years ago,
Or, 50 years ago, therefore I’m living in obedience to Jesus.”
Jesus says, every day, you have to choose.
Every day, you have to decide to be willing to suffer.
There are some churches who promote their message, by offering people, and I quote, “Your best life.”
Now, Jesus offers life in all its fullness.
But let’s make no mistake, this is the kind of life it is.
This is the kind of life Jesus offers,
Not, whatever we might imagine is best for us.
Do you see Jesus clearly (v 28 – 36)?
The picture of discipleship is hard one.
But let’s see clearly exactly who calls us into this kind of life.
Luke links this next episode in time, we need to think about this episode, in the light of what’s just been said about who Jesus is.
Jesus takes Peter, John and James, up onto a mountain to pray.
As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning.
, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus
Growing up I always knew this event was called “the transfiguration”, and you can see the NIV Bible publishers have put that as the paragraph heading there, but I think I was at university before I learnt what a “transfiguration” was!
And it’s just older way of saying what we read there in verse 29, the appearance of his face changed, he was transfigured, is what the older Bible translations used to say.
And I tell you the story of my enlightenment, not just so that you can feel superior to me, if you’ve known all your life what transfiguration means, but as a reminder for us not to exclude people with our language.
People who are new to Christian things, even, as I proved, people who have been around church all their life, can find themselves left out, if they don’t understand the words we use.
Realising that you’re on the outer because of how other people speak, that’s a pretty ordinary feeling, isn’t it?
So especially those of us who lead in different ways in our church,
In Bible Study Groups,
In other ministries, but all of us, really, just, stick that reminder in the back of your mind.
But notice that when Luke tells us that Peter and the others became fully awake, they saw his glory, and the two men standing with him
We’ve talked about glory a bit over the last few months,
Glory is splendour, like something restored to its former glory.
Glory is the very essence of something, seeing someone as they really are, nothing hidden. Like we sometimes talk about seeing someone in all their glory! Which is a little bit rude but it’s such a good example!
These 3 disciples see Jesus in all his glory!
They seem him as he really is, the radiant Son of God,
They seem him as the true fulfilment of all of the Old Testament, and everything God achieved through Moses and Elijah, and also about everything God promised about his own coming into the world.
Jesus the fulfilment of all of God’s plans for his people. The disciples get a glimpse of that.
Often in the Old Testament a cloud would symbolise God’s presence. And here it’s the same.
And lest there be any doubt,
If these 3 disciples were to somehow miss the significance of this moment, and I don’t think they did entirely, because at least Peter wants to make this moment last as long as possible, he understands this is a moment of significance, “let’s run down to BCF and get 3 tents, one for you, one for Moses, one for Elijah”,
But in case these 3 didn’t understand the significance of what they were seeing, God himself speaks and testifies about Jesus, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.”
This is my Son, whom I have chosen, that’s quite the job title isn’t it?
There’s a businessman in China by the name of Guangbiao Chen, and the job title on his business card reads, “Most influential person of China,
Most prominent philanthropist of China,
China Moral leader,
China Earthquake rescue hero,
Most well-known and beloved Chinese role model,
China top 10 most honourable volunteer,
Most charismatic philanthropist of China”,
And it goes on and on! Turns out he’s the CEO of a waste and recycling company!
When God says “This is my Son, whom I have chosen”, that’s a job title that says something!
Peter and James, and John, have seen God’s glorious king. Their experience on this mountain, seeing Jesus as he really is, is what makes sense of Jesus’ words in verse 27, that some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.”
They’re given a glimpse of Jesus as he really is, as one day everyone will see him.
But what’s the point of this event?
Why does Jesus give these 3, the leaders of his disciples this insight into who he is?
Well, as I said, Luke wants us to read this, in the light of what’s been said already about Jesus identity as the Messiah, and the high cost of discipleship.
Because what looks like a failure in his suffering and crucifixion, looks entirely different when we realise who it is, who submits to such appalling treatment, and when we see the majestic glory, that waits on the other side of Jesus’ suffering.
The transfiguration gives the disciples a glimpse both of Jesus as he really is, and as he will be, after his death and resurrection, exalted to the right hand of his father.
So the transfiguration helps us make sense of the cross, and to understand Jesus’ suffering, but I think it also helps us respond to his call to discipleship, and to consider the very high cost that Jesus says we’ll incur.
When someone requires something of you, or calls on you to do something, how you respond, or whether you respond, is determined, at least in part, by who that person is, isn’t it?
How willing you are to respond,
How much convincing it would take,
How strong the doubts are that linger in your mind, that would all be impacted, by the who.
Who is asking you to do this?
So if you ring me in the middle of the night, and you say, “Clayton, get out of your house,
Get in the car,
I’m probably unlikely to just do what you say, straight away, without any question.
You say, “Get up”, and I’m probably still laying there in bed thinking, “Do I really want to do this?
Is this going to be worth the effort?
Is it something I can do later?
Does it have to be now?, and so on.”
Slightly different though, if Nathan Watts rings me in the middle of the night, he says “Rev”, that’s what all the Watts family call me, they’re very respectful!
He says, “Rev, get out.
Get in the car.
Drive away now.”
Nathan says that to me, my family and I are in the car driving down the street, quicker than anything.
Why? Well because of who he is? And not because I said he’s respectful! But because he’s the Group Officer for the Country Fire Service, and if he tells me to evacuate, I know there’s going to be good reason, and I’m not even going to worry about the cost.
See if you have a right understanding of the person making the call, requiring something of you, you have much less reason to doubt,
To second guess your response,
To worry about the high cost, and whether it’s worth it.
Now, don’t anyone ring me tonight and pretend to be Nathan, just to see if this is true! Just take my word for it!
Sure, the cost of following Jesus is high.
But look at the one who calls you!
The glorious Son of God,
The one who fulfils all of the Old Testament, and God’s plans and purposes throughout it,
The who is chosen by God,
The one about who God himself testifies.
If we understand who Jesus is, this Jesus, we won’t fear the high cost of discipleship,
We won’t second-guess our commitment and wonder if it’s worth it,
We won’t be tempted to gain the things of this world, and risk forfeiting our very selves.
I said before that if you were trying to work out what it is to follow Jesus, then that high cost of obedience, giving up everything even to death, was part of the picture. And it is.
But it is only part of the picture.
And this is another part.
Sent by his Father,
Saying, “come, follow me.”