Bible Passage: Luke 9: 18 - 36
Well morning friends and visitors. My name is Matt Johnson and today we are resuming our study of Lukes gospel called “Portraits of Jesus”. Only this is now part 2 and we’ve called it “Portraits of a Disciple.” The focus in Lukes gospel is no longer – who is Jesus, but what is a disciple? That’s the question we will now consider. What does a real Christian look like?
Well in the history of the world lots of people have claimed to be disciples of Jesus. But what does it really mean to follow Jesus? This is what we are going to consider in the coming weeks. What does a real disciple and follower of Jesus look like?
One of the more interesting examples of a Christian disciple is Mr T (Slide 1). Do you remember this guy from the A-Team in the 80’s. Mr T was actiually brought up in a Christian home, but he left Jesus at the height of his Hollywood career? Later on, he recomitted his life to Jesus, got baptized and started taking his family to church. You may recall that MrT always used to wear STACKS OF GOLD around his neck. But a few years back in an interview he stated; (READ).
What about this guy (ENTER). Most people remember Bob Marley for 1) his reggae music, 2) pot smoking and 3) Rastafarian dreadlocks. But later in life Bob Marley converted to Christianity and was baptized by the Archbishop of the ETHIOPIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH. In his final tours of Europe in 1979 and 1980 he spoke publicly about Jesus and his new-found Christian faith.
Another interesting example is (ENTER) Denzel Washington. This man has long been my favorite actor of all time. But in recent years Denzel has become more and more vocal about his Christian faith. He says; (ENTER). There is also a YouTube video by Denzel Washington called “Why I love Jesus”, that is worth checking out.
Now I’ll admit some of these guys are pretty whacky and I can’t really tell whether they are the real deal or not. Denzel himself is a much NAME IT AND CLAIM IT type of Christian than I’m comfortable with.
But I’m not sure these three black guys are any less Christian than these three white guys (Slide 3). 1) Joel leads the biggest church in America. 2) You all know the Pope, and the other guy 3) Justin Welby is the lead bananna in the Anglican church. Now it’s not place to judge. But I’d say these three guys have probably said and done some things far less Christian than the first three guys. I also know, I’d much rather hang out with the first three guys, than second three guys. So I’m hoping they are the real deal and we can catch up some day in heaven.
My point is – what does it really mean to be a follower of Jesus? I’m not so much talking about A) how we are saved as B) what our life should be like – if we are authentic Christians. So between now and Easter we are going to look at what Jesus says about being a disciple.
Point 1: Jesus had to Suffer before he entered Glory
Show: Lk.9:18-24 (READ)
Explain: Well as we begin today, let me say this is the TURNING POINT in Luke’s gospel. After Peter arrives at the conclusion Jesus is the Messiah, Jesus leaves Galilee and starts heading towards Jerusalem, TO DIE. Now with this movement from Galilee to Jerusalem, the focus of Jesus’ teaching also changes a bit. Up to this point – all the portraits of Jesus that we looked at in Luke (chapters 4-9) were driving us to reach the same conclusion as Peter – JESUS IS THE CHRIST. That’s what we are meant to SEE and UNDERSTAND.
Throughout the Old Testament – God promised that he would one day send a Messiah, who would not only save Israel, but save the world. God promised that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, of a virgin. God promised the Messiah would be full of God’s Spirit and would be KIND, GENTLE AND COMPASSIONATE. The Messiah would open the eyes of the blind and heal the lame. The Messiah would be rejected by the POWERFUL, but loved by the VULNERABLE. Now as we’ve worked through the first half of Luke’s gospel we are meant to see that Jesus must be the Messiah. He fits the prophecies perfectly.
But there is still a big problem. A problem that none of us like. Gods plan to save the world– involves suffering, not only A) for the Messiah, but also B) for his followers. Straight after Peter says “You are the Messiah”, Jesus goes on the explain in verse 22 (look at it; slide 5)– “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected bythe elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” Now this is difficult. It’s one thing to grasp that Jesus is the Messiah. But its another thing entirely to accept that SUFFERING AND DEATH is part of God’s plan for the Messiah. And if, SUFFERING AND DEATH is part of God’s plan for the Messiah, what about us?
No one likes suffering. In our thinking suffering is always BAD and to BE AVOIDED at all costs. So when Jesus tells the disciples; SUFFERING is GOD’S PLAN – it does their head in. Matthew and Mark tell us that at this very point – Peter blurts out; “No! You can’t suffer. You’re God’s the Messiah.” And then Jesus has to rebuke Peter (and says) “get behind me Satan.” (Matt.16:23; Mk.8:33). Who is trying to get Jesus TO AVOID suffering? (That’s right – Satan). But who’s telling Jesus to accept suffering for some greater good? (That’s right, God).
Apply: We have this WEIRD IDEA that God doesn’t want us to suffer. If God loves me – he would NOT want me to suffer. But does that logic actually work? IS SUFFERING ALWAYS A BAD THING? AND IS THE AVOIDANCE OF SUFFERING a God thing, or a Satan thing?
As Christians we know Jesus’ suffering was a good thing (at least for us). (GOSPEL) God’s Son – JESUS – came into the world to suffer and die for the sins of his people. There is penalty for rejecting God and disobeying His word. SIN against God leads to suffering and death and hell. So, Jesus came to suffer and die and go to hell for us. He took the punishment for us, so that we can be spared. The Bible says all we have to do to be saved is 1) BELIEVE Jesus died for us. 2) APOLOGISE to God for our sins. And 3) SURRENDER our lives to Jesus going forward. And if we do that God promises he will forgive us and we will avoid suffering in hell for eternity.
So yes, great good has come out of Jesus’ suffering for us. It is true to say that following Jesus means avoiding suffering in hell forever. So I’d say that everyone should accept Jesus as Saviour and Lord. But if you are a Christian (or you’re considering becoming a Christian) does God promise us anywhere in the Bible that following Jesus will save us from suffering – here and now? (PAUSE) ANYWHERE? (PAUSE). Jesus had to suffer before he entered into God’s glory and his followers also suffer before they enter into God’s glory.
Point 2: Jesus’ Followers will also Suffer before they enter Glory
Show: Lk.9:23-24 (READ)
Explain: Please note there is now a shift in focus from Jesus’ identity, to what it now means to be a disciple of Jesus. We’re no longer answering the question – WHO IS JESUS? We are now answering the question – WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE A DISCIPLE. The second thing to note is that the first thing Jesus tells them – after they get HIS IDENTITY RIGHT is you’re ALLgoing to suffer. There is actually an emphasis on the word “ALL”. All “would be disciples” of Jesus can expect suffering. Following Jesus means 1) DENYING yourself something, 2) TAKING UP a cross of sorts (like Jesus) and 3) to some extent BEING WILLING TO LOSEyour life. Now the promise is that if we accept this suffering that comes with following Jesus – we will ultimately save our life.
Illustrate: But do Jesus words here sound like A) a full body massage in a day spa OR B) a hard day of physical labour? Do Jesus’ words here sound like A) a holiday in a 5 star hotel (all expenses paid) or B) like a gruelling work out in the gym?
Many preachers present the gospel like “Come to Jesus and avoid all suffering in your life.” But that is rubbish. The truth is more like “Come to Jesus and EXCHANGE bad suffering for good suffering.” Yes, there is such a thing as bad suffering and such a thing as good suffering. Bad suffering is drinking way too much alcohol at a party and waking up the next day with a hangover. Good suffering is doing a major work out at the gym and coming home afterwards with sore muscles. You know the difference? One is kind of a DIRTY SUFFERING and the other is CLEAN SUFFERING. Dirty suffering is having an affair on your spouse, then losing your marriage, losing the respect of your kids and losing your job in a nervous breakdown. That’s dirty suffering. But the suffering of being a single mum, while working your butt off to pay the bills and studying at night to get your nursing degree is super, painful – but it’s kind of clean, good suffering. You see, the difference?
When we become Christians we begin to exchange bad, dirty suffering that comes from sin, for good clean suffering that comes from righteousness.
I know many people in our church have come to Jesus to get rid of some the bad, dirty suffering in their life – that comes from sin. I get it. And the truth is the MORE A) we trust Jesus and obey Jesus – the MORE B) the bad, dirty suffering is removed from our lives. But as this happens Jesus calls us to now accept good, righteous suffering for God’s sake and the sake of others. There are so many GOOD THINGS that God wants us to do. But all of them will hurt to some extent. They involve SACRIFICE, HARD WORK, DIFFICULT DECISIONS, getting up early, staying up late; being GENEROUS etc etc. So naturally we bawk at this righteous suffering. We’re happy to follow Jesus and get rid of some of the bad, unclean suffering in our life. But that’s all we do. We reach a point where we are spiritual enough to to avoid bad suffering, but we remain worldly enough that we avoid good suffering. Christians often play dodge ball, where suffering is the ball and we dodge it – whether good or bad.
Apply: I call such Christians half-way Christians. Now I’m not going to say whether half-way Christians are saved or not. That’s ultimately up to God. But I’d say most Christians (even, genuine born-again Christians) BAWK at the idea of truly following Jesus on the path of good, clean righteous suffering for God and His kingdom.
Yet, Jesus is saying this is the path of a true disciple. Embracing good, clean, righteous suffering is part of following Jesus. Jesus even WARNS US – in the following verses – that if we try to avoid righteous suffering – simply in order to have the comforts of this world OR be accepted by the people of this world – Jesus will be ashamed of us when he returns in his Fathers glory. The point is – if you are truly following Jesus – there should be some good, clean, righteous suffering in your life, before you enter glory.
Point 3: Moses and Elijah also Suffered but are now in Glory
Show: Lk.9:28-31 (READ)
Explain: Sadly, the transfiguration of Jesus is often preached out of biblical context. But in Matthew, Mark and Luke we find the exact same series of events. FIRST, Peter says to Jesus you are the Christ. SECOND, Jesus warns the disciples they are going to suffer AND THIRD, you get the transfiguration story. Maybe these three stories are meant to stay together.
If you look at verse 27 it says (Slide 10). Now scholar’s debate what Jesus means by this statement. 1) Some say – Jesus believed that God’s heavenly kingdom would fully come within the disciple’s lifetime, but it turned out he was wrong. (Obviously, I don’t agree with that conclusion because Jesus is never wrong). 2) Others say, Jesus is talking about the inauguration of God’s kingdom that began with his resurrection. Jesus is saying that before they die – the disciples will see the glorious firstfruits of God’s kingdom. But that can’t be correct either – because Jesus says to the 12 disciples “some” of you will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God. The fact is – all of the disciples saw the inauguration of God’s kingdom in Jesus’ death and resurrection. So, this conclusion is also unlikely. The only other VALID CONCLUSION is the “some disciples” that see God’s kingdom in glory before they die is referring to Peter, James and John who go up the mountain and see Jesus, Moses and Elijah in God’s presence.
Whats more we know the stories go together because of the time reference in verse 28 – about 8 days later. Eight days after Jesus spoke about suffering and said some would see the Kingdom of God – Peter, James and John went up the mountain with Jesus. The verses are linked. What’s more Jesus told them some of them would SEE the Kingdom of God(ENTER). Now look down to verse 32 (Slide 11). Now there are a number of different Greek verbs for seeing, but this is the exact same Greek verb as verse 27. Jesus says some disciples will see God’s kingdom before they die.
Eight days later some disciples see Jesus, Moses and Elijah in all the heavenly glory. They don’t see suffering servants anymore. They see Moses, Elijah and Jesus all in glorious splendour. And in case we still missed the fact that these stories are joined together we get down to verse 36 and we are told (Slide 12 – Lk.9:36). They were told they would see something and they did see something. The question is – what aspect of God’s Kingdom did Peter, James and John come to see and comprehend on the mountain? And when God saysfrom heaven “This is my Son whom I have chosen, listen to him,” what particular words of Jesus does God want us to listen to…
Apply: Well, the most recent thing, that Jesus has just told the disciples is that they must sufferbefore they enter into the glory of God’s kingdom. And then Peter, James and John, see three great suffering servants, Moses, Elijah and Jesus – standing together in glorious splendour.
Now if you think back to the stories of Moses and Elijah – you’ll know they had easy comfortable lives, completely free from suffering. NOT. In fact, both Moses and Elijah ran away and went to Mt Sinai – to avoid suffering and potential death. When Moses identified himselfwith the Jewish people (and started standing up for them) he found himself running for his life to Mount Horeb, also called Mount Sinai. He ran away to avoid suffering and death. Now at Mt Sinai God spoke to Moses from a burning bush and God basically said to him face your fears, stop making excuses and go back – because I have a job for you to do and yes you might experience some righteous suffering.
And Elijah also – when he stood up for God – he was persecuted and his life was threatened by Jezebel. So he tried to run away from the suffering and hardship (and he ended up the exact same place as Moses) Mt Horeb or Mt Sinai. And God said to Elijah – what on earth are you doing here. And Elijah is like – isn’t it obvious, I’m runing away from suffering and death. And God told Elijah (Moses) – “Go back.”
Apply: Although Moses and Elijah were scared AND had the same natural propensity as us to avoid suffering and death – they obeyed God. And now Peter, James and John see Moses and Elijah clothed in glory (standing with Jesus) in God’s presence. The path to true glory in God Kingdom is not by running away from suffering, but by accepting good, clean righteous suffering for God, His people and ultimately even ourself. God uses suffering to bring about great good. And Jesus having just articulated this all-important truth – God throws in a word from heaven and says – THIS IS MY SON, LISTEN TO HIM. HE IS SPEAKING TRUTH. There is no glory in God’s kingdom without some good, clean righteous suffering. Yes, like Moses and Elijah our tendency is to run away from it and avoid it. But God told them to go back; to accept good righteous suffering – and both ended becoming truly great in the Kingdom of God.
I wonder what good righteous suffering God is calling you to take up at the moment and you are running away from. Perhaps, for a while you were even on that path of accepting good, clean righteous suffering for God and His kingdom. But now the COMFORTS OF LIFE or WANTING THE APPROVAL OF OTHERS is causing you to run from the very thing you know God is calling you to do. I get it. On many occassions I’ve wanted to run away from what God is calling me to do. Maybe it is becoming a MISSIONARY or a PASTOR. Maybe it is helping with SRE IN SCHOOLS or even FOSTERING AN UNWANTED CHILD. Maybe you are just running away from all Christian and spiritual responsibility. Like Moses and Elijahyou’re sincerely seeking God’s face on Mt Sinai, but your refusing to go back. The path to true glory is not avoiding suffering and death, but accepting suffering and even death for God, His Kingdom and others. THE REALITY IS – those who try to save their life by running away (like Moses and Elijah) will ultimately lose their life, but those who are willing to go back, suffer and potentially even die for God, will one day stand side by side with Moses, Elijah and even Jesus. Do you see the portrait? A true disciple is not afraid to suffer and die – if necessary.