Red Letter Year: 7/23

Luke 9:18-27

photo-318 One day Jesus left the crowds to pray alone. Only his disciples were with him, and he asked them, “Who do people say I am?”

19 “Well,” they replied, “some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say you are one of the other ancient prophets risen from the dead.”

20 Then he asked them, “But who do you say I am?”

Peter replied, “You are the Messiah sent from God!”

21 Jesus warned his disciples not to tell anyone who he was. 22 “The Son of Man must suffer many terrible things,” he said. “He will be rejected by the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He will be killed, but on the third day he will be raised from the dead.”

23 Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me. 24 If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. 25 And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but are yourself lost or destroyed? 26 If anyone is ashamed of me and my message, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when he returns in his glory and in the glory of the Father and the holy angels. 27 I tell you the truth, some standing here right now will not die before they see the Kingdom of God.”


This is one of those passages that gives us a pretty clear indication of what Luke was up to. Remember how Jesus praised Peter for his confession and gave him the keys of the kingdom, to bind and loose. Luke has removed that. Remember how Peter rebukes Jesus for talking about being executed only to have Jesus counter-rebuke Peter? That’s gone too. Peter speaks the confession here, but he speaks it on behalf of the disciples (remember this is more than the Twelve whom Luke is apostles) and it is a more positive and natural progression. The secretive nature of Mark is gone. The disciples not getting it is gone too. This puts the Twelve, and especially Peter, in a better light, but it also diffuses  the focus, so it is not on them specifically as much as on all disciples – including Luke’s readers.

Instead of reverse-rebuking Peter, Jesus goes straight into his admonition to take up your cross and follow him. Luke has constructed it to make it as plain as possible that this message is intended for all disciples, everyone who would follow Jesus. Luke also inserts one very significant word here: daily. We must turn from our selfish ways, take up our crosses daily, and follow Jesus. Only Luke has daily, which makes the entire teaching much more plainly about Christian spirituality. Luke wants to make sure we come to understand that discipleship is a process of spiritual formation that only happens as we apply ourselves continually to the work of following Jesus. No one time event, no yearly celebration, no weekly gathering can take the place of daily denying of self and daily following of our Lord. Today’s passage lays out for us what it means to be a disciple of Jesus:

  1. Disciples name Jesus as Messiah, Christ, God’s anointed one
  2. Disciples deny themselves, they crucify their sinful, selfish desires on an ongoing basis
  3. Disciples give their lives for the kingdom of God

There is no room for vanity in following Jesus. The ones who see the kingdom of God are the self-deniers. The question remains for each of us to answer: “Who do you say that I am?” We answer with our lives whether we will say Jesus is one worth giving everything for.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale HousePublishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.