Three Shocking Statements
Jesus’ disciples needed to rid themselves of their illusions. Just when they were beginning to get Jesus’ identity, He made three shocking statements.
And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. Luke 9:23
A curious sequence of events occurs here. First, Peter confesses (with the apparent agreement of the other disciples) that Jesus is “the Christ of God.” Then Jesus tells them three stunning things:
Secrecy. They are not to proclaim what they have learned about the Lord. Not yet. He had a plan to reveal Himself but the time had not come.
Suffering. Jesus would be rejected by the Jewish authorities, be killed, and be raised on the third day. It must have been painful and frightening for the twelve to think of Jesus’ death. But they would learn who they really are and who He is through this.
Sacrifice. The disciples, if they will continue with Jesus, must join in His sufferings, taking up their crosses daily. Jesus would later tell them that He was going to prepare a place for them, but it is not a place in this present fallen world (John 14:1-4).
This news was not what they expected. But Jesus promises that by losing their lives for His sake they will gain them.
Why do we follow Him?
Beware of following Christ in order to experience a better, happier, more prosperous life in this world. It was not to be for the first disciples and it is not to be for us. But the one who follows Christ doesn’t just suffer with Him but also enjoys the closest fellowship with Him.
Paul knew that fellowship and he rejoiced in it. In his testimony to the Christians in Philippi, he wrote:
Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Philippians 3:8-11
Have you embraced Jesus’ shocking statements? Is the prospect of fellowship with Jesus Christ enough to rid you of illusions and hold you on the path of His sufferings? May it be so.
For more reflections on today’s reading, see the corresponding reading in my book Cover to Cover: Through the Bible in 365 days.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.