Luke 9: 21 – 27 Jesus predicts his death
[ ‘But what about you?’ he asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’
Peter answered, ‘God’s Messiah.’ ] (Luke 9: 20)
Jesus strictly warned them not to tell this to anyone. And he said, ‘The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.’
Then he said to them all: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.
‘Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.’
* * *
Surely this prophesy and this teaching must have been shocking? The Son of Man will be killed by the authorities? A would-be disciple must take up their cross daily and follow Jesus? And yet there is no hint of shock in Luke’s account.
However, St Matthew and St Mark also record this event. St Matthew’s account is more graphic.
From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.
Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. ‘Never, Lord!’ he said. ‘This shall never happen to you!’
Jesus turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.’
Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.’ (Matthew 16: 21 – 24)
(You can read St Mark’s version at Mark 8: 31 – 33)
This teaching is in all three synoptic gospels. Even more compelling, the gospel writers choose to emphasise different elements of the teaching, just as reliable witnesses would. It is clear that this is Jesus’ teaching. What exactly does it mean?
At the very least it must mean that whenever there is a clash between our human plans and following Jesus, we must choose following Jesus. And we are told, with no ambiguity at all, that this will be difficult; it will be to ‘take up our cross’.
Jesus knew exactly what that meant, and so did the early church. It meant unremitting effort and pain; it meant the loss of any human freedom and dignity; and it only ended with death. That’s a big ask.
The compensation in this lifetime is two-fold. Firstly, the more we take up the cross, the more aware we can be of the presence of Jesus. We will be walking in the way he walked, and he will go with us every step of the way. Secondly, we will become more like Jesus in character; we will become part of God’s solution to the evils in the world.
I’m sorry I find it so hard to follow Jesus with my whole heart. Please take the little I offer and help me to increase it.
In Jesus name, Amen