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“And it came to pass, as He was alone praying, His disciples were with Him: and He asked them, saying, Whom say the people that I am? They answering said, John the Baptist; but some say, Elias; and others say, that one of the old prophets is risen again. He said unto them, But whom say ye that I am? Peter answering said, The Christ of God. And He straitly charged them, and commanded them to tell no man that thing; saying, The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day. And He said to them all, If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for My sake, the same shall save it. For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away? For whosoever shall be ashamed of Me and of my words, of him shall the Son of Man be ashamed, when He shall come in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels”—Luke 9:18-26.
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We have two sections to the portion we are now to consider. The first is Peter’s confession, and then the price of discipleship. Once more we are reminded of the true humanity of our Lord Jesus which is emphasized in the Gospel of Luke. We notice that each of the Gospels presents Christ in a different aspect: Matthew presents Him as King; Mark as the Servant; John as the Son of God become flesh; and Luke as Man in all perfection. So in this Gospel, again and again we find our Lord in prayer. People have asked to whom the Lord prayed if He was God Himself. He was both God and Man, and as Man He took the place of dependence, and as the Son He enjoyed constant fellowship with His Father. As recorded in this Gospel, He makes no important move without going to God in prayer. He spent whole nights in prayer. On this occasion He was alone praying, and His disciples drew near to Him. He had led them to the far northern border, to the land looking out upon the great Gentile world, conscious of the fact that His own people, Israel, whom He had come to deliver, refused to recognize Him. “He came unto His own, and His own received Him not.” It was with the blessing of the Gentile world in view that He asked the disciples, “Whom say the people that I am? They answering said, John the Baptist; but some say, Elias; and others say, that one of the old prophets is risen again.” Herod and others said that He was John the Baptist risen from the dead. They did not know of the incident when Jesus came and was baptized by John the Baptist. Others said He was Elias, as prophesied in Malachi 4. They were looking expectantly for the coming of Elias, and did not realize that John had come in his spirit and power. So some of them thought possibly Jesus was he. Others thought that He was one of the old prophets risen again. Jesus said unto them, “But whom say ye that I am? Peter answering said, The Christ of God.” After having walked with Him all these months, after having observed His ministry and mighty works, after having listened to the gracious words that proceeded out of His mouth, Peter was assured He was the Christ of God. He spoke for them all. “The Christ” is synonymous with “the Messiah,” and means “the Anointed”—the One promised by the prophets of old. In Matthew’s Gospel we read, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” It was a wonderful confession, because, so far as the record goes, Jesus had never said that this was the truth, but they had deduced it from what they had seen and heard. “And He straitly charged them, and commanded them to tell no man that thing.” Why, you would have expected that He should have told them to spread the word around all over, and tell people everywhere just who He was! But it is too late for that. His ministry has been rejected. The hearts of the majority of the people are set upon their own way. They are not prepared to receive His testimony. Israel will receive Him as the Christ of God when He returns the second time. In the meantime they must reap the sad results of their unbelief. That was why He commanded the disciples not to say anything about it then, for He was going down to Jerusalem to die. He had to be who He is in order to do what He did. Many tell us He was the most wonderful prophet and teacher that the world has ever known; they say He knew more of God and manifested more divinity in humanity than anyone else has ever done, but yet they stop short of what Peter in this confession says, “Thou art the Christ of God.” Nothing less than that will ever satisfy the Father. He called upon the angels to worship Him. He said, “Let all the angels of God worship Him.” In heaven, every tongue confesses Him as the Christ of God. Jesus is God the Son, who came in grace into this world and assumed our humanity in order that He might go to the cross and give His life a ransom on our behalf. He is the Jehovah of the Old Testament. “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” Every blessing for time and eternity is linked up with that confession of the Deity of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In Luke’s account of this confession, nothing is said of what is recorded in Matthew as to the special blessing the Lord bestowed on Peter. He passes that over and immediately proceeds with the test of discipleship. Jesus tells them, “The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day.” He was as truly Man as He was God; God and Man in one blessed and adorable Person. Nothing took Him by surprise; He knew all that was before Him. When He came from glory down to the manger in Bethlehem, He knew what was going to take place. He came to die. He said, “The Son of Man came not to be ministered unto but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many,” in order that He might be the sacrifice for sinners. As a result of this sacrifice our sins are forever put away. He knew that He was to die and that on the third day He was to be raised again. Now in view of all this—the revelation of His Person and the revelation of the work He was to perform—He speaks to His disciples, as He does to us. He said to them, “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” Let us be clear as to that of which He was speaking. He is not telling us how we may obtain forgiveness of our sins; we are told that elsewhere. He is not telling us here how we may obtain eternal life; He makes that clear elsewhere: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” What is it that He is speaking of here? It is the place that His disciples are to take in this world, the place of identification with Him in His rejection—they are to follow Him. But observe: no one was ever saved through following Jesus. If you and I could be saved by following Jesus, then salvation would be the result of human efforts. We cannot be saved by imitating our blessed Lord. We are not told that we are saved by taking up our cross. But after we know that our sins are forgiven and that we have eternal life, we are called upon to follow Him. If you profess to have believed in Him and trusted Him as your Saviour, you are called upon to follow in His steps. You are not left to choose your own path. He has marked out the way that you are to go. It is to such that He says, “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” What does it mean to deny oneself? What did it mean for Peter to deny our Lord? They came to Peter and said, “You are one of His disciples.” Peter said, “I am not!” They said unto him again, “Of a truth this fellow also was with Him: for he is a Galilean. And Peter said, Man, I know not what thou sayest.” Challenged a third time, Peter, with an oath, denied that he was one of Jesus’ disciples. He refused to own Christ in any way. What does it mean when Jesus said, “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me?” You are to refuse to know yourself in order that He may have His way with you on this earth. I am no longer to seek my own interest, but I am to seek that which will glorify Him. I am to say, “I know not this man, but I do know that Man, and for Him I will gladly surrender everything.”
If you had been living when this Gospel was written and you had seen a man bearing a cross as he walked along the road, you would have known that that man was going out to die. That was what it meant. Jesus, when He carried the cross, was going out to die. So to take up my cross and follow Jesus, means to take the place of death to self, and to be prepared to die for Him. The Apostle Paul said, “I die daily.” The consistent disciple says, “I am ready to die to all carnal hopes and selfish interests. I am no longer to be dominated by fleshly desires, but I am to live unto God.” Tested by words like these, how little most of us know of real discipleship! “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” Let him refuse to know himself and take the place of death. “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever will lose his life for My sake, the same shall save it.” What does He mean by that? All down through the centuries there have been those who have said that it costs too much to follow Christ and to yield oneself to His allegiance. It means the loss of the good opinion of loved ones, the loss of friends, and fame, and profit; sometimes it means leaving loved ones and friends and going to another country to preach the gospel. Listen, my dear friends, if the Lord is calling you to some particular path, you cannot afford not to hear and follow Him. “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever will lose his life for My sake, the same shall save it.”
I have always been thankful for a little incident that might have seemed trivial at the time. It took place after I had been converted, when I was only a lad, at a Saturday-night meeting on the street-corner, in which I was participating. Along came some of my schoolmates, and they were dumbfounded at seeing me in this meeting, and they listened in amazement when I witnessed for Christ. On Monday when I came to school, they greeted me derisively, shouting “Hallelujah.” I said, “Praise the Lord.” Then they said, “Praise the Lord.” I replied, “Amen.” Some who were kind to me said, “Harry, what do you mean by turning religious? You are throwing your life away.” Why; that is just what I intended to do! And it came to me so clearly, and I am thanking God that He in His grace started me that way. I wouldn’t exchange these fifty-three years of service for the Lord Jesus Christ for any career that the world might offer me. It may seem that you are losing grand opportunities for advancement if you deny yourself and follow Jesus, but He has said, “Whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever will lose his life for My sake, the same shall save it.” Think of the noble army of martyrs down through the ages. Think of those who have literally given their lives rather than deny the Lord Jesus. How thankful they are today that they counted all things but loss, even life itself, to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ. Don’t hesitate, young Christians, to make your decision, to dedicate yourself to the One who gave His life for you. Say from the heart:
“Jesus, I my cross have taken,
All to leave and follow Thee;
Destitute, despised, forsaken,
Thou, from hence, my all shall be!
Perish every fond ambition,
All I’ve sought, and hoped, and known;
Yet how rich is my condition,
God and heaven are still my own!”
In the verses that follow, the Lord has a message not only for His disciples, but for the world at large. “For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world and lose himself, or be cast away?” What is a man advantaged if he gain all that the world has to offer, if he piles up a lot of wealth, if he be honored and recognized by his country and even by other countries, what advantage if at last he goes out into a lost eternity? What advantage is this? What advantage to gain the whole world if one be lost himself, or be a castaway eternally? Oh, that we might learn to put first things first, and be right with God before everything else. Trust in God first as your Saviour and then own Him as Lord of your life.
Jesus added this challenge to His disciples, “For whosoever shall be ashamed of Me and of My words, of him shall the Son of Man be ashamed, when He shall come in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels.” Will you notice first the way in which our blessed Lord speaks of His coming to this earth? The order would be very strange indeed if He were anyone else than the One who Peter said He was. He came once before, but He is coming back again. The world has not seen the last of Jesus. When He returns He “shall come in His own glory.” What glory is that?—the glory of His Eternal Sonship — and in His Father’s, and the holy angels’. If He had been any less than equal with the Father, He would have had to say, “In His Father’s glory,” then, “in His own glory.” But He was not wrong when, in speaking of His return, He put Himself first, then the Father. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are One. Do you not want Him to own you then? Will you not want to be numbered among those who are His followers? Then listen, “For whosoever shall be ashamed of Me and of My words, of him shall the Son of Man be ashamed, when He shall come in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels.” If you have not confessed Him as Saviour and Lord, why not do so now?