[You Will] Carry Your Cross

March 11, 2007
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
Luke 9:18-27

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

2. A few words are different, but Matthew and Mark both tell us Peter's faith confession. However, Luke, in particular, begins writing this scene with the statement, "When Jesus was praying alone, the disciples were with him," (verse eighteen). This gospel repeatedly tells us of the figure of Jesus praying alone. But, here the disciples were also with him. Still though, Jesus by himself is off in prayer.

3. By looking at verse twenty-two we will understand how much Jesus prayed as he continuously came head on against serious situations. Afterwards the Lord said the following to his disciples. "The son of man will definitely undergo much suffering, be rejected and killed by the elders, chief priests and the scribes of the law, and on the third day he will raise from the dead." There was Jesus in prayer all the time thinking about the path of suffering that he was supposed to walk upon from here out. There was the figure of Jesus in prayer all by himself though he was among his disciples.

The Situation In Which The Disciples Were Placed

4. But, the disciples were not off playing, indifferent to the person of Jesus. Had the disciples been that way, Jesus never would have asked them, "Who do the crowds say that I am?" The disciples were always thinking of the crowds and dealt with them, too.

5. We can find out about the situation in which the disciples were placed from the events just before this. In that text is written the miracle story of Jesus when he nourished the great crowd with five [things of] bread and two fish. It is recorded that there were as many as five thousand persons, just counting the men alone. We see that the flocks of people surrounding Jesus and the disciples as he continued his journey grew amazingly gigantic at this point in time. As you might expect, the work of the disciples was important as it involved Jesus with the gigantic groups [of people]. That must have been rather hard work. The disciples probably wore themselves out both mentally and physically. But they were also happy to do grinding labor for the work where they would be enjoyed by others, thanked, and commended. I think they were probably filled with a sense of satisfaction, the likes of which they had never until this moment experienced in their hearts.

6. The disciples grew so rapidly, but I don't think the disciples were always talking to each other about the preaching activities of Jesus, they might have looked at its development as unlimited from here out. When their movements became enormous, knowing the mindset of the crowds became a very important subject. As a sort of research became necessary, the disciples actually acted directly upon [their] "research results." When Jesus inquired of them, "Who do the crowds say that I am?," the disciples could give an immediate response to him. The disciples told Jesus of the general opinions which made up great numbers of the masses. "They say, '[You] are John the Baptizer.' Besides them, some say, '[You] are Elijah,' or some say, 'Some prophet from long ago has come back to life.'," (verse nineteen).

7. After that the Lord went on to ask them, "So then, who do you say that I am?" Whereupon Peter immediately replied, "[You] are the messiah from God," (verse twenty). No one raised a different opinion to Peter's reply. In short, it was the collective opinion of the disciples. We can see the shared mindset of the disciples in the triumphant reply of Peter. They drew a clear line between the crowds' views and their own view. This very one indeed whom they were following was the messiah whom Israel had been expecting, the God anointed king, the one who is expected to come in order to bring salvation. They were in complete agreement on that point. There must have been some conceit among them on this. For the disciples, these crowds were made of people who still did not understand Jesus sufficiently, their indoctrinated eyes must be opened from here on.

Don't Tell Anybody

8. But then, Jesus began to state something astonishing to his disciples. "Jesus warned the disciples and commanded that they not tell anyone, and then he spoke as follows: 'The son of man will definitely undergo much suffering, be rejected and killed by the elders, chief priests and the scribes of the law, and on the third day he will raise from the dead.'," (verses twenty-one and twenty-two). Jesus says to his disciples that they must not tell anybody yet that he is the messiah.

9. Why [did he say] that? It is because they have not seen yet with their own eyes the turning point importance of it, just as the Lord was saying it was. They had to see that Jesus will end up forsaken by the people, undergo suffering, and be killed. And they must see beyond the crucifixion that there will be a resurrection. They still do not see the true figure of the messiah yet. Therefore, they must not speak of it.

10. It was a pretty shocking statement that the Lord gave. It meant that the extensive messianic movement as it continued to enlarge would not have a messianic kingdom. The Lord said that the messiah would not sit on the throne to be enjoyed, admired, thanked, and welcomed by the people. It wouldn't be that way, instead, Jesus would be hated and killed by the people. He would be hung on the cross and killed. That's what he said about the messiah. It all would come to naught for a time. And he stated that after it came to naught there would be a resurrection after that.

11. The disciples made the confession about Jesus that "[You] are the messiah from God." But, in order to be able to truly tell that to others, they must first understand and accept the fact that the messiah would be this "messiah of suffering." To follow the messiah means we are to follow the messiah of suffering. When we follow the messiah of suffering, we are not to labor just to be enjoyed, thanked, and commended by others. We are not just merely fulfilling our own ideals, nor are we fulfilling the ideals of the nation or of the state. With their hard work like they've done, the disciples originally fully intended to take over quite happily. But, that is not what following the messiah of suffering meant. Instead, they were to place themselves in the kind of hard work that no one would look back at, the kind of hard work no one would be thankful for, but instead they would be hated and rejected for it, and the kind of hard work that rather than yielding forth rich results visible to the eyes it would instead be fruitless and wasted efforts.

12. Therefore, the Lord went on to say, "Anyone who wants to follow me, abandon yourself, daily, carry on your back your own cross, and then follow me," (verse twenty-three). What does he mean by to carry a cross on [your] back? Was there a visible reward in a person who was given execution by crucifixion having to walk bearing a cross upon his or her back? You'd never expect there to be one. It was probably meaningless hard labor at its extreme. But the Lord was saying that to follow the messiah of suffering would mean that.

Towards Life

13. Well, how are we hearing this message from the Lord? Is this a demand that is so severe that it is too difficult for us to accept or even to the point of being impossible to accept? -- No, that is not what this is. This message is given to us as a message of great comfort, as words of encouragement, and as words of hope.

14. How is [that] actually so? If we're realistic and look hard at our lives, what will we really see there? Do rewards always go along with a lot of hard work? Can we always find in the suffering that we experience a positive meaning? I don't think so. No, much rather, isn't it true that a lot of the hard work that we experience is just like this? -- That it is imposed upon us against our wills, worse yet we're paid no reward at all, we can't find one shred of meaning in it, or we can't even avoid asking ourselves why I have to feel like this.

15. When you have faith does this hard work decrease? No, it may increase. When it is a time of persecution, it does happen that even if you show love, rocks will fly. Jesus declares that, as he depicts such a world when he waits for his disciples. It's the same for us too. As persons bearing the gospel of Christ, in following the will of God, when we try to live loving people hard to love and accepting people hard to accept, if we do not live cutting out of our lives those inconvenient to us, but try to live with them as our neighbors, then it may become like something we will bear upon our backs, hard work that we shouldn't have to bear, or worse a thankless type of labor. It might mean that.

16. But, then we hear the voice of Jesus. The Lord says, "Anyone who wants to follow me, will abandon himself or herself, daily, bear upon one's back one's cross, and follow me." -- The Lord says, "Whoever wants to follow me," then "daily, bear upon one's back one's cross, and follow me!" The Lord said that. It was Jesus as he faced his own cross who had stated those words. But, he wasn't just facing the cross. Jesus was facing resurrection. Jesus was not facing death, but facing life. This Jesus says, "come follow me." In this way then, Jesus is pointing to us who cannot avoid bearing suffering upon our backs to the life of the resurrection shining across from the cross.

17. The Lord said, "Whoever wants to save his or her own life will lose it, but whoever loses his or her life for my sake will save it," (verse twenty-four). That's not just about whether one loses one's life in persecution. To begin with, isn't it about losing a part of one's life from bearing unrewarded suffering upon one's back? Haven't [you ever] lost a part of [your] life? Losing is unpleasant. It is also frightening. But, Jesus says to us who think in that manner, "You are not really losing, not even a little." Instead, the Lord says, "You will gain life in that way, you will save [your] life." As a matter of fact the one who literally bore his cross on his back and was then crucified on it, and then rose again unto eternal life had said that. By losing life, we gain life. The Lord showed us that truth. Therefore, we have no need to be the least bit afraid of losing. If we would just follow after him!

18. That said, we as flesh are weak. Because of that weakness there are times also when we will lose sight of and waver over the resurrection life to which Jesus pointed. There may also be times when we lose hope and fall down flat. But Jesus has spoken to us as he did, and he indeed does know all about the weaknesses of his disciples. Jesus knew all about how that Peter would turn, the other disciples would also turn, and they would end up running away.

19. That's why Jesus prayed. In today's scene, representing the disciples and puffing out his chest, it was Peter who had expressed his faith by saying, "You are the messiah from God." But then after that Jesus stated to Peter, "Simon, Simon, Satan has asked God that he might sift you all like wheat. But, I have prayed on your behalf that your faith not be for nothing. Therefore, when you get back on your feet, encourage [your] brothers," (22:31-32).

20. Jesus had prayed by himself. Facing the cross Jesus prayed alone. But, he didn't pray thinking only of himself. His disciples were in his heart. So were we. Peter and the disciples, supported by the prayers of Jesus, were obedient in following the Lord of the resurrection. We are too. Supported by Jesus' love and prayers, we follow Jesus. Daily, taking up our own crosses upon our backs, and facing the true life which Jesus showed, we follow Jesus.