October 27, 2019
Conversations with Jesus – Luke 9
I want to start off with a little quiz this morning-based on some famous slogans. I’ll say the slogan-you tell me the brand.
- I’m Lovin’ It (McDonalds)
- America Runs on… (Dunkin)
- Eat Mor Chikin (Chick-fil-A)
- Just Do It (Nike)
- Melts in your mouth, not in your hands (M&M’s)
- Finger lickin’ good (KFC)
- It’s everywhere you want to be (Visa)
- It keeps going and going and going (Energizer)
- 15 minutes could save you 15% or more (Geico)
- You are now free to move about the country (Southwest Airlines)
- …(something)……(something)… is on your side (Nationwide)
- There are some things money can’t buy, for everything else there’s… (Mastercard)
- When you care enough to send the very best (Hallmark)
- The Few, The Proud, The… (Marines)
- Got Milk (California Milk Processor Board)
Their ad ran from 2003-2014. The CMPB wanted people to revert to milk as their drink of choice in order to sustain a healthier life. They said the campaign was meant to bring some life to a boring product-so what did they do? Got celebrities with milk mustaches and hung these posters all over schools. Do you remember these-Taylor, Mannings, Tom Brady ($100 framed on Ebay), Elway, Superman. And it worked-slogans like this are hard to forget-because they’re poignant and powerful. They’re short, sweet and to the point-they get stuck in your head. So as you’re thinking slogans I want you to think about the ones Jesus used in the NT. Now you might scratch your head at that and wonder how someone like Jesus could use slogans. In your mind you might be picturing advertising agencies and marketing professionals trying to craft some really witty and memorable words-but that’s what Jesus was an expert at-not advertising agencies or marketing-but memorable statements. And there’s a few of them He used over and over. Deny Yourself. And isn’t that the opposite of most slogans? That’s not saying Give me a break, break me off a piece of that… This is saying the opposite-Don’t go get a break. Or Burger King used to have the slogan-Have It Your Way. This is saying-Don’t have it your way. I’m not sure this slogan is going to sell a lot of products or make a business rich-but this is Jesus’ slogan for what it means to be His disciple-Deny Yourself. Two powerful and poignant words.
Or what about His other slogan-Take Up Your Cross. That’s not a slogan that speaks of vacations or airline travel or fun in the sun-take up your bags and head out for a great day at the beach! This is talking about death. That choosing the way of discipleship and following Jesus is the equivalent of choosing your own death. But that’s what the cross is. It’s not like picking up an ice-cold bottle of Cocoa-Cola or grabbing a Snicker’s bar that really satisfies. Taking up your cross is painful, it’s something where your blood is spilled and your body suffers, something where death is inevitable. So it leaves us wondering whether Jesus really was any good at creating slogans-but you see Jesus wasn’t trying to say something memorable just to sell a lot of people on the idea of Christianity, He wasn’t just trying to get as many converts as possible, like businesses try to sell as much of their product as possible. Jesus was speaking memorably, but He was also speaking truthfully. When Jesus says these things He’s not trying to hide something or sugarcoat discipleship or paint a false picture to lure people in-He’s telling us exactly what we can expect if we’re going to follow Him-that we’re going to have to deny ourselves and take up our cross-and the reason Jesus knows that is because that’s exactly what He Himself was going to experience by coming to earth. Look at His words in Luke 18:31-33. This is what Jesus is saying is going to happen to Him. Does any of that sound pleasant? Does any of that sound like something you’d like to do? Or even be willing to do? Look at those words-delivered (arrested), mocked, shamefully treated, spit upon, flogged, killed? I would run away at the mere mention of any of those things-but this is Jesus telling the disciples what He’s going to experience-and He isn’t running away. In fact, He’s heading towards this destination-He’s traveling to Jerusalem for this very purpose. And it isn’t the first time He’s said it.
Open up your Bibles to Luke 9 this morning as we continue our series Conversations with Jesus. Look at what He says in v. 22. Very similar statement-although Jesus spelled it out in a lot more detail in Luke 18. That was said one week before it happened-no doubt the reality of what He was going to experience was really sinking in. But even here, Jesus knew what was in His future. He knew the pain that awaited Him-and that’s why He follows it up with His famous statement-v. 23. So there’s Jesus’ famous “slogans” of what it means to follow Him. That if you’ve put your trust in Jesus those are the two things He calls you to experience. And in order to examine those things-I want us to establish the broader context for when Jesus says them.
There’s 2 specific conversations in this chapter we want to see-and the first begins in v. 7a. Rightly so because a lot had happened. Last week we examined all the different conversations Jesus had with the vast array of characters from chapter 8. We read about His frightened followers who saw Him instantly still the storm at sea-a raging storm where they all thought they’d die. Then there was the Deranged Dude Jesus rescued from intense demon possession. Next was the Lonely Lady that He healed and restored back to society, then He brought the Dead Daughter back to life at the amazement of everyone-no one more so than the Desperate Dad who was reunited to what he thought was forever lost. All of that happened in the second half of chapter 8. Jesus was doing things nobody could do or had the power to do-and it all happened with just the words He spoke. Jesus didn’t do any magic or incorporate some advanced science or technology they didn’t know about back then. He just spoke-and all those miraculous things happened. So Herod has heard about all of it and is scratching his beard in puzzlement wondering what it means. He’s watching the morning news, seeing the headlines scroll across the bottom detailing all these miracles Jesus has done-and he’s asking the question who is this guy? Look at v. 7-8. So Herod’s wondering if Jesus is one of those guys-but look at how logical his thinking is-v. 9a–Okay, so it can’t be him. We can scrap option a. John doesn’t have a head, it was given to me on a platter. So options b or c? v.9b.
And that sounds like a noble request. Go and see Jesus. We would say that anybody who wants to see Jesus is on the right spiritual pathway-and clearly Herod needs to be on that pathway and encounter the saving power of Jesus-but unfortunately, that’s not his motivation for seeing Him. If you remember, Herod’s father was Herod the Great-the king during the time of Jesus’ birth who sent the order to kill every male child under 2 yrs old in hopes of killing Jesus. Obviously Jesus was spared when Mary and Joseph fled to Egypt-and Herod the Great eventually died, giving way to this Herod, his son, who is now ruling in Galilee. But there isn’t a lot of love this family has for Jesus. So Herod is not a seeker, or someone searching and trying to understand Jesus and what the gospel means for his life. Instead, we see Herod’s true motives revealed when we jump ahead to Luke 23:7-8. So Herod’s desire to see Jesus is a direct reference to our passage in Luke 9. He’s waited a long time-but why does he want to see Jesus? Does Herod desire to repent of his sins and sort out his life by trusting in Jesus? No-what did it say-he was hoping to see some sign done by him. And that’s Luke’s way of telling us that Herod is not looking to Jesus with a heart of faith-rather he wants proof, show me something spectacular, do a miracle in front of me-as if Jesus is nothing more than a sideshow magician-what can He do to impress me? And Jesus sees right through it. Certainly we’ve read over and over in the gospels how Jesus interacts with those who are earnestly seeking Him and wouldn’t turn that sort of person away. But what’s His response to Herod? Luke 23:9-11. There’s no spiritual interest or reverence or humility before Jesus. The moment Jesus doesn’t perform for him, Herod turns on Him in mockery and insult-and we see that Jesus was wise to ignore him.
So Conversation that didn’t happen-Herod: Prove yourself to me. He wants Jesus to do some amazing sign that will convince him of who He is. He’s putting Jesus to the test, putting Him on the defensive, demanding that Jesus do what he wants when he wants it. Perform for me, serve me, Jesus-and if not-then what good are you? He’s saying to the other priests and scribes-This guy thinks he can do a bunch of miracles-looks like a whole lot of nothing to me! And so he mocks Jesus as king. In his mind he thinks Jesus is that little wimpy kid on the playground he can pick on and push around who’s too weak or too scared to do anything. So Herod positions himself as the one in charge and that Jesus is there to serve him. Now hopefully none of us are acting like that or so outwardly and vehemently mocking Jesus-but can’t we often find ourselves saying something like that to Jesus? Prove yourself to me! Do something for me! If you’re really out there, if you’re really God and all-powerful, if you really care about me like you say you do, if you’re for real then do something amazing right now and show me. Have you said something like that-or even thought something like that? It’s so easy in our lives to flip the tables and think that Jesus is here to serve us. That like Herod, we want to see Him do some sort of sign to convince us, to prove Himself to us. I’ll just sit back and wait until Jesus convinces me. Never mind the fact, that Herod had heard all these things Jesus was doing-just like we’ve heard them as we read His Word. Jesus has made it very clear who He is-both back then and today-and the testimony we have from His Word reveals that-which means we don’t have any excuses. So Jesus isn’t obligated to prove Himself to us. He isn’t indebted to us. If He doesn’t do what we say or answer our prayer request like we want-He isn’t at fault. Jesus doesn’t exist to serve us and do spectacular signs for us (even though He often does spectacular things-as the middle of chapter 9 shows when He turns 5 loaves and 2 fish into an overflowing buffet for 5,000!). The bottom line is that we exist to serve Him. We exist to humble ourselves before Him and follow in His footsteps, not demand that He follow us.
And that’s the difference between the conversation that didn’t happen-and the conversation that did. Look at v. 18. And notice how their response mirrors Herod’s-v. 19. These 3 options are the word on the street-the working theories of the day. Jesus is either a) John the Baptist raised back to life with a new head, b) Elijah raised back to life, or c) one of the other prophets like Isaiah or Jeremiah. But here’s where Jesus takes this conversation a step further-v. 20. And that word Christ isn’t Jesus’ last name-rather it is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word Messiah and literally means “Anointed One”. We can think of that word describing Jesus as the chosen, designated, anointed King the Israelites had been waiting for. I was reading a British blog site this week that talked about the legendary King Arthur-It is my personal belief that the time has arrived, that the fulfillment of that ancient prophecy given to the people of the British Isles has arrived, and HRH Prince William is to be the anointed King of Arthurian legend, born, blessed and anointed to lead his people from the greatest of perils in hundreds of years. And he was speaking about the various terrorist threats that Britain faces-and how Prince William might be the embodiment of their anointed King Arthur-the great King to come. It sounded quite heroic-but obviously King Arthur is the stuff of legends-far more fiction than fact. But what Peter is saying is fact-that Jesus is the Anointed One Israel has been waiting for ever since the time of King David-that He will come to overthrow Israel’s enemies, save His people, and restore the Kingdom. But Peter thought-just like everyone else-that Jesus came to do it with a sword in hand and an earthly throne to claim. What he didn’t realize was that Jesus came to do it with a cross to bear and the heavenly throne of His father to claim. So here’s Jesus response that we saw earlier-but now in the context of Peter’s answer-v. 20-22. Yes indeed it’s a wonderful, amazing, correct conclusion that Jesus is the Christ, the Anointed One of God-but that also means there’s suffering and a cross first. So as we circle back to Jesus’ slogans of what it means to follow Him-He’s not asking us to do anything He Himself hasn’t already done-v. 23. Not easy words to hear-but they’re exactly what Jesus calls us to do.
So Conversation that did happen-Followers: Deny yourself. Is that the first thing you think about when you wake up to start your day? I’m off to deny myself today. I’m hoping it’ll be a good day of not getting what I want and helping others be blessed instead of me. Is that how you think? Probably not! We wake up thinking-what are my plans for the day, what am I going to do and accomplish-not how am I going to deny myself. The very first thing I do most mornings is get myself a cup of coffee. If I was to deny myself that…who knows the outcome! But what are the phrases and slogans we hear all the time? Indulge yourself, Do what makes you happy, Give yourself a break, Take time for you. Nothing is more counter-cultural for us than a statement like deny yourself. We live in a world where that is so far from our thinking. We question why we should be denied something all the time-it’s my right, I’m entitled to it, don’t withhold that from me, if it’s out there and others have it, then I should too!
Now self-denying doesn’t mean you just randomly choose to turn down a promotion at work-but it sure means turning that promotion down if it’s going to take up all your time and keep you from coming to church and investing in the body of Christ. Self-denying doesn’t mean you just go randomly break-up with your girlfriend-but it certainly does mean breaking up if that relationship is only based on the physical stuff and keeps you and her from growing spiritually. Self-denying doesn’t mean you avoid buying a bigger house or taking a better vacation-but it certainly does if buying those things keeps you from properly tithing and using your money to support the work God’s doing. The problem is that self-denial doesn’t often enter our minds. But Jesus is saying that to follow Him first and foremost means to deny yourself. That’s step 1.
This week in my devotions I was reading Ps 106 and this idea to deny yourself was the very thing Israel forgot. Look at Ps 106:9-15. Their craving was for meat and all the good food they remembered having in Egypt when they were slaves. But instead of denying themselves of that and trusting in God’s good plan to lead them to the Promised Land-they grumbled and complained against God, remembering all this delicious food they used to have. They didn’t want to deny themselves of what they wanted-so God gave it to them. You don’t want to deny yourself-then don’t. Like Burger King-have it your way. So God brought quail for the people to eat-and it gets kind of gross-because in Numbers 11 it says that while the quail meat was still between their teeth it turned rotten and God brought a plague upon them. By not denying themselves-where did it lead them? No where good. Where do you need to deny yourself? What does that look like in your life? It’s saying I don’t have to indulge my cravings or desires-but instead follow God’s plan. And what’s His plan? v. 23. There’s the other slogan –Taking up your Cross: necessary before experiencing glory. It’s the principle woven into our world that says suffering first and then glory. That’s true of any athlete who’s ever trained to compete. The practicing, the weightlifting, running laps, watching your diet, getting into shape is painful-but it’s totally necessary if you want to be competitive and win. We get it in sports-no pain, no gain!
But the problem is that we don’t think that way in everyday life. We’re all about the glory now. We want to be glorified in our work, glorified in our accomplishments; for people to be impressed with who we are and what we’ve done. We want to be honored and praised-and suffering doesn’t enter that equation-just like denying ourselves doesn’t enter the equation. We want to live disconnected from suffering and only experience comfort-but Jesus is telling us this morning that we can’t do that. He’s connecting us to the reality of suffering, the reality of taking up our cross-that as His followers there’s no getting around it-because He Himself did it. Look back at v. 22-did you see that word must? Underline it! Jesus didn’t say that as the Son of Man suffering and death might happen-He said they must. Huge difference! Peter thought Jesus was the glorious warrior and king, the anointed one who’s supposed to remove the suffering of His people. So when Jesus responds to Peter by saying that as the Messiah he must suffer many things and be rejected and killed-it doesn’t compute. To him that’s not what Messiah is here for.
When your team drafts the #1 pick the thinking isn’t that he’s going to get beat-up, injured and lose; the #1 draft pick is supposed to lead you to victory and the championship. Likewise the Messiah isn’t supposed to endure suffering, He’s supposed to bring glory. But that’s not the case-at least not yet-taking up the cross is necessary before experiencing glory. Because what happens if Jesus doesn’t first take up His cross to suffer and die? What if He jumps right to glory and misses the pain? Then you and I remain forever lost in our sins. When you trust in Jesus for eternal life, you have to first accept His death on the cross-because that’s what it took to pay for your sins. Heb 12:2-3. This truth of suffering funnels right down to us.
So look back to v. 23 because there’s another word we have to see where Jesus makes this very personal-v. 23. There’s the next word to underline-anyone. And I don’t know about you but I wish it didn’t say anyone, and just said someone. I want the verse to say-if someone’s going to be really spiritual and super-religious they can deny themselves and take up their cross… That would make sense to me-that if you’re going to be radical about your faith and really get into this whole Christian thing and be an amazing witness for the Lord-then of course you’ll have to deny yourself, and take up your cross to follow Jesus. But for the rest of us-we’ll just follow Him and skip the denying ourselves and taking up our cross part. But that’s not what Jesus is saying. That word anyone-actually means anyone. So Taking up your Cross: essential for anyone who wants to follow Jesus. This is true for you, me, the person next to you this morning, it’s true for anyone who puts their trust in Jesus and seeks to follow Him-for extraordinary believers and ordinary believers. Taking up your cross isn’t an optional activity-just like it wasn’t optional for Jesus. Just as there can be no forgiveness in Jesus without the cross; likewise there can be no followers of Jesus who don’t take up their cross. It’s an essential part of what following Him means. But how many of us are trying to rewrite that verse to say-if anyone would come after Jesus, let him enjoy himself and take up the comforts of life and then follow Him. We want to eliminate the deny himself language-who needs that in 2019? Why would I deny myself? If I can have it, if I can get it, if I can buy or deserve it, I should have it. But that’s not what Jesus is saying-R. Kent Hughes, 349. Yet doesn’t self-pleasing, self-indulging describe us far better than self-denying? But when Jesus comes into your life He turns everything upside down. He hasn’t come to tell you how to squeeze every last drop of comfort and pleasure out of this life, He’s actually come to tell you to die to this life. That’s what taking up your cross is all about. Jesus hasn’t come to just be an add-on or a tune-up or software update to your life while you continue on living as you always have, He’s come to give you a complete overhaul. Not a Fan, 166. Maybe you’re not a fan of that quote! But it’s so true. Jesus has come so that we could die!
Remember the words of Gal 2:20. When Paul was writing those words he wasn’t speaking about his future goal as a Christian. One day I’ll get there and be crucified with Christ. He was talking about who he is, who we are, the moment we turn to Christ. This verse isn’t an eventuality, but our present identity-Gal 2:20. This is a call to die to self-and live for Christ. And the obvious point is that taking up our cross leads to being crucified. We don’t just take up the cross to carry it around like a backpack or suitcase, we take up our cross in order to be nailed to it and die-for our old self to be crucified with Christ. It’s a graphic image-but that’s what Jesus is saying to us-Taking up your Cross: dying to your old self everyday. And there’s one more essential word to see in-v. 23. It’s such a little, but crucial word-daily. Underline it-because those decisions points come every day. The old self never takes a day off or goes on vacation. As long as we live that old self is there-and we have to put it to death every day. So do you daily give in to your pride and stubbornly insist you’re always right or do you die to your pride and honestly apologize? Do you daily give in to your lust and indulge whatever sexual immorality you’re craving or do you die to lust and seek purity? Do you daily give in to your greed and take, take, take for yourself or do you die to greed and give to others? Do you daily give in to your selfishness and demand that others care for you or do you die to your selfishness and genuinely love and care for others? Let’s be honest-daily dying to self is never our default mode. If you just wake up tomorrow morning and do what comes naturally you won’t die to self. If you make decisions and do things like you normally do, you’ll live for yourself. But if you intentionally turn to Christ, and remember the truth that you’ve been crucified with Christ and the life you now live is by faith in Christ, then you’ll begin to pick up your cross and die to self. What did He go on to say-v. 24.
Do you ever remember saying as a kid-Finders keepers-and then what comes next-losers weepers. It’s idea that if you found something really great on the playground at school that some other kid lost-then you were in luck. And the kid who lost whatever he had was out of luck. It was like the slogan of recess. But I can still vividly remember in 2nd grade when myself and a couple other kids were saying that to one of our classmates-Ted Paine-I still remember his name too! But he had lost some erasers at recess-and not just some boring old pink erasers-but some awesome vampire and werewolf erasers that went on the top of your pencil. And he lost them at recess-we found them-and what did we tell him-Sorry Ted-finders keepers, losers weepers. And we kept them-I always felt really bad about it. If I ever see Ted Paine again I owe him some werewolf erasers! But we kept on saying-finders keepers, losers weepers much to his dismay. And yet-when it comes to our lives in Christ-losers aren’t weepers, but as Jesus says-losers are keepers–v. 24. Letting go and losing this life isn’t something to weep over, it’s something to rejoice in because losing your life allows you to find it in Christ. Taking up your Cross: finding your real self in Christ. That’s what He’s saying. If you put all your eggs into the basket of this life-and hold on to that basket with all your might, trying to make this life the best as possible, always insisting on your comfort-then you lose-because this life is finite and it doesn’t last. So if you don’t let it go, if you don’t die to self then you’ll never really find yourself-because you’ll only find your real self in Christ. Only when you give up the control of your life, when you hand over the reins and surrender yourself to Christ and let your old self die-can your new self be reborn in Him. Lewis, Mere Christianity, 225-6. Exactly what Jesus is saying.
I keep picturing a sweater or a shirt with a thread hanging out-and don’t you ever get nervous or wonder-if I pull this the whole thing might become unraveled. So maybe you do-maybe you don’t. But that is what we’re called to do with our old selves-pull the thread and let them be unraveled, because only in Christ will we be restitched and resown into something new-v. 23-24. Jesus’ slogan would say-losers are keepers. It’s not a marketing ploy-it’s the truth!