February 28, 2021 Adult Bible Study
This week’s lesson: UNASHAMED—Jesus expects His followers to forsake all else for Him.
First Thoughts: What does following Jesus involve? This question connects the various events of Luke chapter 9. This narrative begins with Jesus’ commissioning of the Twelve and ends in a confrontation with excuse makers. In the center lies the defining issue—being willing to take up one’s cross and follow Jesus. The Twelve were disciples who had been appointed as apostles. Jesus taught them using parables, precept, and example. The first section of chapter 9 describes on-the-job training that Jesus assigned the Twelve. They had watched Him preach, heal, and cast out demons. It was time for them to practice what they had witnessed.
Lesson Part 1: CONFESS HIM [read Luke 9:18-20]
18 While he was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” 19 They answered, “John the Baptist; others, Elijah; still others, that one of the ancient prophets has come back.” 20 “But you,” he asked them, “who do you say that I am?” Peter answered, “God’s Messiah.” His Death and Resurrection Predicted
Just as Jesus wanted the disciples to maintain an abiding relationship with Him, He modeled a powerful relationship with the Heavenly Father. Notice three aspects of this setting. First, Jesus was praying when He confronted the Twelve with the vital question concerning His identity. This simple statement occurs many times in the Gospel narratives. Although fully divine, Jesus was also fully human. As such, prayer was an integral part of His constant interaction with the Father. Second, He was praying in private. Since the next phrase indicates the disciples were present, we see that Jesus had withdrawn from the large crowds. Third, his disciples were with him. Having finished his prayer, Jesus turned to the disciples and asked them: Who do the crowds say that I am? His question set the stage for the more personal follow-up. Jesus’ reference to the crowds could have applied to the thousands He had fed and taught. The term might also relate to people in general. Jesus was not asking if they knew He had grown up in the home of Mary and Joseph in Nazareth. He wanted the disciples to go deeper in their understanding.
In verse 19, the pronoun they indicates various men answered Jesus. One answer indicated some people believed Jesus was John the Baptist. Another opinion was that others thought Jesus was Elijah. The Jews believed Elijah would precede the Messiah. People who saw Jesus as a possible re-appearance of Elijah would rather see Him as a prophet than as the Messiah. Jesus clearly identified John the Baptist as the one who would precede the Messiah in the power and ministry of Elijah. Still others were spreading the rumor that one of the ancient prophets has come back. The mases knew Jesus had supernatural power. His words expressed authority, unlike the teaching of the scribes. Still, many were not willing to accept Him as the Messiah, the Son of God.
In verse 20, Jesus’ statement “But you” turned the focus from the faceless multitudes. He wanted the disciples to arrive at their own conclusions. After everything they had witnessed in the months of following Him, what did they believe? Who do you say that I am? His use of the word you twice in the same sentence emphasized that He wanted a personal decision. What they believed about Him would directly influence their response to His next statement about following Him. We should not be surprised that Peter answered. On the Mount of Transfiguration, Peter interrupted a supernatural meeting between Jesus, Elijah, and Moses (Luke 9:33). When Jesus appeared walking on the sea, Peter alone asked Jesus to invite him onto the water (Matthew 14:28). Even as Jesus’ death approached, Peter spoke up and declared his undying loyalty (Matthew 26:33). Peter replied that Jesus was God’s Messiah. Matthew gives the fullest rendering: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). Jesus was much more than a prophet, teacher, and miracle worker.
Take a moment to consider: What aspects of Jesus’ life and ministry help you understand who He is? How can you help others to accept Jesus as the Messiah and follow Him?
Lesson Part 2: ACCEPT HIS RESURRECTION [read Luke 9:21-22]
21 But he strictly warned and instructed them to tell this to no one, 22 saying, “It is necessary that the Son of Man suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, be killed, and be raised the third day.”
Knowing the truth and when to announce that truth requires wisdom that exceeded the disciples’ spiritual maturity. Jesus’ time had not yet come. At this point, Jesus did not want them to tell this—His true identity—to anyone. In verse 21, the terms strictly warned and instructed carry the sense of commanding someone. Strictly here means “seriously”. From eternity past, Jesus was the Lamb of God who would be slain for our sin, but since this was not the time to declare Jesus to be the Messiah, the disciples were to tell no one. The disciples did not fully comprehend what was about to happen to Jesus. He would suffer many things. Although we read of Jesus being mocked, beaten, and scourged, we cannot imagine the full meaning of the phrase “suffer many things”.
Jesus would be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes. The elders represented the Sanhedrin, a council of seventy men who were the religious rulers of Israel. The high priest served as their leader, making seventy-one members. The chief priests were influential priests who participated in Jesus’ trials and demanded His death. The scribes were religious teachers who did much more than make copies of Scriptures. They were in essence religious lawyers who not only instructed people in the Mosaic Law but were instrumental in applying the law to the culture. Above all the sufferings, Jesus would be killed. Jesus did not stop with the prospect of His death, but offered the joyous hope of resurrection. He would be raised on the third day. The disciples would not put all this together until after His crucifixion when they saw Him alive. Not everyone will accept Jesus as the Messiah. God offers salvation to everyone who will repent of sin and believe that Jesus is God’s Son, that He died for our sins, and that God raised Him to life. By receiving Christ as our Savior, we can receive eternal life.
Take a moment to consider: How did you come to believe in Jesus’ resurrection? What difference has this reality made in your life?
Lesson Part 3: FOLLOW HIM UNASHAMEDLY [read Luke 9:23-27]
23 Then he said to them all, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me will save it. 25 For what does it benefit someone if he gains the whole world, and yet loses or forfeits himself? 26 For whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and that of the Father and the holy angels. 27 Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.”
Having established His identity as the basis for their call to be His disciples, Jesus set forth the conditions of the call. The word then tied what Jesus had just said to what H was about to say. Jesus never asked His followers to do what He was unwilling to do. He told them He would be rejected, suffer, and die before being raised again. He had the right to set the standard of discipleship on the same level. The phrase them all could mean other followers in addition to the Twelve. However, the context indicates the disciples were with Him in the private place where He was praying. In that case, the word all would mean that while Peter had answered His question, Jesus made the application to all of His disciples.
Verse 23 begins with a conditional statement “If anyone wants to follow after me”. The word wants expresses a desire. Following Jesus requires a willingness to accept certain conditions. First, no one can follow Christ while pursuing his or her own agenda. A disciple must deny himself—deny one’s desires and ambitions in favor of God’s pleasure and glory. Second, each believer must take up his cross to follow Christ. It is a lifestyle of self-sacrificing love. The crucified life requires believers to take up their cross daily. We must constantly die to the allures of the world and the desires of the flesh. The third condition is to follow Christ. The two instances of follow in verse 23 translate different terms from the Greek. The first use comes from a phrase that literally means “to bring behind” or “to come after.” The second follow is a different Greek word, also meaning “to follow.” The idea of the first is “whoever would be my follower,” while the second would be “come as I lead.” Instead of pursuing their personal interests, followers of Jesus pursue Him alone. Anyone who wants to be a disciple of Jesus must follow Him.
Jesus emphasized the double irony of anyone who shuns the crucified life to seek personal desires. The person who seeks to save his life will lose it. If someone pursues personal goals instead of Christ, they will lose everything. On the other hand, whoever loses life because of me [Jesus] will save it. All who surrender themselves to Him are promised eternal and abundant life. No one will benefit by gaining the whole world if he or she loses or forfeits himself. Missionary martyr Jim Elliot made a statement along this line that has motivated many modern believers: “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
The word for in verse 26 connects the truth of verse 25 with what Jesus said next. He addressed the self-seeking person who might be ashamed of me and my words. The word ashamed is an intensive form of the term. It is more than mild embarrassment but conveys the idea of feeling humiliated. This person is more concerned about the approval of the world than of Christ. The Son of Man will be ashamed of whoever denies Him. The phrase when he comes in his glory refers to Christ’s second coming. The glory also belongs to the Father and the holy angels. Verse 27 transitions Jesus’ focus from the unfaithful to the faithful. The word truly emphasizes the importance of what Jesus was saying. Unlike those persons who are embarrassed by Jesus and refuse to follow Him, standing here were followers who would be especially blessed. Bible teachers offer different views of what Jesus meant by saying these will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God. Unlike verse 26, which refers to the second coming, verse 27 could not have the same meaning. Jesus was not saying people standing there would live until He returned. He may have intended the resurrection, Pentecost, or some other aspect of the kingdom.
Take a moment to consider: Believers are called upon to follow Jesus unashamedly. We should joyously embrace all that comes by identifying with Him. Regardless of the cost, He offers His presences and promise of blessings. What does taking up the cross mean for you? How have you overcome temptations to shy away from total identification with Christ?
Luke 9:23 has a quote from Jesus that is very familiar to most of us: “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.” That concept can be found in the song “Must Jesus Bear the Cross Alone.” Listen to this song by various performing artists: