Good Morning!Sorry to have missed you yesterday!
21 He sternly ordered and commanded them not to tell anyone, 22saying, ‘The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.’23 Then he said to them all, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. 25What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves? 26Those who are ashamed of me and of my words, of them the Son of Man will be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. 27But truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.’
After the disciples have identified Jesus as the Messiah, he orders them “sternly”, “commands them” not to tell anyone. Why would Jesus not want them to proclaim to the world that he is the Messiah? Already he is pressed on every side by the crowds, and has a hard time finding a place to get away from them – what would it be like if they thought he was the Messiah? But more than this, even the disciples did not yet have an understanding of what Messiah meant – the people would be expecting a “Messiah” who would lead a revolt against Rome. Even the disciples seemed to be waiting for Jesus to “make his move”, raise an army, and establish a kingdom that would rule the world from Jerusalem. Jesus had to teach them that his kingdom was the Kingdom of God, not a worldly kingdom. And the way he would teach that lesson was by dying – he tells them, here for the first time in Luke, that he will be rejected by the religious leaders of the time, will suffer, and be killed, and on the third day he will rise. If one is a follower of this man, seeing the miracles, knowing his power – how does one wrap his mind around these two incompatible thoughts? First, Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah, the anointed one of God; and second, he will be rejected, suffer, and die? The disciples, in their very human state, do not quite manage to understand.
And then, Jesus makes it harder to understand – if any want to truly follow him, they must deny themselves, take up their cross daily, and follow – where he goes. “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves?” Other translations say, “but lose or forfeit their soul”. (This is the topic of this week’s sermon, so come to church for a more complete discussion.) Jesus is talking about living into the Kingdom of God – in the here and now, and into eternal life. If the disciples (or we) seek to “play it safe”, avoid vulnerability and risk; if they, or we, live selfishly, for the sake of self, they lose their life (this is the same word that is translated as soul). We lose our soul when we are selfish, when our focus is on self. Sin, after all, involves selfishness – a focus on self rather than on relationship with God and love of neighbor.
And finally, Jesus speaks of the return of the Son of Man – of the end times when Jesus will return, saying that those who are ashamed of him in this life will not be recognized by him then. But then, he returns to discussion of the Kingdom, saying it will come before some of them die. If we think of the Kingdom in terms of that return he had spoken of, we say this is just not true, they all died years ago and Christ has not yet returned. But, think of the Kingdom established by Christ, when he was crowned with thorns, enthroned on the cross, suffered and died, and yet rose from the dead. All the disciples, excepting Judas, lived to see the establishment of the Kingdom NOW! You and I have opportunity to live in, and into, this Kingdom! But to do so, we must leave aside our selfish self, take up our cross, and follow Jesus!