Peter looked over at Andrew as he sat down with a bowl of fish stew and a hearty loaf of bread. He stuffed a bite into his mouth.
I mean: It was amazing wasn’t it, Peter? We had 5 loafs of bread. That’s it! That’s like barely enough for Simon to eat his fill. He’s a zealot after all. But somehow, all of a sudden, there’s more than five loaves. I didn’t go to the store. You didn’t go to the store. Suddenly, out of thin air -- there’s thousands of loaves. We feed all 5,000 plus of them. No one asks for seconds. No one goes hungry. In fact – we’ve get 12 baskets left over – and it’s still good! This bread from basket number is delicious tonight. Isn’t that right John?
John slapped Andrew a high five as he joined the two for dinner.
It was amazing. But that’s what Jesus does, right? Think about what we saw earlier today. A man – born blind – never able to see. And he calls for Jesus. Jesus comes over. Jesus doesn’t give him money. Doesn’t give him food. Doesn’t give him medicine. He gives him spit. On His Eyes.
And there’d never been a better gift. He can see!
Andrew agreed. He’s amazing, isn’t he? It’s so great that we’re able to follow him.
And…Just exactly who are you following?
A hooded figure emerged from the shadows. The fire identified him as this Jesus – the guy they were following.
Tell me, he said, Who do the people say that I am? Who do they think you’re following?
You mean – besides the Pharisees? They think you’re a blasphemer. They think you’re a liar. They think you don’t have powers – but I don’t see how you do that blind man thing or this bread thing without having some kind of divine power.
John continued – But as for the others: Some say you are John the Baptist – back from the dead; Others say you are Elijah – back from the even deader, dead. Still others call you some kind of a prophet – They think that you’re something special, they just don’t know what! (v.19)
Jesus nodded. John put another bite of bread into his mouth. The other disciples gathered around the conversation.
Jesus spoke again, “What about you? Who do you say that I am?”
It was quiet, except for the gentle noise of soft chewing that covered up the turning gears of the disciples’ minds. Eyes darted back and forth – Who would answer?
Peter stood up.
“You, Jesus, are the Christ. The Son of the living God.” (v.20)
There was silence. The words hung in the gentle hillside air. But judging by Jesus’ smile – Peter knew he was right.
Suddenly, shouts of “Amen!” and “Preach it!” began to drown out the chirping of the crickets. The disciples slapped high fives and praised God! Peter had it right. That’s exactly who Jesus was. Jesus was the Messiah. Jesus was the long awaited, promised Savior. Jesus was the fulfillment of every Old Testament prophecy that they had ever read.
And that was awesome. Because it meant parties. It meant royalties. It meant that they were kind of like his cabinet. They’d have t-shirts with their names on them. They’d be sitting in a palace soon sipping on Long Island iced teas and letting the little bubbles from the jacuzzi hit their calf muscles. Hollywood would probably make spin off television shows about all of them!
Jesus watched the excitement in his disciples’ eyes. He let them feel that joy for a moment. Then, he interrupted: “I am your Savior. But…Don’t tell anyone.” (v.21)
The hooting and hollering stopped abruptly -- Lord, why not? Isn’t that the point?
Because. It’s not time yet. You know – the Pharisees don’t believe I’m the Messiah. The fact is, they are so angry about it that they are plotting to kill me. But there will be a time to tell others I’m the Messiah. There will be a time when I tell them I am the Messiah. Then, I must suffer many things. And I must be rejected by the elders. And I must be killed. (v. 22)
Peter broke the silence again: Never Lord! Never will that happen! You’re the Messiah. You’re our Messiah! We’ll fight for you. We’ll help you take the palace that is rightfully yours. We’ll make sure that you get the glory you deserve and we get the glory we deserve too. We won’t let you die! I won’t let you die! (Mt. 16:22)
As Peter spoke, the gentle expression from Jesus faded. It was replaced with eyes blazing full of anger: Get behind me Satan! You don’t have in mind the things of God, but of men. (Matthew 16:23)
Because here’s the truth…I must suffer. I must bear my cross. It is an absolute necessity for God’s salvation plan. It’s absolutely necessary to save you. And… you will bear a cross too. “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it." (v.23-24)
Peter sat down. Embarrassment rushed to his face. The other disciples were silent too. The joy-filled aura from earlier had been replaced with a terrifying reality. As the words repeated:
If you want to follow me…
Take up your cross.
Come out of that story with me. The disciples go from the high of having identified the Messiah to the low of realizing what that meant. Our goal today – since we’re followers of Jesus too – is to understand two bitter realities of following Jesus and to learn one incredible truth that implores us to follow anyways. Pray with me: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see. Open our ears to hear what you want us to hear. Open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. There’s a Cross for Jesus.
Here’s the first thing that we learn and I need you to write this down in your notes. Since Jesus is the Messiah, there needed to be a cross for Jesus.
Take a look at this Greek word up here. (The New Testament part of the Bible was originally written in Greek.) This is a key word in Luke 9:21. DEI. DEI means “it is necessary.” That means that it “has to happen.” It “must happen.” It means that if whatever it is that is necessary doesn’t happen, the whole things a mess.
Think of work. Your boss might tell you “DEI” it is necessary for you to come to work. If you don’t, he will fire you.
Or it might be “DEI” necessary that you get a report done for your superiors or you will lose the big account.
Or at the Theme Park it might be “DEI” necessary for you to be 5-foot-tall to ride Space Mountain or you will not ride Space Mountain.
Look what Jesus says it necessary, “it is necessary for the Son of Man, that’s Jesus’ name for himself, to suffer, to be rejected and to be killed.” (Lk. 9:22)
As in, without the cross there is no salvation.
As in, without the cross there is no Messiah.
As in, without the cross you do not have a Savior.
And understand what we mean by cross. This doesn’t mean that Jesus would get a beautiful, jeweled necklace like you can get down at Lifeway bookstore. The cross wasn’t wall art. It wasn’t fine craftsmanship out of olive wood from Jerusalem.
It was a horror. It was a torture device. It was a wooden instrument stained with blood, sweat, and the stench of death.
It was awful.
But it was also necessary.
Scripture says this, “The wages of sin is death.” (Romans 3:23) Jesus didn’t have sin. We did. He didn’t deserve death. We did. He didn’t die for himself. He died for us.
Jesus’ death was necessary for the payment to be made!
In a book, long before Jesus came to earth, Scripture says, “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” (Deut. 21:23) Then, in a book written after Jesus came to earth and went up on that cross, Galatians 3:13 says, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.”
In other words – a bullet wouldn’t do. A mobbing wouldn’t do. Slipping on a banana peel wouldn’t do. In order to assure us yet again that Jesus was in fact the Messiah – it labeled a very specific kind of death at a very specific kind of time that just adds itself into all the prophecies that point to Jesus as the very specific Messiah that you need. Old Testament prophesied that Jesus would die on a cross therefore…
Jesus’ death on a cross was necessary to identify him as Savior.
And if you want to follow Jesus, so is yours.
II. There’s a Cross for You.
That’s exactly what Jesus said. “Whoever (notice he doesn’t say, “You Twelve who are here with me right now,”) Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”
So…Where’s your cross? I don’t have a big pile of wooden crosses stored in that back room up here. That’s not what it’s for. If that were true, I suppose that every Christian would have died from crucifixion. That’s just not the case.
A cross is painful.
A cross is hard.
Our definition of a cross: It is something that is painful and hard.
Is a cross a splinter then? That’s painful. That’s hard.
Can a cross be a cold? I’ve had some head colds that are painful & hard.
There’s more to the definition than that. Jesus continued, “Whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. (v.24)
A cross is something painful. It’s something hard. It’s something painful and hard because of following Jesus.
It could be a splinter – If the splinter comes because you’ve been out building a tree house for the kids at Precious Lambs and so that more parents are impressed with the center, decide to bring their kids to Precious Lambs and learn about the salvation of Jesus.
It could be a cold – If the cold comes from spending a week in the preschool, exposing yourself to the germ sponges known as little children, just so that they might be exposed to their Savior.
A cross is something painful & hard because of following Jesus.
It’s not sleeping with your boyfriend, no matter how much the sexual tension burns, because you’re following Jesus.
It’s not yelling at everyone at work, keeping the anger & stress from being released, because you’re following Jesus.
It’s making a friendship uncomfortable because you can’t help but tell them about their Savior.
It’s giving a bit more money from your funds to the work of the Lord – even if it hurts – because you’re following Jesus.
Maybe you’re thinking: “This is hard. This isn’t what I signed up for. I wanted peace & joy & for life to be easier when I became a Christian. Can’t I follow Jesus without the pain & hardship? Can’t I follow Jesus without carrying the cross?”
Let me ask you this. Scenario. If I’m feeling super hungry, maybe I haven’t eaten for hours & mom sets some delicious, fresh-out-of-the-oven cookies onto the countertop. They smell delicious. Your mouth starts watering. But mom says, “Don’t eat them till after dinner.” And Jesus says, “Honor your Father and mother.” But you say, “Mom isn’t looking and I’m super hungry so, I’ll just take one.”
Who are you following?
It’s not Jesus.
You’re following yourself.
In fact, anytime you choose sin, you’re not following Jesus.
You’re not bearing your cross.
You’re setting it down, because “Man, Jesus this cross is too heavy.”
Here’s the problem. It says in verse 24, “Whoever wants to save their life will lose it.” This is intriguing. The very thing we want to save is the very thing we will lose! Because our trust is in our own life – which is the very thing in need of saving – how then can it do the saving?
That’s like seeing a kitten drowning in a raging river and shouting out to the kitten, “Can you help me tie my shoe?” It won’t happen!
And the one who is in the position to do the saving? The Savior, Jesus? “Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the Holy angels.” (v.25-26)
Picture fire. Picture heaven. Picture glory. Picture Jesus but not coming for you…
…coming after you.
Don’t have Jesus coming after you.
Have Jesus coming for you.
Pick up your cross & follow Him.
III. Jesus Defeated the Cross
There’s a part of Jesus’ words that I think the disciples miss the first time. That Peter must have completely glossed over. Look at what Jesus said one more time, “The Son of man must suffer, be rejected, kill AND…on the third day rise again from the dead.” (v.22)
Here’s the deal. Jesus was right about the suffering – A crown of thorns pierced his head, fists punched his face, a metal laced strap of seven cut through his back, nails went through his hands and his feet, and his lungs slowly lost the ability to breath.
And Jesus was right about the rejection. It was the chief priests and teachers of the law – the very people who knew the Old Testament enough to identify Jesus as Savior – who convicted him, who stormed the Roman governor’s house, who sat on his lawn chanted, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” until the government gave the go ahead for them to do so.
And Jesus was right about his death. Because the way he came down off that cross was limp, lifeless, dead.
Jesus was also right about his resurrection. Three days later he came out of his tomb – alive!
Jesus carried a cross.
Jesus defeated that cross.
Jesus will help you carry & defeat yours, too.
That’s the promise of heaven. Whatever you’re going through as a result of following Jesus, one day it will be no more.
There won’t be any hurt feelings from angry Facebook posts.
There won’t be any more struggles with finances from giving to Him.
There won’t be any more stress & struggle against temptation & sin.
There won’t be any friendships ruined because you were following Jesus first!
All of those crosses will be defeated.
Following Jesus, your cross will be defeated.
(1) Forfeit the World
What good is it in you gain the whole world, but forfeit your soul? (v.26)
Think of the scenario. What if you got the whole world – billions of dollars, a brand-new iPhone every time a new version came out, hundreds of thousands of followers on Instagram, a clean bill of health & one of the little robots that does the vacuuming for you.
What good is it if you gain all that, but lose your soul?
Usually, it’s not even that much that we get.
What good is it if you gain a moment of sexual pleasure?
An extra dollar or two?
A better reputation among friends?
A release of anger?
The feeling of I showed him?
What good is it if you gain that minor moment of bodily happiness for an eternity of torture in hell?
It’s not good.
That’s like trading in your 1957 Chevy Corvette for half a chicken nugget. It’s a terrible idea! Don’t do it.
(2) Pick it up Daily.
What’s in your daily routine? Comb your hair? Brush your teeth? Put in your contacts? If you skip one of those, doesn’t your day feel incomplete? If you can taste the film from not brushing your teeth, you might try to scrub with your finger. Who wants to miss that?
What about picking up your cross? Same feeling.
Each day put on Christ. Each day live like a Christian. Each day prepare to let your let shine in a world where there isn’t a lot of light.
(3) See the Kingdom of God
Jesus concludes with a strange statement. Some of them wouldn’t taste death until they saw the kingdom of God. Probably doesn’t mean that there are disciple hiding out in some mountain somewhere never having died. In fact – in the coming verses a few of the disciples see God’s Kingdom in a glorious transfiguration atop a mountain. If that’s not what Jesus is talking about, maybe he’s talking about the apostle John seeing God’s kingdom in the revelation for the book of Revelation.
Regardless of what the exact reference is the result is not lost on us. Pick up your cross. Follow Jesus. And you will see the kingdom of God.
You’ll approach in awe.
You’ll see the joys of heaven.
You’ll set your cross down outside the gate.
Jesus will put his arm around you and say, “Well done. Put your cross down now & follow me.”