Sermon on Luke 9:18-24
Text: Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say I am?”
19 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.”
20 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Peter answered, “The Christ of God.”
21 Jesus strictly warned them not to tell this to anyone. 22 And he said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”
23 Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.”
Some people, throughout history, have made statements that have made them famous. As we prepare to celebrate Independence Day, we might think of Patrick Henry’s speech before Virginia’s House of Burgesses. There he uttered those famous words, “Give me liberty or give me death!”. Another famous quote from that era was Nathan Hale’s statement, as he was about to be hung as a spy: “I regret that I have but one life to give for my country.” They are remembered for their statements that show their strong conviction toward American liberty.
This morning, we note a statement by the apostle Peter. Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do the crowds say I am?”. After hearing the false ideas of the day, Jesus made the question quite pointed as he asked, “But what about you? Who do you say I am?”. Then we have recorded one of the clearest confessions of faith as to whom Jesus is. Peter answered, “The Christ of God.” What a beautiful statement! What a clear confession of faith! This morning, we are going to focus on that confession and pray that we, with the Spirit’s help, CONFESS JESUS AS THE CHRIST 1. Knowing What This Meant For Christ and 2. Knowing What This Means For Us.
After Peter made such a beautiful confession of faith, we read, “Jesus strictly warned them not to tell this to anyone.” We might be shocked to read that. After all, it was true. Jesus was the Christ of God. Why not tell others about it? The reason appears to be that the people weren’t ready for this message. We see this in the answers that Jesus was given when he asked the disciples whom people said he was. Some thought he was John the Baptist, others Elijah or one of the other prophets of old. There were also people who were looking for a political Messiah, one who would lead the Jewish people in a political overthrow of the hated Roman government and bring Israel back to the glory and splendor that was hers when David and Solomon ruled. Perhaps people would commit political acts of violence, not fully comprehending Christ’s true message.
The devil tried to lead Jesus down the path of being a world leader. He took Jesus to the top of a mountain and showed him all of the splendor of the world and all its riches. He then promised to give it all to Jesus, if only he would bow down and worship him. There it was, just waiting for him.
However, this is not the path that would be the one that Jesus chose. He knew that he had not come to be a political leader. His path would lead him to a painful, yet glorious end. Jesus told his disciples, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” Look at what the path would lead to — suffering many things at the hands of the leaders of the country and, ultimately, being put to death. When we read the latter parts of the four Gospels, we see how it all happened as Jesus said it would. We hear of his betrayal, his suffering and painful death at the hands of his enemies. We also read of the first Easter morning, when Jesus broke the bonds of death forever.
This is what it would mean for Jesus to be the Christ. It was not a path that would be easy. It was, however, the one that Jesus had to follow. We see that when Jesus said that he “must suffer many things and be killed.” This had to happen. It was the way that the Father had already set before his Son in the Garden of Eden after the fall into sin. God, in speaking to Satan, said, “He will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” This was the path that God decided the Messiah would follow. Jesus, in perfect obedience to his Father, followed that path.
Jesus also had to be the Christ to follow this path, so that you and I would be saved. All of our sins condemned us to hell for all eternity. All of those sins that we might not consider to be as bad as others are enough to condemn us. We might never kill anyone, but we feel justified in being angry with someone or holding a grudge against them. We may never commit adultery, but what harm is there in a lustful thought? The fact remains that these, as well as all of our other sins, condemn us before God to an eternity in hell. However, God, in his great love, sent his Son to be the Christ, the Anointed One, who by his suffering, death and resurrection would save us all. When Jesus said, “It is finished”, we can be sure that all of our sins were paid for. We have been set free. Heaven is ours. Let us confess Jesus as the Christ, for he is our Savior and our Lord.
That is what it meant for Jesus to confess that he was the Christ. The path that he followed was painful. It led to suffering, death and, ultimately, resurrection. However, what does it mean for us to confess Jesus to be the Christ? What path will that lead us down?
We find our answer in verses 23 and 24 of our text, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.” If anyone wants to follow Christ, call him Lord of their life, Jesus said that it would show itself in two ways: #1 — Denying yourself and #2 Taking up your cross. We’re going to take a few moments and look at each of these.
First of all, Jesus said, “he must deny himself.” What does this mean? It means that we deny, say “No” to our sinful nature. Satan comes to us with all kinds of temptations, things that look good, fun and so satisfying. Our sinful nature takes one look at them and immediately wants to do them. Never mind the consequences! Never mind what God says! Let’s do it! Our sinful nature can come up with all sorts of excuses why we should do it: ‘No one’s looking,’ ‘You know how much fun it will be.’ If any of you have dieted for one reason or another, you can think up many excuses for breaking that diet. Our sinful nature is like that, but this is more than breaking a diet. This is sinning against God.
However, Jesus said that, if we are going to follow him, we are to “deny ourselves.” We say ‘No’ to our sinful nature. What is our motivation on doing so? Why do we want to do this? The answer is love, love for God who loved us so much that he sent his Son to be our Savior. It is a love that moves us to thank him for all that he has done for us. Out of love for Jesus, we want to say ‘No’ to temptations. Confessing Jesus as our Savior, the Christ, means that we will want to deny ourselves, realizing that, as we obey God, we are saying “Thank you” for all he has done for us.
Confessing Jesus as the Christ also involves one other aspect — taking up our crosses. The cross was where people were put to death in a very painful way. Taking up the cross means being willing to suffer. This is not the same as denying yourself. There we are saying “No” to our sinful nature. Here we are talking about suffering as one of Christ’s own as we confess him before others. Think of the suffering that Jesus went through. He was laughed at and scorned. It meant physical suffering and even death. Jesus said, “The student is not above his teacher.” If they treated Jesus in this way, can we expect anything less? This is not to say that we go out of our way to be persecuted or obnoxious. It does mean, however, speaking up when someone is doing something that is wrong. We might think, ‘If I do that, they’ll get angry with me. I might lose a friend. I might get laughed at.’ We can come up with all sorts of excuses not to speak up, but Jesus wants us to and, if it means bearing the cross of ridicule or exclusion, then that is what it means. Sometimes we will suffer for confessing Christ.
Is it worth it? Read verse 24 and see, “Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.” Jesus makes it quite clear, doesn’t he? Whoever saves his life by not denying self or taking up the cross, will lose that life eternally. But whoever loses his life, giving it completely over to Jesus will save it. He will be in heaven for all eternity. Though to the eyes of the unbelieving world, we may appear to be losers. Because we give up what they value, because we are willing to suffer for what we believe, we know that we are winners. Jesus promised us, “Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you a crown of life.” It is worth it? The answer is a resounding “Yes.” Let us confess Jesus, knowing full well what it means for us.
There have been many great statements and speeches throughout history. There are famous quotes from men like George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy and the like. We also have made, with God’s help, a very great statement, as well, when we were brought to faith. We confess that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. We thank God for allowing us to make that confession and, we pray, that he will keep us faithful to that confession all of our days, until we join with the angelic choirs in proclaiming his praise for all eternity. Amen.
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