The Death that Brings Life, Luke 9:18-27
Isaiah 53:12 Therefore I will give Him the many as a portion, and He will receive the mighty as spoil, because He submitted Himself to death, and was counted among the rebels; yet He bore the sin of many and interceded for the rebels.
This passage covers a lot of territory, from the identity of Christ, to the reason He had to come, the cost of being a disciple, and the promise of being in the kingdom.
I. The Question; vs 18-21. Jesus often pulled away from crowds for prayer and to teach His disciples. Luke 11:1, 22:39-41, and Matt 26:36 show various scenes and reasons for the Lord teaching His disciples privately. We see in this passage the reason for this privacy, in addition to the question asked and the answers given. Last week we heard how Jesus pulled His disciples away to teach them privately but the crowds saw them and pursued. Today, He takes His disciples away to teach them - and they are alone.
Those closest to Jesus needed the Holy Spirit to comprehend the true nature of Jesus. The crowds thought Him to be just another man - John or Elijah or another prophet. Those of the world cannot rightly see the Lamb of God, so they have endless alternatives that their natural minds can accept. Recall Herod's perspective, upon hearing of the miracles attending the teaching of the twelve - read Mark 6:14-16. Natural man, Paul wrote, suppresses his knowledge of the truth by his unrighteousness (Romans 1:18-19). This is why those who are told or shown the truth about Jesus say that He was a prophet or a good man - anyone but the God-man. And hence Paul also wrote, "No one can say "Jesus is LORD" except by the Holy Spirit." People can say those words, but that no more means they believe in Him than does merely tacking on the name of Jesus on a prayer that has no basis in Scripture gain the ear of God. We pray in His name by praying that which is honorable in His sight. We say "Jesus is LORD" by the Spirit when we believe on Him; our lives will reflect the life of the One who gave Himself for us.
The title, "the Christ of God," highlights the relationship between Jesus and His Father (Matt 16:16). In Luke 2:11 Jesus is declared the Messiah. Peter's confession asserts Jesus to be the Messiah, from the line of David. Contrary to David's kingdom in Palestine, the kingdom of Jesus is not of this world.
Jesus commands them not to tell anyone who He is. This was the reason for the privacy - it was not time for Him to known publically. Just as he told the lepers in Mark 1 not to tell anyone they had been healed. Although those healed often disobeyed and told everyone what Jesus had done, He was sticking to a time table set by His Father that no man could derail. See John 2:1-4, John 7:6, John 7:30.
Jesus did not want people focusing on the miracles He performed, but rather the message He proclaimed and the death He was going to die. The same is true today. God would rather that we be focused on the healing miracle of salvation through Jesus Christ instead of focusing on physical healings and/or miracles. When you see people on TBN or DayStar focusing on "miracles" rather than the glory of God, they are guilty of a false gospel, revealing themselves to be enemies of the cross. Natural man wants health and wealth and fame. When these are promised, in the guise of being what God wants for us, natural man is given what his sinful heart wants and Osteen, Jakes, Hinn, and the like get rich. Yet their flesh fails and they cannot heal themselves of poor eyesight not can they take their ill-gotten gain with them to the grave.
The greatest need of all of Adam's children is to be given new life in the Christ of God and this comes only by the Spirit of God.
II. The Mission; vs 22 (this is THE point of the message). The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. This is the reason the Son of God came to earth in the flesh: to suffer many things, to be rejected by His own people, to be put to death, to be raised up in glory. All who have faith in Him will enjoy the purity and joy of eternal life without temptation or sin.
How did He suffer? He was humiliated in taking on human flesh (Phil 2:6-8). The Creator learned obedience from His human parents (Heb 5:8-9). He was betrayed by Judas (Luke 22:48). He was taken captive (Matthew 26:50). He was deserted by His disciples (Matthew 26:56). He was falsely accused by those in the crowd, His kinsmen of the flesh (Matthew 26:60). He was spat upon and beat up (Matthew 26:67-68). He was falsely accused by whom He had put in positions of authority (Matthew 27:12). He was scourged and crucified (Matthew 27:26). He was mocked by the Roman soldiers (Matthew 27:29-30). He suffered many things.
He was rejected by the elders and chief priests (Read Matthew 26:3-5). He was rejected by own people, who demanded Barabbas be released (Read Matthew 27:21-22).
Jesus was crucified. We reviewed this method of killing prior to Easter. It was the most painful, gruesome form of death every contrived by man. Prior to being nailed to the cross, He was scourged with a whip that had bits of bone and iron balls that were effective at stripping the flesh from the bones. This scourging and the crucifixion were public, in full view of the throngs of people who had come to Jerusalem for the annual Passover. Countless saw Him beaten and lifted up to die. Roman soldiers guarded the tomb in which He was laid. His disciples were discouraged and fled in dismay. The light of the world lay physically dead in the earth. It appeared all hope was lost.
But He had told them on many occasions that He would be put to death AND be raised up on the third day. For this cause the Son of Man came - to give Himself a ransom for many. Without the resurrection, we have no gospel - no hope for fallen man. But Jesus DID rise up and come forth from the tomb in glory! For this cause, He came.
III. The Cost; vs 23-26. The point of these statements is to put to silence those who preach comfort and ease for the Christian; to expose the lie of being aligned with the world while claiming allegiance t Christ; to contrast the lie of the world with the truth of God. Let’s look to see what light our Lord sheds on this, by His example. In John 2, Jesus is at the wedding in Cana and the wine had been consumed. In verse 3, Mary tells Jesus “They have no wine.” We do not know what she was thinking – was Jesus supposed to go and buy some wine or did she know He could create it? His reply provides insight: John 2:4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” As a child, Jesus was subject to His earthly parents, ye when He was twelve years old He let them know there was a higher calling on His life – He must be about His Father’s business. As an adult, at this wedding, Jesus does not refer to Mary with any term of endearment – He simply calls her “woman” (which was NOT a term of disrespect) and asks why is she bothering Him; making clear she does not have parental oversight in this matter. In a later scene, Matthew 12:46-50 While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”
Clearly, in each of these three scenes, the Lord has been showing His earthly family that there is a higher calling – the kingdom of God and those who belong to it are more important than earthly family, no matter how close.
Read James 4:4, Matt 10:34-38. In another place, Jesus told a young man to leave the dead to bury their dead, when he had objected to the call to follow Christ. Nothing in this world can compare to the glory of being united to Christ, reconciled to God.
Brothers and sisters: Service to God and to one another is the highest priority and privilege anyone can have! Read 1 Cor 12:12-27. This body language - we each have gifts given us to serve one another as it pleased God. We belong to one another, bought at a price - belonging to Christ!
Our text reminds us of the higher calling, contrasting the lure of that which cannot satisfy with the sure promise of that which cannot fail to satisfy. The cost of discipleship is high, but only in terms of that which perishes.
IV. The Promise; vs 27. There are quite a few differing opinions as to the meaning of this verse. Some people think this means the second advent has already taken place, because He had to return before those being spoken to died. Full preterists think this and claim Jesus' second advent was in AD 70 when Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans.
Spurgeon couldn't accept that view and he concluded Jesus meant Judas would not be cast into eternal punishment before the second advent. That is when the second death will claim those who believe not on the Lord Jesus. Does that single son of perdition align with Jesus' statement, "There are some standing here?" He would have likely said, "There is one standing here." He had no trouble mentioning "one" who betrayed Him - He didn't say "some."
Spurgeon also pointed out the difficulty in the view that Jesus was speaking of His ascension. That glorious event was only 6 days away when Jesus spoke these words. We know every day is a gift from God, but it strains reason to think Jesus was speaking about an event 6 days away when He said, "There are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God."
Considering the last phrase, those people would see the kingdom of God, ought to give a clue. In John 3, while speaking to Nicodemus, Jesus said one must be born from above in order to see the kingdom of God (John 3:3). This rules Judas out - no serious student of Scripture thinks he was born by the Spirit into eternal life.
Many commentaries see this statement of Jesus referring to the establishment and growth of the New Covenant body of believers that took place during the lives of the apostles and continues to this day, pointing to the promised return of our Savior.
Matthew Poole summed it up like this: "But the most generally received opinion, and which seems best, is, that the coming of the Son of man here meant is, his resurrection from the dead. His ascension into heaven, and sending the Holy Spirit, after which the kingdom of grace came with a mighty power, subduing all nations to the Lord Jesus Christ. He was declared, (or determined), to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead, Romans 1:4. And when, after his resurrection from the dead, they asked him, Acts 1:6, whether he would at that time restore the kingdom to Israel, he puts them off, and tells them for an answer, Acts 1:8, But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth. And then, Acts 1:9, he in their sight ascended up into heaven. Then did the kingdom of the Son of man come with power, Acts 2:33-36, they knowing assuredly that the Son of man, whom the Jews had crucified, was made both Lord and Christ, as Acts 2:36, and, as Acts 2:34,35, set at God’s right hand, (according to the prophecy of David, Psalm 90:1), until his enemies should be made his footstool."
The kingdom was inaugurated with a display of the power and glory of God when He ascended and when the Spirit ignited the body of Christ and spread the gospel to those who had walked in darkness. The kingdom is now, Christ rules over all powers and dominions - He declared this when He gave the Great Commission: Read Matt 28:18-20. This is the kingdom: Christ in glory, His Spirit equipping and guiding His people to spread His gospel to the ends of the earth.
a.) People today are just as curious and apathetic about who Jesus is as were the first century Jews. Some consider Jesus to have been a wise teacher, but not divine. Others think Him the things of mythology. Do you know the answer to the question - who is Jesus? Can you answer those who may ask you? If you are in Christ, you have the Spirit within - the same Spirit that revealed the answer to Peter so long ago. Be sure you know Him - and can tell others: Jesus is the Christ of God.
b.) Knowing the identity of Jesus hinges upon knowing why He came. If sin was not the problem, Jesus would not have had to suffer at the hands of men on our account nor would He have had to drink the cup of wrath to reconcile us to God the Father. And if we do not KNOW, deep down in our soul, that Christ Jesus was raised from the dead, then what hope of eternal life can we have?
c.) There is a cost to follow the Lord Jesus. The world and our flesh will pull at us, men who know not the Christ will ridicule us, those with a false gospel will argue for the works of man for salvation. Are you willing to be known as His in the workplace, in school, with your neighbors? I've known people at work who thought their faith had to be kept a secret. When Jesus said we should not be ashamed of His words, He is basically telling us to be public with our profession and walk. Those who fear man more than God will be ashamed of His words; those who are indwelt by the Spirit will not fear man. J.C. Ryle said, “It costs something to be a true Christian. It will cost us our sins, our self-righteousness, our ease, and our worldliness.” Those who are at ease with their sin need to examine themselves. Peace with sin means no peace with God. Peace with God means no peace with sin.
d.) While the context of our passage makes it clear that Jesus was talking about the first death, physical death, the promise to us has to do with the second death. This is the sure promise of God for those who are in Christ: having been given eternal life we are guaranteed that the second death has no grip on us.
When Jesus died, death for all who are in Him was defeated. John Owen, a man of many words, wrote a 426 page book titled, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ. His point was to demonstrate that for all who are in Christ, the second death has no hold. Some men teach that Christ died for everyone, yet the benefit for those who are doomed to damnation is nowhere to be found; they are still dead in sin. The death of Christ gives life to those who were dead. This is what it means to see Jesus as the Christ of God. He had authority to lay down His life and to pick it back up again. And He gives life to that which was dead, reconciling wretched sinners to holy God.
And what wondrous love is this?
Though I raised my clenched fist,
He opened up my hand to received His gift
And what wondrous love is here?
That God Immortal has drawn near,
And shed His blood to close the rift.
If you are His, He has drawn you close and commanded you, as you go, to make disciples, teaching those who believe all He has commanded. If you are not His, while it is yet today, cry out to Him for faith and repentance. Oh how dreadful, when the great fountains of God’s wrath shall be broken up and all His bitter vials poured out! Today is the day - if you hear His voice, do not harden your heart as they did in the days of the wilderness. Jesus saves sinners - turn to Him, look to Him and be saved!