"The Messiah of God" Luke 9.18-27

[I have presented this at three different venues this month. On 13 October 2016 I presented this to 800 teenagers in two chapel services at Casady School. On 25 October to about 20 teens with Classical Conversations, a home-school Co-op. And then today to several adults attending a Bible Study at the Oklahoma State Capitol]

The Messiah of God
Luke 9.18-27

There are days and moments and seasons in our lives where we could easily find ourselves singing with the Strumbellas, “I got guns in my head and they won't go; Spirits in my head and they won't go; I got guns in my head and they won't go; Spirits in my head and they won't go. But the gun still rattles, the gun still rattles. And I don't want a never-ending life, I just want to be alive, while I'm here” And though the Lead singer, Simon Ward, goes looking for the answer in a different place, Jesus shows us a better way here.

Who (9.18-20): “When Jesus was praying alone” with his followers were close by. This is a deep moment of communion from which Jesus arises to ask “Who do the crowds say that I am?” Our Lord is concerned to begin working out his identity and weeding out inaccuracies. After the disciples rehearsed all the social perceptions of Jesus, he then asks pointedly, “But who do you say that I am?” / Before I go any further, realize that Jesus is asking you and me this same question – “But you, who do you say that I am?” Our answer will govern our reaction to him and how we come to him and how we see ourselves. / Peter, Mr. Never-afraid-to-speak-his-mind, pipes up “The Messiah of God” (20). Score 1 for Peter! The problem for Peter, James, John and all the rest is that from the days they were being nursed at their mothers’ breast, they had been taught that the “Messiah of God” would be a battle-hardened, blade-swinging, blood-splattering Messiah, a kind of Che Guevara of God’s Chosen. How we identify Jesus has a lot to do with how we are. Therefore our Lord defines what it means that he is the Messiah of God.

What (9.21-22): To ensure that Peter and the others have not misread him and his Messiahship and don’t spread around that misreading, he does two things: (1) “he strictly charged and commanded them to tell this to no one” (21). And then (2) he begins to explain to them what it really means that he is the Messiah of God; that he will be mauled and murder Messiah (21-22). This is the first time he has told them about these things and it quite rattles their cage, strips their screws, and fries their motherboards! This is what it means that Jesus is the Messiah of God, instead of being a battle-hardened, blade-swinging, blood-splattering Messiah, he will be humiliated, dead, and then resurrected on the third day Messiah. /Since how we identify Jesus has a lot to do with how we are, Jesus helps his followers to see the connection; how it looks to follow him.

How (9.23-27): I know we’ve heard these words, and their different versions in the other Gospel accounts, a jazillion times. Just remember that to take up one’s cross is not about your arthritis, the bunion on your toe, or your troublesome parents – necessarily. To take up the cross is related to v.22. It’s about following Jesus through the cross to the crown, through the gore to the glory. Because Christ has risen from the dead we have honest optimism, and hopefully a hot expectation of triumph. But we are not triumphalists! We know that suffering may be in our life-script, and more importantly, that suffering for the honor of Christ may be there. To deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Jesus may not require our blood being shed. But it may come in other ways, like losing a promotion or a job because you wouldn’t lie, cheat or steal for “the company”. It may mean taking a huge hit on your commissions because you wouldn’t do unseemly/immoral things with the client to get the big contract. It may mean giving up our privileged position that we’ve had in this country for most of 220 years to remain loyal to Christ, who loyally gave himself for his people to make us the forever-ever people and children of God! And so how we identify Jesus has a lot to do with how we are.

We’re starting to have the answer, the correct answer, to Jesus’ question, get colored in: “But who do you say that I am” (20)? You’re the Messiah of God – but not a battle-hardened, blade-swinging, blood-splattering Messiah. Instead this is the Messiah who, surprisingly, came to be mauled and murdered, who came to take the flaming sword that barred the way to the Garden of Eden, into himself to open the way for us to return to full-bodied, flavorful fellowship with God. This is the Messiah who walked through the valley of the shadow of death to be our good shepherd so that we will be able to lie down in green pastures. This is the Messiah who trekked the path of grit and gore to receive glory and unending gladness. And so he beckons us to follow him – not through health, wealth, prosperity and power; but the way of the cross to the crown.  

Jesus asks, “But who do you say that I am?” How we identify Jesus has a lot to do with how we are.


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