Sermon preached on Luke 9:18-35 by Rev. W. Reid Hankins during the Morning Worship Service at Trinity Presbyterian Church (OPC) on 01/30/2022 in Novato, CA.
In today’s passage, we see several ways in which the true identity of Jesus as the Christ is given. And here we also learn what that identity of being the Christ means, in terms of what Jesus’s mission would entail. We see here that Jesus would have to first endure a time of suffering, before his subsequent glory. That future glory would be when he ushers in his eternal kingdom. But first, there was a period of suffering that lay ahead for Jesus. This requirement for the Messiah to first suffer and then enter into his subsequent glory is something that the law and the prophets had already foretold. That is a fact that Luke’s gospel will remind us again at the end in Luke 24. But it is a fact that is also seen here in today’s passage. And not only have the law and the prophets told us of the Christ’s suffering then glory, Jesus himself teaches that right here. This Jesus teaches even as he calls them and us unto discipleship, to follow him, even in the suffering. But to follow him in his suffering means that we will also follow him into that subsequent glory. Let us then dig into today’s passage as we consider such things.
Our first point today is to consider the question of Jesus’ identity. Jesus raises the question with his disciples in verses 18-20. This shows us that while Jesus and even his apostles have already been proclaiming the coming of the kingdom, they haven’t yet been publicly proclaiming that Jesus is the Christ. Yet, his miracles and ministry pointed to who Jesus was, so that by the Holy Spirit one could discern the correct answer. So then, Jesus begins by asking them, “Who do the crowds says that I am?” We should immediately remember back a few verses to verses 7-9 where we had already read about the answer to this question. There, the crowds along with Herod had been wondering who Jesus is. By the way, this is a feature throughout this chapter, where John sort of weaves together various themes; he mentions the theme, then briefly goes to different topic, only to return back to that topic a few verses later. Such weaving is seen throughout this chapter with several topics. So then, here Jesus’s disciples answer his question by reporting to them what the crowds have been saying. The views include John the Baptist or Elijah or some other prophet back from the dead. But while Jesus spoke of the coming kingdom like how those prophets of old also spoke of it, Jesus was one greater than any of them.
So then, Jesus then his disciples a follow up question. But who do you say that I am. Peter, on their behalf, answers that Jesus is the Christ of God. Peter rightly acknowledges that the crowds’ identification of Jesus didn’t go far enough. Jesus was more than a prophet. He came in a power and authority never before possessed. And Jesus had come to bring something new where the prophets of old only spoke of that new thing which would one day come. So then, for Peter to say that Jesus is the Christ of God, I should remind you what that word means. The word Christ is really more of a Greek word than an English one. In the Greek, it is christos. The Hebrew for this word is mashiach or pronounced messiah in English. Both when actually translated into English mean “anointed one”. And so, while we see various people prophets, priests, and kings anointed in the Old Testament, there is repeated prophecy that God would one day raise up his special anointed one. Peter is thus saying that Jesus is the anointed one of God. Jesus is the long-promised Messiah or Christ that God had repeatedly foretold of his coming. This anointed one of God would especially be God’s king over his chosen people, ruling over them as the Son of God.
As we continue then to address this question of who do people say that Jesus is, we note there are two more answers given. One is by Jesus himself and the other is by God the Father. Jesus describes himself in verse 27 as the Son of Man. Each time Jesus has used that title in Luke so far, it’s been to describe his special power and authority. In itself, the title can seem a bit mysterious, but when you see how Jesus uses it throughout his ministry, it’s clear he’s appealing to how the prophet Daniel used that title to refer to the Christ. In Daniel 7, we see that title describing a divine being who is in the appearance of a human who becomes a king of an everlasting kingdom.
And then you have God the Father in this transfiguration passage. I think this is more of that weaving, by the way. The transfiguration passage returns to this idea of who do people say that Jesus is. We heard from the crowds. We heard from Jesus’s disciples. But who does the Father say that Jesus is? He declares, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him. Jesus is the eternal Son of God, second person of the Trinity. But I especially remember how Psalm 2:7 describes how God would call his anointed one his Son. So, for God to call Jesus his Son, is also to again acknowledged that Jesus is the Christ. But the father also says that Jesus is his Chosen One. This seems to reference another Old Testament Prophet. In Isaiah 42:1, in one of Isaiah’s suffering servant songs, God is quoted as saying, “Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations.” So by God the Father calling Jesus his chosen one, it identifies him as the suffering servant of Isaiah. It is saying, that the suffering servant of Isaiah and the Christ are one and the same individual, and that individual is Jesus.
So then, in our first point for today, we’ve surveyed this passage. There were various ideas about Jesus being some sort of prophet of old. But those prophets of old actually help us to understand who Jesus really is. It is as the disciples and Jesus and God the Father identify. Jesus is the long-awaited Christ of God. And yet while that identification is so boldly and clearly and repeatedly made in this chapter, there was then a follow up to that identification. Don’t tell anyone. In verse 21, Jesus tells them to not tell anyone that he is the Christ. In verse 35, after the transfiguration, it says they kept what they saw there a secret, at least in those days. And that leads us to our next point. They were told to keep this a secret, but the secret was just for a time. They weren’t to tell anyone, at least not yet. There would come a time when Jesus was to be heralded in glory as the Christ that he is. But first he had to endure a time of suffering.
So then, our second point is to now consider Jesus’ suffering and subsequent glory. Both are seen so clearly here, but the order is important to get right. First, he had to suffer. Then he would enter into his glory. Let’s survey here all the suffering described in this passage for Jesus. We see him foretell his death in verses 21-22. In his role as Messiah, he would have to suffer unto being rejected by the religious leaders and ultimately killed. As we know so clearly from the rest of the New Testament, Jesus would have to die on the cross to atone for the sins of God’s chosen people. But we don’t need the rest of the New Testament to come to that conclusion. As I mentioned, this passage already connected Jesus’ suffering here with the suffering servant prophecies of Isaiah. Isaiah 53 is one of those, and it explains that God’s chosen one would have to die in order to atone for the sins of God’s people. So, Jesus in verses 21-22 predicts his death as the climax of his impending suffering. By the way, we’ll see in the next passage, in verse 44, that Jesus again predicts his death – that is more of that weaving of themes in this chapter.
We see more of Jesus’ impending suffering on the mount of transfiguration. While there was a brief glimpse of Jesus’ glory in the transfiguration, it could only be fleeting and momentary because this was to be the time of Jesus’ soon suffering. And so, at that transfiguration, look at verse 30. There we see that Moses and Elijah speak with Jesus about his impending departure, his exodus, that he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. That is again a reference to his death at the cross. For Moses and Elijah to speak with Jesus about his impending suffering, is to again say that the law and the prophets knew about how the Christ had to suffer first then enter into his glory. Moses represents here the Law as the one through whom God has given us the first five books of the Bible. And Elijah represents the prophets as one of the greatest prophets of old. They spoke with Jesus about his suffering and crucifixion that was soon to happen.
So then, we see not just of his impending suffering here, but we also learn of his subsequent glory. We can begin by noting that glory of his transfiguration is just a foreshadowing of his glory to come. That is why it is just temporary. It is why Peter’s request to stay on that mountain with all the glory wasn’t granted. But we would be right to not miss all the glory that is present there on that mountain, because it does speak in advance of the subsequent glory to come after his suffering on the cross. Verse 29 shows a visual picture of this. The visual appearance of Jesus changes into something dazzling – I think of the shining of Moses’s face after he was with God on Mt. Sinai – surely this was something like that but even better. And I love how verse 30 goes on to say that somehow when Moses and Elijah are speaking there with Jesus it says that they too appeared in glory. And this glorious scene was so bright and dazzling that it actually woke the disciples up per verse 32. And even the fact that the cloud in verse 34 somehow enveloped them when the voice of God spoke, reminds us back to Moses and the glory cloud that covered the tabernacle. That shekinah glory of God is here at the transfiguration. All of this speaks in advance of the glory of the Son of God with his redeemed people.
And yet that glory was just for a moment, just for a foretaste. But there is more here that speaks of the glory yet to come in the full. That glory would begin with what is said at the end of verse 22. After describing Jesus’ suffering that would end in death, it then says that on the third day he would be raised. That would be the beginning of his glory and the inauguration of his kingdom. Then we read down in verse 26 where it speaks of the Son of Man coming in glory with the glory of the Father and the holy angels. That refers to when our Lord Jesus returns in his second coming to usher in the fullness of his kingdom and bring his saved people into that glorious age to come. Then and there our Lord will gloriously sit on the throne in victory and in complete dominion in a kingdom where righteousness dwells. That will be a kingdom of peace and blessedness in the full and indeed glorious!
Let me make sure we understand then the connection to all this. Scripture shows how this was necessary for the Christ to first suffer before he can enter into this glory. The idea is that his glory has to do with the coming of his kingdom, a kingdom of God’s people led by the Christ. Well, there won’t be any people in the kingdom if he doesn’t first save them from their sins. So then, this passage speaks to us of the suffering that Jesus would have to undergo in order to actually redeem a people for his coming glorious kingdom.
This leads us to our last point to speak about the call to discipleship that Jesus brings in this passage. This is relevant because discipleship is unto citizenship. What I mean is that to be a disciple of Jesus is in view of becoming citizens of the kingdom that he is bringing. As disciples we are being prepared to be a part of Christ’s kingdom. Of course, the whole Bible up to this point had been calling for such discipleship. As said, the law and the prophets, for which Moses and Elijah represented, had been speaking in advance of this kingdom and the Christ. The law and the prophets had already been preparing people for this. We also see the Father speak to such discipleship in verse 35. When the Father from heaven identifies Jesus as his Christ, he says, “listen to him”. This reminds me of how when Moses predicted in Deuteronomy 18:15 that God would one day raise up another prophet, speaking ultimately of the Christ, Moses said, “To him you shall listen.” So then, the Father reminds us that to be a disciple of Christ Jesus is to seek to obey him.
So then, our passage today most specifically speaks of discipleship in verse 23-27. There we find Jesus go into some detail of what discipleship will look like for them and us today. We see discipleship language when in verse 23 he speaks of, “If anyone would come after me and follow me.” Discipleship involves following Jesus, learning from him, having him direct your path, and frankly becoming like him. So then, what Jesus goes on to say should not surprise us at this point in our sermon. Jesus goes on to say that his disciples will have to suffer first before they enter into a subsequent glory. Sound familiar? What lies ahead for Jesus is what will lie ahead for Jesus’ disciples. This passage has reminded us that it had long been foretold that the Christ would have to suffer first then enter into glory. The same would be the case for his disciples who are looking to follow him.
Notice how Jesus describes the suffering ahead for his disciples. In verse 23, he says that his disciples should be looking to deny themselves daily. Self-denial, personal sacrifice, and service, should characterize the disciples of Jesus. When we think of why Jesus himself had to suffer, it was because he came not to be served but to serve. We will see the weaving together of this theme later in verses 46-48 where Jesus says his greatest disciples will be those who make themselves the least. This is to follow Jesus who even though he is our Lord and teacher, he served us, ultimately by giving up his life for us on the cross. That is then how Jesus in verse 23 goes on to further describe the self-denial he calls for from his disciples. He says it involves daily taking up our cross. Let me be clear, that this is exactly how it sounds. The cross was an image of death. When this word was used, people would immediately think of the Roman crucifixion used to put people to death. Every day we are to deny ourselves and be prepared to give up our life for the Lord. Maybe to be more specific, to take up your cross is when you are on your way to be crucified. So, it’s saying that each day we are walking toward our deaths. Again, we should see the connection with Jesus. At this point, Jesus’ ministry was quickly moving toward his death on the cross. As we follow him, our discipleship at this time is one of suffering and service for his sake, with our death always before us. We do that each day until we do end up dying in Christ. Jesus explains the logic in this in verses 24-25 when he says that it doesn’t profit a man to gain the whole world yet forfeit his soul. If we don’t follow Christ and instead live for ourselves and live to gain as much glory as we can get out of this present life, it will be at the expense of losing the glory that will come in the future for those who are Christ’s followers. But that implies that to follow Christ right now means that you will surely lose earthly glory here and now. Or it’s as Jesus goes on to say in terms of being ashamed. If we are ashamed of Christ right now so that we will get ahead in this world, we will find that he is ashamed of us at his coming. But that means to follow him now will surely involve the world trying to shame us.
Yet, Jesus says that this suffering for his disciples will ultimately give way to glory. As verse 26 implies, when Jesus himself enters into his glory he will one day come back to bring us his disciples into his glory. Jesus then says something very intriguing and exciting albeit often misunderstood. In verse 27, he says that even some there that day wouldn’t die before they see the kingdom of God. I believe he has in mind that some of his disciples there would see the beginning of the coming of the kingdom at Jesus resurrection, ascension, and then pouring out of his Spirit at Pentecost. His kingdom was inaugurated in power at that point and has been advancing ever since. It will not come in its consummate glory until he returns. But it has already begun to be manifested. Jesus’s time of suffering has ended and he has begun to come into his glory.
In conclusion, we have a passage that presents again the gospel of Jesus, and with a call to discipleship – to follow him. Jesus is Christ who first suffered and died for the sins of all whom he would save. He then rose in glory and has been working to gather a kingdom of people unto himself. May you see the logic and wisdom to become his disciple, even if for a little while you must suffer. For the surpassing glory that awaits us, glory that we are already starting to see, will far outweigh the relatively light and short afflictions of this life. I think of how in this passage the glory of the transfiguration happened so wonderfully but then disappeared so quickly. Well, when we finally enter glory and look back at this time of suffering, that is how the suffering will seem. Yes, in the moment the suffering can be intense. But when we look back we will see how momentary and fading away it really was. And we will find that the suffering is replaced with a glory that will never end ever. Amen.
Copyright © 2022 Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.
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