Do You Wanna Follow Jesus?

Posted: December 12, 2016 in Uncategorized

Luke 9:18-27, “Do You Wanna Follow Jesus?”

It’s funny how language changes.  “Awful” used to mean “awesome,” but now it means the opposite.  “Nice” used to mean “foolish,” whereas “silly” used to mean “blessed.”  We might understand how meaning changes over the course of centuries from Old English to our modern language, but sometimes technology can speed up the process.  “Follow” used to mean “to go/come after something or someone,” as if you were following directions.  Now it means how many folks are watching your Twitter or Instagram feeds.   Sometimes we follow people without ever realizing it.  We adopt mannerisms, expressions, and attitudes from the people around us, many times subconsciously.  Have you ever wondered why a sour attitude seems to be contagious?  It’s because you’ve followed the person right into it.  Who it is we follow, therefore, is of utmost importance!

Who should we follow?  Jesus!  Especially for Christians, we ought to be following Christ.  Yet if we’re honest about it, many times it doesn’t work that way.  Oh we believe in Jesus, are thankful for His sacrifice at the cross, and have asked Him to forgive us our sins.  The trouble comes in taking the next step.  Following Jesus is to walk in His steps, to do the things He did, to walk with God the way He walked, etc.  That’s where many of us falter.  It’s one thing to believe in Him; it’s another to follow after Him.  Many are content to pray a prayer of salvation, but they are not so ready for the commitment of following that comes with it. 

And that’s the rub.  Whereas modern evangelicals often separate salvation from discipleship, the Bible does not.

  • In the Great Commission, Jesus sent out the apostles with the command to make disciples; not converts. (Mt 28:20)
  • John notes that the person who is in Christ is a person who habitually walks as Jesus walked. (1 Jn 2:6)
  • After writing of the many wonders of the salvation we have received in Christ, Paul wrote how we are to present our bodies as living sacrifices back to Christ (Rom 12:1), and how we are to walk worthy of our calling (Eph 4:1).  So important was this to Paul that he instructed the churches he planted to imitate/follow him, as he himself followed Christ (1 Cor 11:1).

The point?  Discipleship isn’t an option.  It’s not an add-on to Christianity; it is Christianity.  If we are not following Jesus as His disciples, we need to ask ourselves if we are really following Him at all.  True discipleship is faith that follows Christ – and that is exactly what Jesus desires from us.

To this point in Luke 9, Jesus sent His apostles on a short-term mission trip around Galilee, having empowered them to do the same things He Himself did: cure diseases, cast out demons, and preach the gospel.  Jesus is so powerful, He has the power to delegate His power!  When the disciples returned to Him, Jesus took them to a secluded place where He was soon found by the curious crowds.  Jesus ministered to them all day long, and eventually they became hungry – and that’s when Jesus performed the pinnacle of His miracles (prior to the cross): multiplying 5 loaves of bread & 2 fish for 5,000 men + women & children (7,000 – 10,000 total).  When Jesus did it, He demonstrated the ultimate power: the power of the Creator God.

That’s what the crowds saw – but what would they do with that knowledge?  What would they actually believe about Jesus?  And more than that – how would Jesus’ own disciples respond to Him?  Did they truly understand what it was Jesus was going to face, and what they would face as well?  If Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, then He is a Christ that must be followed.  Would they do so in faith?  Will we?

Luke 9:18–27

  • Question & Confession (18-20) – Who Jesus is.

18 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?”

  • It’s interesting to do a comparison with the other two Synoptic Gospels here, in that it quickly becomes obvious that Luke omits much narrative between the feeding of the 5,000 and this confession at Caesarea Philippi.  Matthew shows the feeding of the 5,000 in his 14th chapter – follows it with Jesus walking on water, confronting the Pharisees, going into the region of Tyre & Sidon to find a single woman, healing multitudes of people, and then feeding 4,000 men (plus women & children), and more, until finally this Q&A session with Peter’s confession is found midway through Matthew 16.  Luke leaves all of that out.  It’s apparent that he wants to tie the “crowds” together: both those who were fed by Him & those who spoke about Him.  What would be the response of those who saw the miracles of Jesus?  What were they saying about Him?
  • Although there is much that Luke chose not to include regarding the lead-up to this conversation with the apostles, there’s one detail Luke is unique in recording: Jesus “was alone praying.”  There’s nothing said about He & the disciples being in Caesarea Philippi (which is strange considering Luke’s normal emphasis on Gentile areas), there’s nothing about the location whatsoever.  Yet there’s this tiny detail about Jesus being alone in prayer, with His disciples eventually coming to Him.  So habitual was Jesus’ time in prayer, that He didn’t neglect it anywhere He went.  For us, we often pray when it is convenient for us – when we remember – when it fits into our schedule.  For Jesus, it didn’t matter what the rest of His day held…He was going to be praying at some point! 
    • What is your habit of prayer?  Do you have a habit of prayer?  Do you regularly spend time speaking to God, praising Him, waiting upon Him?  It’s so easy for us to fall into a rut of mealtimes, bedtimes, and church-times, having those be the only occasions we pray (if that!).  Have you ever wondered what your spiritual life might be like if that changed?  What would happen to your spirit, if you spent more time interceding through the Holy Spirit?  Let’s stop merely admiring the devotion of people in the past, and start engaging in it ourselves!
  • In any case, at some point, the “disciples joined Him,” and that’s when Jesus asked them what might seem to be a curious question. “Who do the crowds say that I am?”  Why is it curious?  (1) Because Jesus is the Son of God, and He has no need for us to supply Him with information.  (2) Because Jesus isn’t thick-headed, and He could easily tell what the crowds were whispering about them.  (3) Because Jesus isn’t egotistical, or emotionally dependent on what others think of Him.  So yes, this is a curious question – but it’s a necessary one.  Why?  Because this question is a set-up.  If Jesus gets the disciples thinking through the various theories of the people concerning Himself, then He’ll also get them thinking about their own theory of His identity…and that’s what He was driving at all along.
  • That said, the “crowds” do talk, don’t they?  Rumors fly all the time about all kinds of things.  We live in a golden-age of rumors today with the advent of social media.  News stories and headlines go viral in a manner of minutes, before anyone has the opportunity to verify whether they are true or false.  Just because a bunch of people say something, doesn’t mean it’s true.  Just because a bunch of people agree, doesn’t make it right.  The vast majority of people in the world today currently reject Jesus as Messiah.  Are they right or wrong?  Wrong, most assuredly!  People can be in full agreement, yet still agree about an untruth.  And it is truth that matters.  Who people think Jesus is, can be totally different than who He actually is – and that will make all the difference in the world on Judgment Day.

19 So they answered and said, “John the Baptist, but some say Elijah; and others say that one of the old prophets has risen again.”

  • The apostles had heard the discussions of the crowd, and they were able to relate it back to Jesus.  It’s interesting to note that these were the same theories as Herod had heard, when he was seemingly feeling a bit of guilt over his execution of John the Baptist (Lk 9:7-9).  Apparently these same rumors swirled about Jesus for quite some time, which goes to show that many times rumors get a lot more attention than the truth!
  • What were the most common guesses?  All interesting choices, though the whole thought was somewhat illogical.  Jews did not at all believe in reincarnation (that idea was completely foreign to their line of thought), so this would either have to be Jesus serving in this same prophetic role, or Him having the spirit of someone else resting upon Him (like Elisha and Elijah), or the other person being raised from the dead & now walking around with the (supposedly) new name of Jesus. 
    • John the Baptist: This is the most curious of all the choices (IMO), in that Jesus and John were contemporaries with one another.  And, unlike Elijah and Elisha who had a master & disciple relationship with one another, Jesus & John did not.  John was only a few months older than Jesus, and apart from the one brief moment when John baptized Him, we have no Biblical evidence that they ever publicly associated with each other.  Surely they knew each other as cousins, spoke together, spent time together, etc., but as far as ministering together – there was nothing.  So why would the people think Jesus was John the Baptist?  (1) Their core message was identical (“Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!”), (2) John spent much time speaking of the Messiah in preparation for Him, and Jesus spent much time speaking of the Messiah to help people believe in Him, (3) John was the last major prophet on the scene.  That was the easiest name for people to use.
    • Elijah: This makes far more sense, on several levels.  (1) Jesus did far more miracles than all of the other prophets, and Elijah was known for his abundance of miracles.  (2) Elijah was expected to return prior to Judgement Day (Mal 4:5).  Granted, Jesus clearly taught that Elijah’s role was fulfilled somewhat by John the Baptist (Mt 11:14), but not all of the people would have heard that or believed it.  (3) Unlike all the other prophets, Elijah never actually died.  He was taken to heaven in a chariot of fire, and is potentially only one out of two people in history who never died (Enoch, being the other – Gen 3:24).
    • An “old prophet,” resurrected.  This would be the catch-all.  Matthew records that a guess was included with this category: Jeremiah (Mt 16:14), perhaps due to Jesus’ abundance of teaching – especially that of judgment.  Mark & Luke simply mention the general category of prophets.  What makes this curious is why the people couldn’t accept Jesus on His own.  Why was it necessary for Jesus to be someone else from the past, and not Someone new & different in the present?  Perhaps it’s because there was only one real possibility, and it was something the people couldn’t bring themselves to face.  All that was left was for Jesus to be the Messiah…and He is!
    • Interesting guesses…all wrong.  Like the old scene from “Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade,” they chose poorly.  Whatever their justification was for believing that Jesus was those other people, it was the wrong choice.  They believed that Jesus was anyone other than who He actually claimed to be: the Son of Man / the Son of God.

20 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” …

  • This is the crux of the matter!  There is emphasis on the Greek personal pronoun here.  It could be translated, “But you yourselves, who do you say that I am?”  IOW, “You’ve thought about the crowds – you’ve heard the rumors – but what about you?”  The disciples had spent far more time with Jesus than anyone else.  They had seen more miracles – they had heard more teaching.  They had even been empowered by Jesus to go out and do the same thing themselves.  What prophet of the past had ever empowered his students to go do the same?  So with all of that in mind, who did the disciples say that Jesus was?
  • At the end of the day, this is what’s important to us, too.  Who do you say that Jesus is?  You’ve heard other people talk about Him.  Some blow Him off, dismissing Him entirely.  Some have a generic respect from Him, but don’t really pay Him much attention.  Others say they believe that He’s God, yet only think about Him every Christmas & Easter.  Still others believe that He truly is God, and worship Him as such.  But that’s other people – what about you? 
  • Is it personal?  Yes – and it’s bound to be.  It comes down to an intimate, personal decision.  You must make a choice of what you believe about Jesus, and that’s a choice that literally affects the rest of your life (unto eternity).  Your whole existence hangs upon this very personal decision.  No one can make it for you; you are the one who needs to come to grips with Jesus.
    • Have you done it?  Some people know they ought to believe, but they put it off, thinking that they can always deal with it later.  How wrong!  We never know what lies in the days ahead – much less if we’ll even see the days ahead.  If you know you need to make the decision to believe upon Jesus, then you need to make it today.
  • The disciples knew what they believed, and Peter went on to say it…

…Peter answered and said, “The Christ of God.”

  • Good answer!  Peter was the one who opened his mouth, but it seems likely that he spoke on behalf of the rest of the 12 as well (at least, the other 11 apart from Judas).  Peter & the others recognized that Jesus was far more than those other prophets or prophetic roles of the past.  As great as they were, they were nothing in comparison with the Man in front of them.  Neither Moses nor Abraham would have been great enough, even if they had been in the mix.  Jesus far outweighed them all!
  • Who is He?  “The Christ of God.”  Again, Matthew’s version records a bit more, giving Peter’s full answer: Matthew 16:16, "Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”"  Luke’s version doesn’t contradict or disagree in the slightest; all of that is wrapped up in the four words Luke did include.  Jesus is “the Christ of God.”
  • Christ”: Although we use it as a name, the word is technically a title.  The Greek is Χριστός, and is the translation of the Hebrew מָשִׁיחַ , meaning “anointed one.”  In most cases, it referred to the person who was chosen by God to be king.  When God gave Saul to Israel as king, Samuel anointed him with oil, pouring a whole flask over his head as a symbol of God’s divine choice (1 Sam 10:1).  Samuel later did the same thing with David (1 Sam 16:13).  That role of anointing was passed on from generation to generation among David’s lineage, with each successive king being thought of as God’s anointed one, or messiah.  So first of all, there are kingly expectations with the term.  If Jesus is the Christ, then He must be the legitimate successor to David, the rightful king of all Israel.
    • We can see how this line of thought might cause some heartburn for the Romans, and other levels of leadership in Judea.  If too many people start seeing Jesus as their legitimate king, then they might form an army to back Him.  The Romans didn’t take this sort of competition lightly, and people didn’t often take the chance of crossing them.  Thus for Peter & the apostles to say that Jesus is the Christ was for them to take a pretty huge personal stand.  They were staking their claim with Jesus, come what may.
    • Christian: are you prepared to do the same?
  • But “Christ” is more than just a title for a divinely-appointed governmental role; it was itself a title of divinity.  Certainly the Davidic kings were not considered divine, but the Jews understood that eventually there would be One who was.  In God’s initial covenant with David, God promised to raise up a descendant of David’s, whose throne God would establish forever – and that God Himself would be called His Father (2 Sam 6:13-14).  The prophet Daniel wrote of “Messiah the Prince” who would come to Israel, but be suddenly cut off – in reference to the crucifixion (Dan 9:25-26).  Habbakuk wrote of the Anointed One of God (מָשִׁיחַ ) bringing salvation to God’s people in light of His wrath on Judgment Day (Hab 3:13).  This is a Man, but He is anyone but a mere man.  This is a Divine Man, chosen by God for a specific purpose: to save His people, and to rule over them forever. Thus when Peter called Jesus “the Christ of God,” Peter was pinning all of the hopes of his people onto Jesus – he was declaring that every prophecy in the whole of Scripture hung upon this Man in front of him.  In essence, he was saying, “You, Jesus, are the fulfillment of every prophecy in the Bible.  You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
    • That’s huge! That’s the same conclusion we all need to make, but no one can make it for us.
  • Prophecy of Passion (21-22) – What Jesus will do.

21 And He strictly warned and commanded them to tell this to no one,

  • Peter’s statement was indeed huge, and in light of it, Jesus commanded them to keep this conversation confidential.  Why?  Considering how often Jesus had openly declared to be the Son of God (right in the heart of Jerusalem, according to the gospel of John), why should the confession of Peter & the others stay quiet?  Because it’s one thing for Jesus to say it; it’s another for other people to believe it & start talking about it themselves.  Don’t get the wrong idea.  Jesus wanted people to believe & to tell others who He is & what He has done (i.e. the command He gave to the former demoniac – Lk 9:39-40).  He had even sent out the 12 to go preach the gospel in His name, doing the things He did (Lk 9:1-6).  Theories about Jesus wanting to keep a Messianic secret are ill-founded.  Yet there were some aspects that needed to remain quiet, at least for a time.  Too much talk about Jesus being the expected King of Israel could attract the attention of the Romans, and Jesus still had more to do.  He would see the Romans soon enough, and they would indeed crucify Jesus for the official “crime” of being the King of Israel, but that needed to happen according to the timing of God.
    • In addition, Jesus was perhaps also thinking of the apostles themselves.  For Jesus to command silence at this point wasn’t just for Himself & His own plan; it was for the safety of the 12.  If they started talking too much about a different King, they could easily be arrested & killed themselves.
  • And make no mistake, suffering & death was exactly what was in view.  Peter confessed Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of God.  What did that mean?  What did it entail?  That’s what Jesus goes on to explain…

22 saying, “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.”

  • This is the first major prophecy of the gospel/passion in the book of Luke, but it won’t be the last.  Jesus would specifically teach on His passion both prior to enduring, and after He had risen from the grave.  Obviously this is absolutely central to His message.  He has taught much about the kingdom of God; this is how we enter it.  We must believe upon Jesus as the Christ, the Son of Man in order to be saved.  There are several aspects here that need to be examined:
  • First, the “Son of Man” = the “Christ of God.” Although this statement is not back-to-back with Peter’s confession in the other two Synoptic Gospels (Mt & Mk), Luke put them right next to each other for a reason.  The belief in Jesus as the Christ, and His work as the Son of Man are inextricably tied together.  They go hand-in-hand.  As for Luke, there’s no doubt in his mind that when Jesus calls Himself the “Son of Man,” Jesus is simply picking up from Peter’s confession that Jesus is the “Christ of God.”  Thus when Jesus repeatedly uses the title “Son of Man,” it is absolutely clear what His meaning is.  He isn’t calling Himself ‘just another man,’ like many other men.  He is using that title in its Messianic sense (just as it appears in the prophecies of Daniel).  The Son of Man is the Anointed One of God – the Son of Man is the Son of God.
  • Must suffer”:  Question: is the suffering simply a summary of His coming rejection & death, or is it something separate?  Most likely, it’s both.  Jesus would indeed suffer during the course of His trial & crucifixion, but the physical, emotional, and spiritual suffering He endured had its own role in the sacrificial work of Jesus for us.  When Jesus hung upon the cross for us, He took the entirety of God’s wrath upon Himself – which meant He had to suffer.  Jesus could have died in any number of relatively painless ways – instead, He died one of the most painful, suffering-filled deaths imaginable.
  • Must “be rejected”: Jesus may have been accepted by the apostles, believed by them to be Christ the King, but He would need to be rejected by the “official” Jewish leadership.  The vast majority of “the elders, chief priests, and scribes” would reject Jesus as their King, and convict Him of the charge of blasphemy (showing that they fully understood Jesus claiming to be God).  This was itself the fulfillment of prophecy (“He is despised and rejected by men,” Isa 53:3), and is the very reason that anyone at all can be saved.  After all, how else would the Messiah go to the cross, if He was not first rejected by His people?
  • Must “be killed”: This is the very heart of His mission.  Jesus came to seek and save the lost, and the way He would do it is by being a sacrifice on their behalf (our behalf).  He had to be killed.  Without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sin (Heb 9:22), and without a sufficient sacrifice, everyone is lost.  The problem is that there is no sufficient sacrifice.  Even if every single one of the sacrifices listed in Leviticus 1-5 were followed to the letter, there would still never be enough to forever deal with our sin because we keep sinning.  Besides, as valuable as livestock might be (bulls, goats, rams), they are still far less valuable than humans.  What humans require is an equivalent sacrifice…which is exactly what Jesus provides.  There is no salvation without the death of Christ.
  • Must “be raised”: How crucial this is to the gospel!  If Jesus be not raised, then everything else is vain!  What good would it have been for Jesus to do the miracles, be believed by some as the Christ, suffered, been rejected, and killed – all if He had remained dead?  Everything would have been lost.  The miracles, though nice, would have had an inherent expiration date (i.e. the person’s death).  The faith would have been useless.  The death would have been deserved.  After all, Jesus claimed to be God.  If He wasn’t, then He was rightly convicted of blasphemy, even if the sentence of crucifixion was overly harsh.  But that’s not what happened!  Jesus was raised from the dead, and it was necessary that He do so in order for us to be saved.  He is risen, and His salvation is available to all the world!
  • This is what Jesus predicted about Himself, and this is exactly what came to pass.  Do you believe it?  Do you believe that Jesus did everything He said He would do, and is thus the Christ of God?  If so, you need to respond to that.  How?  (1) By consciously & knowingly putting your trust in Him, and (2) by following Him as a disciple.  Vs. 23…
  • Discipleship (23-27) – What is involved with following Jesus.

23 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.

  • What does it look like to be a disciple?  Jesus tells us.  But before we get to the description itself, there is a pre-existing condition: desire.  “If anyone desires…”  Discipleship isn’t forced upon anyone.  God doesn’t force anyone to become a Christian.  Certainly it is His desire that we do come to faith, as God doesn’t want to see anyone perish in their sins – but it isn’t something He inflicts upon anyone.  It is something we must be willing to do.  Do you want to follow Christ?  Do you want to be saved, and spend eternity with Him?  You have the gift of free will to do so.  You also have the free will to refuse.  If you don’t want to spend eternity in the presence of God, you don’t have to.  But know this: you will spend eternity somewhere, and the Bible tells us there are only two options: heaven or hell. 
    • Objection: “It doesn’t sound like much of a choice!”  Answer: Then that ought to make it easy.  Keep in mind that although we get to pick our own choices, we don’t get to pick our own reality.  Truth is, what truth is. A person might not like the binary choice between heaven or hell, but that is what exists.  God would save us from hell – but it means we must choose to believe upon Christ and follow Him.  And that’s a good thing!  No one who goes to heaven is going to regret being there.  Not a single person in heaven will be bored, depressed, or gloomy wishing they were somewhere else.  We will want to be there, because Jesus is there.  And anyplace where Jesus is, heaven is right with Him!
  • Desire is only the condition.  If someone truly wants to follow Jesus, to be His disciple – then there needs to be a response.  There needs to be a way from moving from “will” into “action,” and that’s what Jesus goes on to teach in three steps.  First, there must be denial.  “Deny himself…”  That’s the opposite of our American culture, is it not?  We’re always trying to better ourselves, seek out the things that make for our own happiness, etc.  And that’s not necessarily evil – but it certainly doesn’t get us into the kingdom of God.  Seeking after our own pleasures won’t get us following Jesus.  Don’t get the wrong idea: following Jesus does not mean being miserable.  To deny yourself doesn’t mean spending your days looking to make yourself suffer as much as humanly possible.  It simply means to keep the right priorities.  Our culture constantly says: “Me first!”  Christianity says, “God first.”  Following Jesus means that we seek the glory of God, and let Him add anything else He desires along the way.  But more than that, it means to deny sin.  When Jesus says that a disciple needs to “deny himself,” the main idea is to deny the flesh – deny the sinful desires that are inherent in us.  Paul says it this way: Romans 6:11, "Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord."  IOW, count yourself as dead to those sinful habits you used to enjoy.  The lusts, the greediness, the pride, the lies – lay those things aside in denial, and follow after Christ in newness of life.
  • Second, there is death. “Take up His cross daily.”  In a very real way, this goes along with step 1.  Again, Paul said to reckon ourselves dead – he wasn’t simply using a dramatic metaphor.  Just as Jesus picked up His cross, so must we do the same.  We need to die to this world, and live for the glory of God.  It’s (sadly) interesting how we so often want to whitewash this.  Today, when people say “I’m just bearing my cross,” they’re talking about an inconvenience.  Our jobs are hard – there are difficult people in our lives – there’s a pebble in my shoe, etc.  The phrase has been watered down so much that it’s practically meaningless.  No, when Jesus tells us to “take up our cross daily,” it means that on a day-by-day basis, we need to die.  The cross was nothing less than a death-sentence, and a painful one at that.  It certainly wasn’t a mere inconvenience!  Few things are more dramatic than death, and that’s exactly what we’re called to do.
    • For some, there’s something in your life that needs killing off.  Maybe it’s an attitude – maybe it’s a habitual sin – maybe it’s something that’s become set up as an idol in your life.  That’s not something you simply put up with & deal it; you need to die to it.  Make the choice to do so.  Pick up your cross of death and die to the thing that would keep you from wholeheartedly following Jesus.  Whatever that thing is, it’s not worth it.
  • Third, there is direction.  The cross isn’t something we simply pick up; we have to take it somewhere.  We “follow” Jesus.  We walk where He walked.  We do the things He did.  We love the way He loved.  We pray like He prayed.  You name it – the things He did & the way He lived His life is the way we now ought to live ours.  When you were a kid, did you ever walk around in your daddy’s shoes?  How fun it was to think you were walking like a grown man!  In a sense, that’s what we do with Jesus.  We want to walk in His footsteps, walking like a mature citizen of the kingdom of God – and more than that, a fellow co-heir of the kingdom itself!

24 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. 25 For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost?

  • There’s a bit of a paradox here, isn’t there?  A “paradox” is a statement that seems senseless or self-contradictory.  How can someone save his life by losing it?  And vice-versa, how can someone lose his life by trying to save it?  It sounds absurd.  It’s not.  It’s the paradox of the gospel.  The cost of discipleship is to lose our lives for Jesus – but if we do, we will find that our lives have been saved for all eternity.  It’s like all the movies that show a person hanging on a cliff for dear life – if they’d just let go of their grip, they could be grabbed by the person reaching out to save them.  That’s the way it is with us and Jesus.  So many people have grabbed hold of their own lustful desires & sins, thinking that it’s the only way to get what they want, and they hold onto it with all their might.  Yet if they let go of those things & trusted Jesus to save them, they would find that Jesus gives them so much more.
  • All it takes is a bit of perspective.  People grab hold of this world, thinking that this world is all there is…and it’s not.  The 70-80-90 years of this life are a drop in the bucket in comparison with eternity, and we are created to be eternal beings.  What good is 70 years’ worth of riches, if the next 7000+ are spent in suffering?  Worse yet, what value does 3 minutes’ worth of sin have, in comparison to the next eons to come?  Jesus could not have put it in starker terms: what is at stake is absolute destruction.  Nothing is worth that kind of cost.

26 For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels.

  • What does it mean to “ashamed” of Jesus?  What the Lord speaks of here seems so unthinkable that might want to look a bit closer at the word to see if there’s some shade of meaning that makes it better for us.  Sorry, no.  The Greek word means “to experience a painful feeling or sense of loss of status because of some particular event or activity.” (BDAG)  “Ashamed” is a perfectly good translation.  What makes this difficult for us to swallow is that the shame goes two ways: one from men, and the other from Jesus.  Those who are ashamed of Jesus will find that Jesus is ashamed of them at His coming.  Those who deny Christ today, will themselves be denied by Christ later.  That makes it a most serious thing, indeed!
  • Although we typically hear this verse quoted at altar calls, this isn’t contextually referring to them.  This isn’t hesitancy in responding to the gospel; this is shame in being associated with Christ at all.  This is entirely rejecting the gospel, finding it to be shameful – and thus rejecting Jesus right alongside it.  BUT, even as Christians, we’re not totally off the hook.  Some people, though claiming to believe in Christ, still feel shame to publicly associate themselves with Jesus.  When Christians (or at least cultural Christians) start apologizing for the gospel or for the Scriptures – when they shy away from the claims of Jesus, then they are demonstrating shame in Jesus Himself.  When people who claim to be Christian don’t want to be known as “Christian,” (or a “disciple,” or a “follower of Jesus,” pick your title), that is being ashamed of Him.  This isn’t necessarily talking about fear (though fear can lead to shame); it’s talking about downright denial.  This is the person who shows up in church, yet doesn’t want anything to do with Jesus outside the building.  This is the person who calls him/herself “Christian” because they know they’re not Jewish, Muslim, or Hindu, but doesn’t want to be known by His name by anything other than a census form.
    • If that’s you, hear this clearly: eternity doesn’t hang on whether or not your name is on a church membership role somewhere.  Where you spend the next 1000 years is not based on whether or not you claimed to be Christian; it’s whether or not you actually are one.  Believe upon Jesus today!  Follow Him!
  • Talking about Jesus (the Son of Man) coming in glory brings up another event coming very soon, which Jesus gives a bit of preview about.  Vs. 27…

27 But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the kingdom of God.”

  • This is a rather ambiguous statement of Jesus, and there have been many theories as to what He meant by it.  Some believe that the kingdom literally came in 70AD when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem – but it obviously did not by the lack of fulfillment of all of the prophecies of Jesus’ return.  Others believe that Jesus prophecies the Spirit coming at Pentecost, which could indeed be thought of as the initiating of the kingdom of God – but it certainly doesn’t fulfill the most central idea of the kingdom, which is physically seeing Jesus rule over the world as the King.  Most likely, it speaks of the miracle of the Transfiguration, which happens within a weeks’ time of Jesus’ conversation here, of which a handful of apostles (the “some”) were witnesses.  There, those disciples did see Jesus in His glory (per verse 26), and thus they got an actual taste of the kingdom as Jesus stood there with Moses & Elijah.  It was a marvelous privilege enjoyed by three of the disciples – and it was an immediate fulfillment of the prophecy of Jesus.

Conclusion:
Discipleship is faith that follows Jesus, and boy, do we have a Jesus worth following! He is the Christ of God, the Divine Son of Man who sacrificed Himself for us.  He suffered, was rejected, was killed, and was raised – all so that you and I could receive the forgiveness of God and be eternally reconciled to Him.  What else would we do, other than walk in His footsteps?  What other response could there be, than to follow after our Lord Jesus in faith?

Enough with the mamby-pamby easy-believism, where all we need to do is check off a box in order to claim that we’re Christian!  Enough with the lie that as long as we claim to be Christian, it doesn’t matter what we do with Christ Himself.  Jesus calls us to be disciples, and disciples follow Jesus.  So follow!  Desire to follow Him – deny your sins to follow Him – daily die to those sins as you follow Him – and direct yourself after His example.  Walk where He walked, love as He loved, worship as He worshiped.

What’s holding you back? 

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