What Do You Really Think About Jesus? – Luke 9:18-22
Pastor Doug Klein
How is your eyesight doing these days? Are you protecting your sight? I remember as a young child being warned by my mother to be careful about reading without having proper light. Our sight was regarded as precious and to be protected. The same thing holds true for our spiritual sight. Jesus’ prayer for us as His followers is that we would have “eyes to see” and “ears to hear.” To be able to confess Jesus as Lord is a work of the Spirit removing the blinders from our eyes to be able to see Jesus for who He is.
Our text this morning marks a turning point in the ministry of Jesus. For two and a half years He had been teaching and healing in northern Galilee about the Kingdom of God. Huge crowds had been exposed to the ministry of Jesus prompting interest and conversation. But His ministry in Galilee was about to end. He would soon leave northern Galilee and travel through the Gentile territory including the Decapolis as He made his way towards Jerusalem to present Himself during Holy week as the Jewish Messiah. He would not return to Galilee. So He presents life’s most important question: “Who do the crowds say that I am?” That is the question that we will wrestle with this morning.
The first principle is 1.) The tragedy of not seeing (who Jesus is). Luke 9:18-19.
Luke includes a beautiful interlude here in verse 18 which is so typical of Jesus’ ministry. He turned again to a time of prayer and the disciples. It’s a beautiful pattern of getting alone before God and waiting for guidance and strength. People often ask me how they can learn to pray. I tell them the best way to learn to pray is to get before God and open up your heart and soul. Talk to Him like you would a cherished friend. Here’s three short prayers that can make a difference in your life as you learn to pray. 1.) Help! 2.) Lord I need you, and 3.) Lord be merciful to me a sinner, from Luke 18.
As Jesus was praying, He turned to His disciples and asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” In other words, what is getting through? What are they really committing to. Are they just along for the miracles? This particular final exam was not just a quick answer on a sheet of paper. It was a personal response to Jesus concerning our real understanding of who He is.
The right answer to this question opens the door for all of eternity to the favor and blessings of God. The wrong answer keeps us separated from God for all our eternity and dead in our sins.
The crowd gave a number of interesting answers. First of all, they assumed that He might be John the Baptist who had dazzled the crowds with his call to repentance and baptism. They had never seen anyone like him. Secondly, they thought he might be Elijah the prophet who closed out the Old Testament in Malachi 4:5 with a unique future hope, “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes.” So they assumed that this prophet must be Elijah fulfilling his promise made 400 years earlier. Thirdly, they assumed that Jesus was one of the Old Testament prophets returning to perform miracles. But, let’s not overlook one thing: Jesus had made it abundantly clear who He is over a two-year period. Luke
makes the case in each chapter of his Gospel by presenting the truth about who Jesus is. It should have been obvious to any genuine seeker. But the crowd believed what they wanted to believe about Jesus. Instead of worshiping Him, they wound up demanding his execution.
Jesus explained in John 12: 36-43 what had happened to the fickle crowd. They were given the light but ultimately rejected it. By constantly refusing to respond to the light of Christ, they were left in their unbelief with hardened hearts.
36 While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.”
The Unbelief of the People
When Jesus had said these things, he departed and hid himself from them. 37 Though he
had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, 38 so that the word
spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:
“Lord, who has believed what he heard from us,
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”
39 Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said,
40 “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart,
lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal
them.” 41 Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him.
42 Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees
they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved
the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.
The warning is for both seeker and believer alike, only upon a different level. “If you won’t believe, the time will come when you can’t believe.” So be very careful about how you respond to the light that God is giving you. Never allow your heart to be hardened in unbelief. It just might stay that way. The tragedy of not seeing Jesus has eternal implications.
The second principle is 2.) The responsibility of seeing (who Jesus is). Luke 9:20.
Those of us who have been given the honor or confessing Jesus recognize that it is by God’s grace alone. And it comes with an incredible responsibility. Everything in our life must change because we have seen the One who alone is worthy of our praise and devotion. But, it often takes time for our spiritual sight to sharpen. What the disciples proclaimed about Jesus was the opposite of the crowds. Not only was He NOT John the Baptist nor Elijah nor another prophet but He is ONE sent from God who is the Christ “Messiah” sent from God to forgive our sins. If He is whom I say He is, everything in my life must be submitted to Him.
So unlike the crowd, I can’t go up and down with the fickle winds of the day, I come out of the crowd and identify with Jesus. But sometimes the process of seeing Jesus takes a good while. Just like the blind man healed by Jesus, I find myself saying, “I see men like trees walking, I’m beginning to see.” (Mark 8:24). I find myself praying repeatedly to God say, “Lord I believe, help my unbelief.”
So Jesus looks at me and says, “who do your friends say that I am?” Now are you willing to come out of the complacency and fickleness of the crowd and follow me as Lord? And then He looks me right in the eyes and asks me, “Who do you say that I am?” My real answer will determine the rest of my life on earth and my eternity.
The third principle is 3.) The impact of seeing WHY he died. Luke 9:21-22.
I begin to see life as both suffering and glory because that’s exactly what Jesus experienced. For the joy set before him, He endured the cross, scorning it’s suffering and shame. Jesus would face the cross before the crown. He would know the agony of Gethsemane before He experienced the triumph of Easter morning and his subsequent ascension.
He warned His disciples to keep His true identity quiet for a time so that the Roman Empire wouldn’t prematurely bring Him to justice before His time. The crowds also had a false understanding and expectation of what a Messiah was supposed to do. When the crowd turned against him on Holy Week, they cried out for the executioner Barabbas to be released.
The cross is a dark place representing the darkness of our sin. It’s a terrible way for Jesus to have to die. It’s not fair. So whenever we cry out that our lives have not been fair, we need to remember the sinless Son of God who experienced the ultimate unfairness on the cross. If they rejected Jesus, they will reject us. We will share in His suffering as well as His glory. Christ had to suffer many things and so will we. We are called to follow Him unto death. When we realize why He died, we are overcome with wonder. As David Crowder sings, “The cross meant for death is my victory.” I can never look at life the same way again.
Faith Presbyterian Church
October 9, 2016