Sunday, April 22, 2012

Luke 9:18-27 - The Christ of God

Opening thought
Yesterday we lost a mighty giant of the faith in the evangelical Christian world. Chuck Colson died at age 80. Between 1969 and 1973, Chuck Colson had gained the world. He was perhaps the most powerful attorney in America, serving as special counsel to President Nixon. Then the Watergate scandal shook the White House, and his carefully constructed life collapsed in a miserable heap. Colson was tried, convicted, and placed in prison within a year.

Just prior to his conviction, though, Colson gave his life to Christ. God would use prison, the lowest point in his life, as his turning point. Because of the things he saw while incarcerated, he would later form Prison Fellowship, a ministry for inmates worldwide, and the Colson Center for Worldview.

Colson suffered from intracerebral hemorrhage, which resulted in him undergoing surgery about two weeks ago to remove the blood clot on his brain. Initially, his condition improved and he was able to talk to his wife and children. But late Tuesday, his condition took a turn for the worse and doctors had advised the Colson family to gather by his bedside in preparation for his departure. He passed away Saturday afternoon.[1]

Contextual Notes:
From the words prophesied by the angel Gabriel about Jesus (Luke 1:33-35) and what his miracles have revealed is now recognized and proclaimed by Peter. Herod had asked, “Who is this?” (Luke 9:7-9). Here is the answer.
This is a key turning point in Luke’s narrative as Jesus makes radically clear the role of the Messiah. He did not come to conquer the Roman oppressors. He came to suffer and die for his people (Luke 9:21-22). In light of his own suffering role, Jesus calls his followers to the discipleship of bearing the cross as well (Luke 9:23-26).
Key Truth: Luke wrote Luke 9:18-27 to demonstrate that there is a question each person must answer, and there is a calling each disciple must accept.
Key Application: Today I want to show you what God’s Word says about discipleship.
Pray and Read:  Luke 9:18-27

Sermon Points:
1.   There is a question each person must answer (Luke 9:18-21)
2.   There is a calling each disciple must accept (Luke 9:22-27)

Exposition:   Note well,

a.   Luke begins this passage with Jesus at prayer (Luke 9:18) what Jesus is always doing at significant points in Luke’s Gospel, and this one is one of the most significant. The other Gospels tell us that Jesus and his disciples are on their way away from the excitement of the Feeding of the 5000 to Caesarea Philippi (||Matt 16:13-28; Mark 8:27-38). The great confession of Peter at Caesarea Philippi that Jesus is indeed the long awaited Messiah is the watershed, the climax of Luke’s Gospel. It is the first stage of Jesus’ revelation of himself. From this point forward, the shadow of the Cross will dominate the whole story. Jesus has set his face to go to Jerusalem, there to suffer.
b.   Luke 9:18-19 – Notice that those who did not belong to Christ could only think of him in terms of something old. The disciples can perceive him as something new and unprecedented – The Christ of God. Many Jews believed that OT-style prophets had ceased, so calling Jesus a prophet was pretty radical, but it was not radical enough to be accurate about Jesus’ real identity. Jesus puts the partly clouded belief into a master truth with his question. “With the mouth confession is made” (Rom 10:9-10).
c.   Luke 9:20-21 – Christ is not Jesus’ last name. Christ is his title. Here’s how it works. The word Christ (christos) is simply a Greek translation of the Hebrew word Messiah (mashiach), meaning “anointed one.” Kings, priests, and prophets were anointed with oil as a sign that they were consecrated to God and set apart for his work. Luke’s phrase, the Christ of God recalls the OT’s “the Lord’s Anointed,” a designation of Israel’s king, especially David (Luke 2:26). It later became rightly understood as a title for the Messiah, the coming deliverer from David’s line (Luke 1:32-33). Not since the birth of Jesus has Luke has used this Christ title (Luke 2:11). Now Peter calls Jesus the Christ of God. Luke will not use this title again until Luke 20:41, and again, Luke relates this title to Jesus’ lineal connection with David (Psalm 110:1).
d.   APPLICATION: Who do you say that Jesus is? Is He the Man Upstairs whom you call when you need something, like a little house boy? Or are you the servant in His house? Do you do His bidding? Is He your Lord?
a.   Luke 9:22 – The Son of Man must suffer many things: For the first time in Luke’s Gospel, we have an explicit note that Jesus will suffer death as the Messiah of God (Luke 9:43b-45; 8:31-34). Jesus’ ministry has already been rejected (Luke 4:24; 7:31-35; cf. Psalm 118:22). The role of the Suffering Servant is laid out in Isaiah 52:13-53:12. The Jews, however, expected a powerful and triumphant warrior king to overthrow the Gentile oppressors and reign on David’s throne in righteousness. Jesus’ reference to the third day alludes to Hosea 6:2, a reference to Israel’s restoration by the Lord. Jesus is restoring God’s people, but not the way they may expect. Luke will take up that same phraseology in Luke 24:20-21 on the Road to Emmaus the two men said, “The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him,” and then they add, “but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.”
b.   Luke 9:23 – Take up his cross daily: Jesus is not speaking merely of self-denial, but of violent death by execution. The cross (stauros) was an upright stake driven in the ground to humiliate, shame, and execute people. The Romans made an art of crucifixion. The condemned had to carry the 110lb. cross beam on his shoulders to the place of execution (Luke 23:26), and it was affixed to the upright pole. Taking up one’s cross meant to carry the beam to the site of execution past a jeering mob. Jesus is speaking in strong rhetoric to make his point.
c.   APPLICATION: Jesus is referring to a life of total commitment to him, even to the point of suffering and martyrdom. He says that if one chooses to follow him that he or she must be a true disciple must be ready for ready to face literal scorn on the road to eventual martyrdom, following Jesus to the cross. Jesus is saying that from the moment of your faith in Him, you must count your life forfeit for the kingdom. Jesus called it “denying yourself.” It is called obedience. We must die to selfishness, self-centeredness. Let me be painfully specific. Is it God’s will for us to amass and cling to so many things that are going to burn one day, things we really cannot afford, things we have to spend the days of our lives paying off? Or would the Lord have us investing our energies in things that last – like the well-being of our marriages, the emotional health of our children?
d.   ILLUSTRATION: Jim was a pilot and had a burning desire to share Christ with those who had never heard the Gospel. With four other friends, Jim made a multi-year commitment to move his family to another country, pray for a particular unreached, unengaged people group, and plant Gospel seeds among them on the frontier of Christ’s Kingdom to see that primitive tribe come to know Jesus as Lord and Savior. He and his four friends would eventually all die together one day on the beach of a river in the South American rainforest, killed by the spears of the very people he wanted to see come to Christ. The miracle is that their families stayed there, committed to forgiveness and the task of making Christ known in the Amazon among the Huaoroni (aka Auca) Indians. Today those people are sending missionaries out themselves. The words of the martyred Jim Elliott exemplify the call of Jesus in the passage we have before us this morning: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”[2]
e.   APPLICATION: The path to life, true life, does not come through self-preservation, watching out for Number One. True life comes through a daily willingness to sacrifice one’s life for Jesus. Those who are not ashamed of the Son of Man in the present age will be given life and glory in the age to come. The great Scot Baptist expositor Alexander Maclaren offers this explanation of Jesus’ illustration of the cross: Discipleship is imitation. Imitation is self-crucifixion.
f.    ILLUSTRATION: Chuck Colson’s testimony reminds us of Jesus words in our passage today, “For what good is it for a man to gain the whole world and yet forfeit his very soul?” (Luke 9:25). Colson later related this verse of Scripture to his own life: “All my achievements meant nothing in God’s economy. No, the real legacy of my life was my biggest failure – that I was an ex-convict. My greatest humiliation – being sent to prison – was the beginning of God’s greatest use of my life. He chose the one experience in which I could not glory for His glory. Confronted with this staggering truth, I discovered that my world was turned upside down. I understood with a jolt that I had been looking at life backward. But now I could see: only when I lost everything I thought made Chuck Colson a great guy had I found the true self God intended me to be and the true purpose of my life. It is not what we do that matters, but what a sovereign God chooses to do through us. God doesn’t want our success; He wants us. He doesn’t demand our achievements. He demands our obedience.”[3]
g.   Brothers and sisters, Jesus calls each one of us to utter abandonment of self. He calls you to pronounce death over your own plans and desires. That Could any choice be as wonderful as embracing His will? Could any place be safer than the center of His will? Could anything be more deliriously delightful than knowing that is the place where you live? Today the Lord is calling you to lay everything at His nail-scarred feet. Will you lay life or death there? Will you lay your health or illness there? Will you lay appreciation by others there? Will you lay misunderstandings there? Will you lay your success and your failures there? Only that which is of Christ matters. Will you lay everything that hinders your getting to Christ and growing with Christ there?[4]
h.   Luke 9:26 – The Son of Man in his glory: Jesus is alluding to Daniel 7:13-14 where an exalted Messiah is like a son of man who comes on the clouds of heaven and is given authority, glory, and an eternal kingdom. Daniel identifies him with the saints of the Most High (Daniel 7:18, 27) and as an individual Messiah (Daniel 7:13-14). Isaiah did something similar in his Servant of the Lord passages (Isaiah 40-55) as Israel (Isaiah 44:1; 29:3) and an individual (Isaiah 42:1). What do we make of this? The Messiah is the representative of his people Israel.
i.    Luke 9:27 – Some will not taste death: Because Messiah had already come, the future kingdom is already present. Jesus cannot be referring to the Second Coming, because he did not return within the lifetimes of the disciples. Most say he is referring to the Transfiguration in the next passage (Luke 9:32-35). Alexander Maclaren said Jesus was speaking of AD 70 and the Fall of Jerusalem.
Following Christ means more than believing Him. It means obedience. Where have you been disobedient?
Living in obedience means more than accepting the truth. It means ‘tasting death’, the death of self and selfish desire.
Tasting death means more than being unselfish. It means dying daily. Pride bellows, “I want what I want when I want it.” Christ says, “Whoever loses his life for my sake, he is the one who will save it.”
He lays the choice before us. Will be give up our agendas for his perfect plan? Will we give up our idols of self-worship? Will we follow Him?[5]

[2] Jim Elliot, quoted by Elisabeth Elliot, Shadow of the Almighty: The Life and Testament of Jim Elliot (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1958), 15.
[3] Charles W. Colson, Loving God (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1987), 24-25.
[4] V. Raymond Edman quoted in World Shapers: A Treasury of Quotes from Great Missionaries, comp. Vinita Hampton and Carol Plueddeman (Wheaton: Harold Shaw, 1991), 17.
[5] Chuck Swindoll, The Continuation of Something Great: Luke 7:1-10:37, 94-95.