THE GOSPEL OF LUKE

THE GREAT GALILEAN MINISTRY
Luke 4:14-9:50

Peter's Confession at Caesarea Philippi
Luke 9:1-50

. INTRODUCTION

We are fortunate in that when we read the Gospel of Luke, we have 20/20 hindsight. We know right off the bat that Jesus is God the Son and that He will not only die on the cross but also rise from the dead. We know in advance that He is the Christ whom God has sent to usher in the kingdom of God. The audience Luke was writing to though did not have that hindsight; neither did the disciples whenever the events in Luke were actually occurring. In this chapter Jesus is bringing to a resolution a theme which has been running throughout the first 9 chapters of Luke: "Who is this Jesus?"

For example, when the Pharisees hear Jesus declare a man's sins to be forgiven, they ask: "Who is this man?" (5:21). Later after Jesus calms the raging sea, His disciples ask each other: "Who then is this, that He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey Him?" (8:25). This chapter lays to rest once and for all this issue. Jesus will be proclaimed to be the Christ, the One God christens with His Spirit so that He may pour forth God's Spirit upon those who follow Him, so that He may usher in the kingdom of God.


EVENTS LEADING UP TO PETER'S CONFESSION (9:1-17)

Feeding of the 5,000 (9:12-17; John 6:1-15)

Peter's confession at Caesarea Philippi represents a further development in the training of the disciples. Jesus has called them to follow Him. They need to nail down though once and for all who they believe Jesus is. Several events help them come to the conclusion that Jesus is the Christ of God. One of these events is that of the feeding of the 5000. The fact that this is the only miracle of Jesus recorded in all four Gospels except for the resurrection tells us that this miracle made a tremendous impact upon the early Christians.

Jesus has been teaching the crowds for an extended period of time. Towards evening Jesus knowing that the people have become hungry commands Philip and the rest of the disciples to give the people something to eat. (Philip would have been a natural one to ask since he came from the nearby village of Bethsaida located on the northeastern shore of the Sea of Galilee). Philip replies that even 200 denarii (2/3 of a person's annual salary) would not be sufficient to buy food for this large gathering. Andrew brings a young lad with 5 small barley loaves (the bread of the poor) and 2 fish; yet he acknowledges that this was not enough to feed the multitude.

Jesus has the people sit in groups of 50. After Jesus prays over the bread (by blessing it), He multiplies the loaves and the fish. Now Jesus is not breaking off just tiny bits of bread and fish for the people. He is lavishing the people with all the bread and fish they can eat. By the time Jesus has finished, He not only has fed the 5000, He has produced enough food that the disciples can fill up 12 baskets with the left-over bread. That was a banquet indeed.

Why does Luke relate this story? Because it helps Peter to come understand who Jesus is. The Jews believed that the Christ/Messiah would bring in the kingdom of God. The kingdom would bring in a period of abundance and would lavish joy. It was to be such a time of joy and abundance that the only way to represent it was by comparing it to a banquet. When the 5000 see the miracle, they immediately connect this lavish banquet with the kingdom of God. They make the logical connection that Jesus is indeed the Christ who has come to bring in the kingdom of God (John 6:15). It leads Peter to make this connection as well.


Herod's Response (9:7-9)

When Herod hears about the miracles Jesus has been performing, He becomes perplexed as to who this Jesus is. (Once more Luke is highlighting the theme--"Who is this Jesus?") He fears that Jesus just might be John the Baptist who had risen from the dead. This would naturally make Herod nervous since he had earlier had John the Baptist beheaded at the insistence of his wife, Herodias.


PETER CONFESSES JESUS AS THE CHRIST AT CAESAREA PHILIPPI (9:18-20)

It is now approximately 1 year before Jesus suffers crucifixion in Jerusalem. The next year is critical for the survival of Christ's mission and message. So much hinges upon the disciples. We have nothing from the hand of Jesus. Everything we know about Jesus comes from the testimony of His original band of disciples and from Paul. If they fall (and God will make sure they don't), Christianity falls; if they do well (and God will make sure they will), then Christianity will succeed. During this next year Jesus is going to spend some time with the disciples in intensive training.

Jesus and the disciples have gone north beyond the Sea of Galilee to a region near Caesarea Philippi. Notice that once more, after Jesus has been praying, He approaches His disciples with the question: "Who do people say that I am?" (It is by no means a coincidence that every time something major happens in Jesus' ministry that He has been in prayer.) The disciples reply that some claim Jesus to be John the Baptist; others, Elijah; and yet others, one of the ancient prophets.

Several interesting elements make up the disciples' response. First, none of the crowd associates Jesus with being the Christ/Messiah. He may be a prophet, even a great prophet at that; however, none make the leap to claiming that Jesus is the Christ. Next, see how these responses from the people give us insight into the character and personality of Jesus. John the Baptist, Elijah, and the ancient prophets were not the mild-mannered kind of person many people think Jesus to be. People poke fun at John Edwards, calling him the Breck-girl; John Edwards though doesn't have anything on the kind of person many people claim Jesus to be. In some pictures of Jesus, He is so coiffed that He had to have just come out of a beauty salon. The people in Jesus' day though saw a different kind of Jesus. He was like Elijah and John the Baptist, fiery prophets who called down fire from heaven and preached the coming of judgment. No wonder Jesus was like them. Nazareth where He grew up overlooks the place we call Armageddon. Each day Jesus saw the site where the final climatic battle between Satan and Jesus would one day occur. That had to affect His personality.

Jesus now comes to the major point though of this discussion. As much as He cares about what the people think, He is more vitally interested in what His disciples think. Upon them hinges the future of Christianity. When Jesus asks them: "YOU--Who do YOU say that I am," Peter responds: "The Christ of God."

Some NT scholars wonder if Peter knew what he was saying when he called Jesus "the Christ of God." Maybe he didn't. The truth is that he got it right whether he understood it completely or not. Jesus is the Christ, the One God has christened (anointed) with His Spirit to bring about the kingdom of God.

Although Peter is speaking on behalf of the disciples, sharing their view of Jesus as well as his own, he nevertheless is speaking on their behalf. He has assumed leadership of the apostolic band. From henceforward he dominates the band of disciples with only Jesus surpassing his role.


JESUS EXPLAINS THE TYPE OF CHRIST HE IS TO BE (9:21-22)

After Jesus has led the disciples to the belief that He is the Christ, He then leads them into a proper understanding of what kind of Christ He has come to be. The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed and be raised up on the third day. In other words, Jesus is going to be the kind of Christ who suffers. By His sufferings Jesus will bring in the kingdom of God.

One of the most touching scenes in the movie The Passion of the Christ is also one of its least appreciated. In the scene Jesus is carrying His cross to Calvary. His mother is following Him; however, she begins to turn away from Him because she is being so overwhelmed by the torture her son is enduring. When she sees Him stumble though from the weight of the cross, Mary flashes back and remembers how she had run to Him when He had fallen as a little boy. After the flashback she rushes up to Jesus who has just fallen beneath the weight of the cross and says: "I am here, Son." Everybody is so touched by what happened there. Yet what follows next is probably one of the most powerful and theologically correct touches in the movie. He looks up at her and almost reproves her, saying: "Mother, I am making all things new." In other words His suffering is what is bringing about the transformation of the universe. His suffering is ushering in the kingdom of God.

His specific suffering will come at the hands of the Jewish religious leaders: the chief priests, scribes and elders. The chief priests include Caiaphas the current high priest, Annas his father-in-law who had previously served as high priest, and other men who had served in this capacity but had been removed by the Romans in order to make sure that so much power did not fall into the lap of just one person. The scribes were those who copied the OT to produce new OT manuscripts. Because they copied the OT so many times, they became experts in the OT Law. Many of them actually served as lawyers. The elders were the lay leadership of the country who attained to their position by virtue of their age AND wisdom.

The word Jesus uses for "rejected" has behind it the idea of a test conducted in a lab. Do you want to see if a metal is genuine or not? Run a test on it. Well, they had some criteria which they used to test Jesus to determine whether or not He was the Christ. He did not pass their test; therefore, they rejected Him. Even though Jesus did not pass the test of the disciples during His 3-year ministry, His resurrection convinced them once and for all that the problem was not with Jesus but with the criteria they had used to test Him.


THE KIND OF CHRIST JESUS IS DETERMINES THE FOLLOWERS OF JESUS (9:23-27)

After Jesus explains to His disciples what kind of Christ He had come to be--a suffering Christ, He then turns to explain to them what kind of followers they are to be--suffering followers. I loved what Milton Cunningham said Sunday. Where did all this wealth-and-health kind of Christianity come from? We claim that God wants to make us wealthy. Why? To send us to hell? Doesn't Jesus say it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter heaven? Then why would Christ want to make me rich? Christ does not guarantee us that we won't suffer. The exact opposite is almost guaranteed--you will suffer.

Because Jesus is about to deny Himself and take up His cross, His followers are to do likewise. In Luke's version of this statement, we see Jesus telling His followers to take up their cross daily, while Matthew's version omits the word "daily." The 2 statements don't contradict each other; they complement each other. Because Jesus suffered on the cross, the Christian likewise is to deny himself, take up His cross daily, and follow Jesus. It's not that I am to deny myself chocolate or to deny myself this or that; I am to deny my self. Self is what is being denied, not chocolate or anything else. My old self is to be put to death on a daily basis so that the new Carey Ford created by the Holy Spirit can live His life in me. The cross of Jesus gives me the power to crucify that old self.

Thirdly though, I am to follow Christ. That is the key to this verse. We can focus all day long on denying our old self and concentrate on crucifying our old natures, and yet never experience the life Christ came to give us. The truth is that if we follow Christ He will lead us into situations against which our old selves will rebel. "Go on a mission trip? I can't do that! It's out of my comfort zone!" Going on that mission trip will result in putting to death that old self in this particular instance. The essence of Christian discipleship is following Jesus.

Matthew's version though emphasizes the martyr aspect of Jesus' statement. For all practical purposes Jesus is calling them to accept martyrdom if they are confronted with it. The cross in Jesus' day was not a symbol; it was a reality. It was an instrument of death which inflicted excruciating pain upon a person. Just as Jesus was about to face physical death on the cross, He was exhorting His disciples to accept that fate if they had to face it.

Martyrdom is the logical outcome of the Christian life. If I die daily for Jesus spiritually, why would I not die physically for Christ at the end of my life? I'm not going to seek it. I will avoid it if possible (Paul left Iconium, Thessalonica, and Berea when things got too hot for him at those places); however, we are not to deny Christ in order to escape it.

Jesus next impresses upon His disciples the seriousness of what He has just said. Denying oneself, taking up one's cross, and following Jesus is not just a way to attain to a higher level of discipleship. It is the essence of being a follower of Jesus. If I don't do these things, I am not a follower of Jesus. The consequence of either action is serious. If I try to hold onto my old self, agenda, ways, then I will forfeit my life, that is, I will not gain eternal life. On the other hand, if I give up my old self and follow Jesus, I will save my life, that is, gain eternal life. I know we all fall. That's not the issue. The issue is whether or not I will die to self and follow Jesus on a daily basis.

Using the language of the banking industry, Jesus asks us to consider the worth of our lives and of the things we are holding onto. Jesus takes the extreme case. Suppose I gained the whole world and lost eternal life, would the world be worth the price of my eternal life? The answer is "No!" Nothing is worth losing my eternal salvation. Jesus could appreciate this very statement because in His second temptation, Satan actually offers Jesus the kingdoms of this world, the price being His own soul. To be honest though, none of us have ever been offered the world. We've sold out for a little fame, a little status, a little money, a little illicit sex, etc. Well, if the whole world is not worth losing my eternal salvation, then surely just a little piece of that world is not worth it.

Jesus next shows specifically what He means by dying to self, taking up one's cross, and following Him. When you are in a situation in which you must either confess Christ as your Lord or deny Him as your Lord, you have the responsibility to confess Him as Lord, even if it means losing your own physical life. You may lose your own physical life; however, you will gain eternal life. On the other hand, if you save your physical life, you will lose eternal life. The last thing you and I will ever want is to have Jesus be ashamed of us before His heavenly Father on that last day.

Jesus has been speaking about ultimate, eternal events. Jesus concludes this talk with a reference to His second coming in which we will stand before Him in judgment. "Truly, truly, I say to you, that some of you will not taste death until you have seen the Son of Man coming in His glory." The difficult part of this statement is "some of you will not taste death." In other words, most will taste death before the Son of Man comes in His glory, while some will not. We would normally think the clause "the Son of Man coming in His glory" would refer to the second coming of Christ; yet all the disciples died before Jesus returned. Some claim that Jesus is referring to the Transfiguration. Yet the Transfiguration occurred only a week later, a period of time in which NONE of the disciples died.

The most natural interpretation of this verse seems to mean that Jesus is referring to the Fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD, which was about 40 years away from the time Jesus spoke this word. During that time, most, but not all of the disciples had passed away. John lived for another 20+ years after the Fall of Jerusalem. How does Jesus' statement relate to the fall of Jerusalem? Note the element of judgment in the previous 2 verses. Jesus is highlighting judgment. Judgment was a vital element in the Fall of Jerusalem. Jesus predicted that Jerusalem would be destroyed because she had rejected Him at His first coming (Luke.......Matt. 24). The fall of Jerusalem is an event in which Jesus the Son of Man comes in glory, in judgment. It is a real taste of the final judgment which will occur when Jesus returns the final time.