As we have spent the last month in Luke's gospel, we have seen how Luke (doctor and historian) was deliberately setting out to report all the facts, so that people like us, as well as his first readers, could have confidence in what we believe.
We then thought about the importance of prayer, in the life of Jesus, and how his disciples were driven to ask him to teach them to pray - this is a huge part of living confidently as Jesus-followers.
And last week we looked across the gospel at many passages which simply leave us amazed at who Jesus was and is - things that make us go WOW!
People talked about the amazing things he did, like the miracles, but a lot of us noticed the profound answers he gave to difficult questions - especially when people were trying to trap him. We saw the way he was straight with people about life, and how people were struck time and time again by his authority - he spoke in a way which assumed he had the right to be acknowledged as supreme. In anyone else we would think it was madness. And yet in his case people saw that his life backed up his words.
Jesus knew there was lots of debate going on, so by the time we get to our focus passage, Luke 9 v18-27, he gathered his disciples, having withdrawn to pray (again), and asked them "who do the crowds say I am?"
They replied "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life"
"But what about you?" he asked, "Who do you say I am?"
Peter answered "God's Messiah"
It is noticeable that none of the crowd thought he was an 'ordinary Joe'! They all knew that he was something more than normal, even resorting to ideas of ancient prophets coming back from the dead. But Peter saw it - he was the long awaited Messiah - God's man to come and rule.
They didn't understand all this would mean at that time, which is why in the following verses Jesus tells them not to tell anyone, and explains that this means going the path of suffering, death, and resurrection.
He then also tells them what it means for them. That those who would be his disciples must deny themselves, turning from their selfish ways as they take up their cross daily and follow him. In other words, be prepared to go the road less travelled; to suffer; to go as Jesus went. To give up your claim to run your life by your own rules, and have Jesus Christ truly lead you, in his ways.
A big ask. Is this a crazy dictator? Or is this the most loving, pure, compelling, wise, impressive, awesome, slightly scary, powerful, insightful, and caring person ever - saying that going his way is the right way?
Getting real about who Jesus is, helps us get clear about a load of stuff.
Three areas we talked about from Luke 9, as well as the other things we had read:
IDENTITY - MISSION - DISCIPLESHIP
IDENTITY: Because we ARE followers of Jesus. That is who we are at the bottom line. We can get caught up in all kinds of institutional religious historical or factional confusion as people try and define what Christianity is or isn't. But the bottom line is, we are followers of Jesus Christ. That is who we are. (v23)
MISSION: We seek to love others as we love God, but we often get ourselves mixed up trying to figure out what the 'message' is. Well, again, bottom line - the message is HIM. It's Jesus. Its all about who he is. The gospel of Jesus Christ - the good news of Jesus Christ. He is God's Messiah (v20)
DISCIPLESHIP: If we are followers of Jesus, what does that mean? It means giving everything to him. Every part of life. Losing your rights to run your own life in order that you will find the true life that you were made for. Because the thing is, this is who we were always made to be - to be fully human is to live connected to our maker and Lord, and to flourish as we live life HIS way (v23-26)
When we walk this way, what we find is this: It is the best way.
Read the passage from Luke's gospel online here.