Luke 9:18-23
You Are God's Messiah

Authored By Rev. Takao Kiyohiro, Tokyo, Japan

1. "So then, who do you say I am?" Peter answered, "You are the messiah from God."

2. A few words are different but, both Matthew and Mark pass on this faith confession from Peter. But, Luke begins sketching this scene with his own unique words. "When Jesus was praying by himself, the disciples were nearby," (verse eighteen). This gospel repeatedly tells us about the figure of Jesus praying alone by himself. But, in this text here the disciples were also nearby. But still the only one praying is Jesus himself. When we look at verse twenty-two we see how Jesus prayed when facing such serious situations. Afterwards Jesus spoke to his disciples as follows: "The son of man will surely receive much suffering, be rejected and killed by the elders, chief priests and scribes, and he will rise from the dead on the third day." There we have the figure of Jesus in prayer contemplating the path of suffering that he was supposed to walk from here on out; there we have the image of Jesus in prayer, alone, though amongst his disciples.

The Situation In Which The Disciples Were Put

3. But, the disciples didn't just look from the sidelines at the figure of the Lord praying and just play around chewing gum drops. Didn't the Lord ask these disciples of his "Who does the crowd say I am?" The disciples were certainly thinking of the crowds and were involved with them.

4. We can ascertain the situation in which they were placed from the events just before it. The miracle story is written there of when Jesus fed the great crowd with five loaves of bread and two fish. The text has it that there were about five thousand people if counting only the men. We see that the flocks of people who surrounded Jesus and the disciples as they continued their journey had grown surprisingly large at this point in time. In welcoming the people Jesus "addressed them concerning God and healed those in need of medical treatment," (9:11).

5. Needless to add but, for Jesus to do these things, the work of the disciples was needed. The duties of the disciples are clearly expressed in the narrative of the miracles of the bread. Beginning in verse fifteen the text reads that, "The disciples had everyone sit down according to a certain manner. Whereupon, Jesus took the five loaves of bread and the two fish, looked up to heaven, recited a prayer of praise for these things, broke them and handed them to the disciples and had them deliver [the food] to the crowd," (9:15-16). Jesus was the one who gave the bread. But, it was the disciples who distribute it. It was the disciples who personally got wind of the words of the peoples' thanks. The disciples were the ones who came in contact with the smiles of the people. Delivering the bread to five thousand persons was certainly a laborious task. It must have worn them out. It was surely a great joy for them to work themselves to pieces on a well-thanked and well-praised job that would be enjoyed by the people. They must have been overflowing with a sense of fulfillment in their hearts that they never knew before.

6. I wonder if the disciples weren't always talking together about the preaching activity of Jesus and the kingdom of God movement which was rapidly increasing and upon which they saw an unlimited development going on. As a band of disciples involved with the innumerable crowds they couldn't help but take more and more seriously the role they were expected to fulfill. That is believed to have been the reality of the disciples who were with Jesus in this scene. By no means were they playing around at Jesus' side as he prayed.

7. Therefore, after Jesus finished praying, he asked his disciples, "Who does the public say I am?" In reply to this question, the disciples relayed to Jesus the general viewpoint which dominated the large crowds. "They say, 'You are John The Baptist.' Others say, 'You are Elijah,' but some say 'You are some old time prophet that has come back to life.'," (verse nineteen). In short, the majority view has been that an illustrious figure from the past has come again. With that, the Lord asked another question of his disciples. "So then, who do you say I am?" Peter answered, "You are the messiah from God," (verse twenty).

8. It was only Peter giving a reply here, but the contents of his reply would probably speak the unanimous opinion of all the disciples because no counter statement or debate had come up against it. We can see the mentality that the disciples shared in Peter's boastful reply. They drew a clear line between their own views and that of the crowds. The one they were following was the messiah whom Israel had expected from the period of the Old Testament, the king anointed of God, the one expected to come to bring salvation. On that point they were in agreement. There must have been some self-glorification and pride in that. For them the crowds were of people who hadn't yet understood Jesus as much as the disciples did, and the crowds were a target that must be [won over with] their doctrines.

Tell No One

9. However, Jesus began to tell his disciples something surprising. "Jesus ordered his disciples and commanded that they tell this to no one, and spoke to them in this manner," (verses twenty-one and twenty-two). He told them that the disciples should not yet tell that Jesus is the messiah. They should not even tell the crowds following after Jesus. Why not? We understand why not from Jesus' words that follow. The Lord said, "The son of man will surely receive much suffering, be rejected and killed by the elders, chief priests and scribes, and he will rise from the dead on the third day," (verse twenty-two). In other words they hadn't yet seen with their eyes the most important of [truths]. They had to consider how that Jesus would be forsaken by humanity, receive suffering, and be murdered. In addition, they had to consider how that there would be a resurrection afterwards. In a word, they had not yet seen the figure of the messiah in its true definition. As a result they must not speak.

10. Just as the Lord himself was making clear, as he was cheered, adored, thanked and welcomed by the people, Jesus had not come upon his throne as the messiah. There would be no messianic throne with an extension of the messianic movement to make it larger and larger. Jesus would be hated by the people and then murdered. He will be crucified and killed on the cross. Every thing at once would come to naught. Then, the first thing after that there would be the resurrection of the messiah.

11. "He will rise from the dead on the third day." Being strict about it, but this translation is not accurate. The text has "he will be raised from the dead on the third day." The verb is in the passive voice. He does not raise from the dead on his own. His resurrection comes through God The Father. After Jesus died and everything fell apart, Jesus is raised back to life from the dead by God. All of Jesus' work, which seemed at that time like it had fallen apart into nothing, lived because of God. Even his death on the cross became the atonement for sin and came to have life for salvation. Jesus was not risen from the dead through the people who praised him. He was made to rise from the dead through God. That's how the Lord spoke to them about himself.

12. The disciples made a confession regarding Jesus, "[You] are the messiah from God." But, in order for them to be able to speak to others about him in a true way, they must first understand and accept that the messiah was "a suffering messiah." Following the messiah means we are to follow a suffering messiah.

13. When following the suffering messiah, it is not meant that one work hard just to be cheered by the people and to receive their thanks and admiration. It's not about the fulfilling of one's ideals, it's not about the fulfilling of the ideals of the people of the nation and of the state. Instead, it is about putting oneself into very hard work that will not be regarded by anyone, [a toil] that will not be appreciated, but instead it will be a toil in which you are hated and rejected, and rather than producing abundant results for all to see, it will be a futile all consuming labor.

14. Therefore, the Lord went on to add, "Any one who wants to follow me, forsake yourself, carry your cross daily and follow me," (verse twenty-three). The phrase "carry [your] cross" has an aversion to it as it is ridiculously overused today in the sense of "bear suffering." But, to carry your cross does not mean just to bear your suffering and toil on your back. The bearer of a cross carries it for his or her crucifixion on it. The hard labor, in which the person to be put to death by crucifixion carries his or her cross, is truly a labor lying at the opposite polarity of the feelings of joy, satisfaction or accomplishment. To follow the suffering messiah has that such a meaning. Hard work with its own rewards can get things done without a faith basis to draw from. But, following the suffering messiah cannot be done unless we have faith. Unless we believe in the God who raised the crucified Lord Jesus, we can't do it.

15. But, what a heavy message this is! Who could ever endure these words? I mean it, even his disciples were not able to endure them when all was said and done. The Lord knew that the disciples would not be able to have the strength for this. Jesus knew that his disciples would abandon him and scatter off. He knew that even Peter, who said, "You are the messiah from God," representing the disciples, would deny the messiah three times.

16. Thus then, the Lord prayed all by himself. Before he announced these things to his disciples, he prayed all alone. He prayed for Peter too. According to Jesus he tells Peter later that "I have prayed for you so that your faith does not come to nothing," (verses twenty-two and twenty-three). Then, the Lord was ready to keep on walking down the path as the suffering messiah all by himself, and in truth, he did keep on doing the walk by himself.

17. Then, this same Jesus appeared to his disciples again. [After] the suffering messiah had been risen from the dead, the disciples had [a chance] to meet with him again. They came to know the true meaning of what they had confessed in Jesus as "the messiah from God." Then what did they do? [From] that very moment, they abandoned themselves, carried their own crosses and followed the messiah of suffering.

18. Today we too share the same faith confession with those disciples. We too put into words the saying about Jesus that "You are the messiah from God." Therefore, we too are called to abandon ourselves, carry our crosses and follow [Him]. But, just like it once was in the disciples' cases, the first thing is not that we "abandon ourselves and carry our crosses." Jesus did it already before we did. He completed his walk. Our walk in following the messiah, just as the disciples walk was once, is supported by the prayer and work of Jesus who finished out his walk all by himself as the suffering messiah.

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