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.”

Comments

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.

Red Letter Year: 7/22

Luke 9:1-17

One day Jesus called together his twelve disciples and gave them power and authority to cast out all demons and to heal all diseases. Then he sent them out to tell everyone about the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick.“Take nothing for your journey,” he instructed them. “Don’t take a walking stick, a traveler’s bag, food, money, or even a change of clothes. Wherever you go, stay in the same house until you leave town. And if a town refuses to welcome you, shake its dust from your feet as you leave to show that you have abandoned those people to their fate.”

So they began their circuit of the villages, preaching the Good News and healing the sick.

When Herod Antipas, the ruler of Galilee, heard about everything Jesus was doing, he was puzzled. Some were saying that John the Baptist had been raised from the dead. Others thought Jesus was Elijah or one of the other prophets risen from the dead.

“I beheaded John,” Herod said, “so who is this man about whom I hear such stories?” And he kept trying to see him.

10 When the apostles returned, they told Jesus everything they had done. Then he slipped quietly away with them toward the town of Bethsaida. 11 But the crowds found out where he was going, and they followed him. He welcomed them and taught them about the Kingdom of God, and he healed those who were sick.

12 Late in the afternoon the twelve disciples came to him and said, “Send the crowds away to the nearby villages and farms, so they can find food and lodging for the night. There is nothing to eat here in this remote place.”

13 But Jesus said, “You feed them.”

“But we have only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered. “Or are you expecting us to go and buy enough food for this whole crowd?” 14 For there were about 5,000 men there.

Jesus replied, “Tell them to sit down in groups of about fifty each.” 15 So the people all sat down. 16 Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, looked up toward heaven, and blessed them. Then, breaking the loaves into pieces, he kept giving the bread and fish to the disciples so they could distribute it to the people. 17 They all ate as much as they wanted, and afterward, the disciples picked up twelve baskets of leftovers!

Comments

Prior to this passage, Luke has established the character of Jesus’ ministry (see Friday’s summary). At the end of this chapter the focus will shift to the journey to Jerusalem. The looming cross becomes the overriding theme. In between, the focus is on the Twelve. The ones who continue the same work as Jesus, spread it farther, carry it on, and model it for others who continue widening the circle. In sending them out, Luke makes true the name he gave them previously – apostle means one sent with a message (the noun in 6.13 is cognate to the verb in 9.2). Jesus doesn’t just send them out, he sends them with power and authority, key terms we have already seen Luke use to describe Jesus’ own work. This is most likely the reason Luke leaves out the story of John’s execution: it would only detract from the themes he is carefully developing.

The other significant change Luke makes to the previous texts is the command to take nothing is absolute (even the staff allowed in Mark is disallowed here). They literally take nothing. The work the Twelve accomplish must have been phenomenal, because it even gets Herod’s attention. Herod’s appearance here foreshadows the political opposition both Jesus and his early followers are about to face (both of which Luke writes about in Luke and in Acts). The feeding of the 5000 completes this vignette as a reminder that provision will come to those who take nothing and then meet opposition.

One last note. In 9.17, Luke tells us the people were satisfied. This is the same word Jesus used in 6.21, “Blessed are the poor, for they will be satisfied.” Luke wanted us to see this both as hope for these who give up everything to follow Jesus and the beginning of fulfilling the word spoken on the plain. I argued before that Luke de-spiritualized Matthew’s “poor in spirit.” His word choice here for people eating food bears that out.

If you have given up everything to follow Jesus (or know you’ve been called to and are scared), take hope. He still stretches a little to go as far as you need. Whatever your need, something will present itself to meet it. If you haven’t gone all in on Jesus yet, what are you waiting 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.