Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ as written and recorded by the beloved physician Luke. More specifically, today’s passage is found in verses twenty-one through forty-three of the ninth chapter. When you come go today’s passage of scripture you will find that it comes directly on the heels of an event which was perhaps one of the most crucial and critical moments and interactions between Jesus and the disciples. If you read the words which are found within this passage of scripture you will find that the events which are found therein come directly after Jesus and His disciples had a quiet and private encounter—one where Jesus presents them with two very distinct questions. One such question was a broad and general question that quite honestly had absolutely nothing to do with the disciples themselves. The other question was more personal and more intimate, for Jesus presented His disciples with a question that struck at the very heart of what they believed and who they believed Jesus to be. In all reality, the moment and interaction Jesus and His disciples is one which I am convinced we as the disciples and followers of Jesus Christ must have within our lives. I am completely and thoroughly convinced that at some point within the life of a true and genuine disciple of Jesus Christ there must come a moment when they are brought face to face with the reality of who Jesus truly is, and in all reality who they believe Him to be. There must be a moment within the life of any true disciple when they are forced to confront—not only that which others before and around them believe about Jesus, but also who they themselves believe about Jesus the Christ. There must come a moment within the life of everyone who has walked with and followed Jesus to decide for themselves who they truly believe Jesus the Christ to be, and to let go of that which those around them have said, declared and believed about Jesus. There must come a moment when the true and authentic disciple of Jesus Christ is brought to the place where they are willing to move beyond the opinions of others concerning Jesus Christ, and to drill down upon that which they believe Jesus the Christ to be in their lives and for them.
As I sit here this morning I am completely and thoroughly convinced that it makes no difference how long you have walked with Jesus Christ, and/or how long you have followed Him, for there comes a moment when in a private and personal moment with Jesus He calls your attention to who others say He is. There will come a moment when in quietness and privacy Jesus will bring you into the place where you are forced to confront what you have heard others speak and declare concerning Jesus the Christ, and they believe Him to be. That which the disciples experienced within this particular passage of scripture was Jesus bringing them to the place where they confronted what they had heard about Jesus Christ from others, and to set it in comparison and contrast to what they themselves believe about Him. There is a clear and marked transition within this particular encounter between Jesus and His disciples, for He brought them to acknowledge and confront what they have heard about Jesus from others, and who they believe Him to be for themselves. Essentially, that which Jesus the Christ was doing was bringing the disciples to move beyond what they have heard others speak and declare concerning Jesus, and to decide for themselves who He is and who they believe Him to be. What’s more, is that they needed to be brought into this place through the time they spent walking with and following Jesus the Christ. In all reality, one or greatest truths that we can and must learn and acknowledge is that while others before and around you might tell you what they think and believe about Jesus, and perhaps who Jesus is to them, they can never tell you who Jesus is to you and for you. Despite how hard and how desperate others might try to declare unto you who Jesus is to them, they cannot tell you who Jesus is to you and who Jesus is within your own life. If there is one thing we must acknowledge and recognize, it’s that there will be those around you who will attempt to tell you about Jesus, and will attempt to tell you who they believe Jesus to be, and what Jesus has done, but there is absolutely no one—and I mean no one—who can tell you who Jesus the Christ is to you.
One thing I absolutely love about this particular passage is that it forces us to acknowledge whether or not what we think about and how we feel about Jesus is based on our own experience walking with and following Him, or whether it is based on the opinions of others. I am convinced that there are those among us whose beliefs and thoughts about Jesus have been shaped by the opinions of others, and what others have spoken and declares concerning Jesus. There are those among us who have allowed their belief in and their belief of Jesus to be dictated by the opinions of others rather than their own personal experience with Him through walking and talking with Him. There is not a doubt in my mind that others before and around you might tell you what they think about Jesus, and even what they believe about Jesus, but they can never tell you what you believe about Jesus. There are others who will tell you who Jesus is for them, and who Jesus has been for them, yet they can never tell you who Jesus is for you and who Jesus should be for you. It is highly likely that there will be those before and those around you who will speak to you concerning who they believe Jesus to be, and who Jesus is for them, and while there is nothing wrong with this per se—we cannot, we must not, and we cannot allow who we believe Jesus is to us and for us to be dictated and controlled by what we hear from the mouths of others. What I so love about this particular portion of Scripture is that it brings us face to face with the fact that not only is it possible that we can allow ourselves to be governed and swayed by the opinions and words of others concerning who Jesus truly is, but also with the reality that Jesus is very much aware of who others say concerning Him, and who others are saying and declaring Him to be. When Jesus asked His disciples who others and who people said that He the Son of man was, it wasn’t because He did not know what they were saying about Him. What’s more, is that within this passage of Scripture we find this reality manifested within the very life of Herod the tetrarch of Judaea, for even Herod had to confront who He believed Jesus to be, and what He believed concerning Jesus based on and because of that which others spoke and declared concerning Jesus. If you turn and direct your attention back to the seventh verse of this ninth chapter you will find it written concerning Herod, and the tremendous conflict which Herod had within himself concerning who Jesus was. Herod, who was the tetrarch of Judaea had undoubtedly heard countless tales and stories concerning Jesus and about what He had done, and upon hearing these countless stories based on the spreading and rising fame of Jesus, he was forced to acknowledge within Himself who He believed Jesus to be, and what He believed about Jesus. Consider if you will that which is found beginning with the seventh verse of this chapter concerning Herod the tetrarch of Judaea:
“Now Herod the tetrarch heard of all that was done by Him: and He was perplexed, because it was said of some, that John was risen from the dead; and of some, that Elias had appeared; and of others, that one of the old prophets was risen again. And Herod said, John have I beheaded: but who is this, of whom I hear such things? And he desired to see him” (Luke 9:7-9).
This passage which we find in the ninth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Luke is not the first and only account of Herod being forced to acknowledge what He believed about Jesus, and who He believed Jesus to be. It is true that Jesus asked His disciples whom others said that He the Son of man was, however, it is quite interesting that just prior to those words which were spoken by Jesus in the midst of that encounter, we find and read of Herod himself hearing of the fame of Jesus, and hearing what others were saying and speaking concerning Jesus the Christ. Herod had heard about the great fame of Jesus Christ, and the works which He had done among men within the earth, and he was perplexed and confused by what he heard, for he was unsure of who he believed Jesus to be. Oh, he had heard what others spoke and he had heard what others said about Jesus the Christ, and how some said that He was John the Baptist risen from the dead, while others said that he was Elias or that he was one of the old prophets risen from the dead. In all reality, there was much confusion concerning and regarding Jesus the Christ and who men believed Him to be—a reality which is evident in what we find and read concerning Herod the tetrarch of Judaea. The question which Jesus presented and posed to the disciples was similar to the conflict Herod had within his own heart and mind concerning who Jesus truly was, for He had to reconcile within himself what he heard concerning Jesus, and acknowledge what He believed concerning Him. Herod heard of the great fame of Jesus the Christ, and yet with all that he had heard concerning Jesus the Christ, he was forced to decide and determine for himself who he believed Jesus to be. In all reality, I would dare say that this is why we always read of Jesus being surrounded by multitudes, for undoubtedly with the spreading and rising fame of Jesus, men and women within the surrounding regions of Judaea, Jerusalem, Samaria, Tyre, Sidon, and the like would come men and women hearing one thing, but needing to reconcile what they heard with what they saw, witnessed and experienced for themselves within their own lives. It was one thing to hear another speak concerning Jesus, and to hear another speak of their experience and encounter with Jesus, and what He had done for them, but it is another thing entirely to experience and encounter Jesus Christ for yourself, and to decide and determine who you believe him to be. The encounter and words we read concerning Herod the tetrarch and his need to reconcile within himself what he believed concerning Jesus the Christ is not just written in the New Testament gospel of Luke, but is also found and written within the fourteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew. Consider if you will that which is found and written in the fourteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew beginning with the first verse of the chapter:
“At that time Herod the tetrarch heard of the fame of Jesus, and said unto his servants, This is John the Baptist; he is risen from the dead; and therefore mighty works do shew forth themselves in him. For Herod laid hold on John, and bound him, and put him in prison for Herodias’ sake, his brother Philip’s wife” (Matthew 14:1-3).
What I find to be so incredibly intriguing about the personal and private encounter which Jesus and His disciples had, is the same type of resolution and reconciliation within their hearts and minds the disciples had to do was experienced publicly within the heart and life of Herod the tetrarch of Judaea. It’s interesting and worth noting that while it was Jesus Himself who first asked the disciples who men said that He the Son of man was, and while it was Jesus who went on to ask the disciples who they believed that He the Son of man was; this same encounter was manifested within the life of Herod tetrarch of Judaea. The disciples were brought into this place personally and privately with Jesus the Christ, as Jesus sought to first understand what others said concerning He the Son of man, and then sought to understand that which they believed concerning the Son of man and who He was. In fact, I have to say that I absolutely love how the beloved physician Luke sets this forth within his treatise concerning the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ, for in the same chapter he presents us with Jesus asking the disciples who men said that He the Son of man was, and in the same passage where Jesus asks His disciples who they believed that He the Son of man was, we find Herod the tetrarch of Judaea wrestling and struggling within himself to decide and determine who Jesus truly was. In the palace somewhere within the land and region of Judaea Herod was wrestling with who Jesus was—and not because of experiencing Jesus the Christ for Himself, but because of what he had heard concerning Jesus the Christ. The fame of Jesus had spread and was spreading throughout the region as men and women were undoubtedly speaking with one another concerning Jesus the Christ, and what they believed concerning Him. Undoubtedly men and women were speaking freely about the great and wonderful things Jesus had done and was doing among men within the earth, and such a report had reached the palace where Herod resided, and he was forced to decide for himself what he believed concerning Jesus, and who he believed Jesus to be. Oh what an incredible place it is to reconcile what we are hearing about Jesus, and what we have heard about Jesus with who we believe Jesus truly is. What an incredible place it is to hear of the fame of Jesus, and to hear of the works which Jesus is performing, and the words which Jesus is speaking, and to decide for ourselves what we believe concerning Jesus, and who we believe Him to be. What’s more, is that there is within this passage of Scripture a profound truth that regardless of what we are experiencing within our own hearts and lives concerning who Jesus the Christ is, we don’t know what others are facing and experiencing within their own hearts and lives concerning Jesus the Christ. Within this passage we find the disciples experiencing a personal and private encounter with Jesus concerning who others said that He the Son of man was, and ultimately who they said that He was, however, somewhere else within the region of Judaea Herod the Tetrach was finding himself in the same position and place—albeit not because of Jesus the Christ asking Him, but because of the fame and report which was spreading concerning Jesus, and which had reached the palace where he presided.
Taking this a step further, I find a great need to present you with the words which the apostle Matthew wrote in the sixteenth chapter of the gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, which he wrote based on personally walking with and following Jesus. That which we find within the New Testament gospel of Luke is but a snapshot of this encounter between Jesus and His disciples, and a more detailed and thorough account is found within the sixteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew beginning with the thirteenth verse of the chapter. Consider if you will the words which are found in the sixteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew concerning this particular encounter between Jesus and His disciples:
“When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Then charged He His disciples that they should tell no man that He was Jesus the Christ” (Matthew 16:13-20).
This encounter between Jesus and His disciples is actually quite remarkable and quite astounding when you take the time to consider it—particularly and especially when you consider it in light of the words which the apostle Matthew wrote, for Matthew recorded how Jesus declared unto Simon that flesh and blood did not reveal and make known unto Him that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God, but His Father in heaven. This is absolutely wonderful and incredible when you think about it, for with these words Jesus acknowledges the fact that flesh and blood cannot reveal unto us who Jesus truly is, nor can flesh and blood tell us who Jesus is within our lives. Jesus emphatically and boldly declared unto Simon that flesh and blood did not reveal unto him that He was the Christ and the Son of the living God, but rather, it was His Father in heaven who revealed it unto Him. Please make note of this, for when it comes to truly understanding who Jesus is, and when it comes to truly believing who Jesus is for ourselves and within our lives, it is absolutely necessary and imperative that we receive our revelation from the Father who is in heaven rather than from the opinions of men. Please note that there is absolutely nothing wrong with the testimonies of men, and there is nothing wrong with the fame of Jesus being spread based on and because of what Jesus has done, however, the opinions of others, and the experiences which others have had cannot be the basis of what we believe concerning Jesus, and who Jesus is within our lives and for us. There would be those among us who would allow their perception concerning Jesus the Christ to be dictated and based upon that which others have spoken concerning Jesus, and they have never entered into that personal and private place of revelation from the Father in heaven who alone can reveal and declare who Jesus is. What’s actually quite interesting about Jesus’ declaration unto Simon concerning the Father revealing unto him who He was is when you consider what follows within this same passage. It’s interesting and worth pointing out that when speaking unto Simon Jesus declared that flesh and blood had not revealed unto him who Jesus was, but rather His Father who was in heaven, and shortly thereafter Simon Peter, as well as James and John experienced an encounter with Jesus the Christ where the Father spoke from heaven and emphatically declared who Jesus the Christ was. That which Jesus spoke and declared unto Simon concerning flesh and blood not revealing the reality of Him being the Christ and the Son of the living God is truly remarkable and astounding, for there are two distinct passages within Scripture where the Father speaks from heaven and emphatically declares who Jesus the Christ is—the first which is found at the waters of the Jordan when Jesus was baptized of John, and the second which is found on the top of the mountain where Jesus was transfigured before Simon, James and John. Consider if you will that which is found—first at the waters of the Jordan River as Jesus emerged from the waters of baptism, and second at the mountain where Jesus was transfigured before His disciples:
“Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness. Then he suffered Him. And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straitway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto Him, and He saw the Spirit descending like a dove, and lighting upon Him: and lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:13-17).
“And it came to pass about an eight days after these sayings, He took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray. And as He prayed, the fashion of his countenance was altered, and His raiment was white and glittering. And, behold, there talked with Him two men, which were Moses and Elias: who appeared in glory, and spake of His decease which He should accomplish at Jerusalem. But Peter and they that were with him were heavy with sleep: and when they were awake, they say His glory, and the two men that stood with Him. And it came to pass, as they departed from Him, Peter said unto Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias: not knowing what he said. While he thus spake, there came a cloud, and overshadowed them: and they feared as they entered into the cloud. And there came a voice out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear Him. And when the voice was past, Jesus was found alone. And they kept it close and told no man in those days any of those things which they had seen” (Luke 9:28-36).
In all reality, I happen to find the words which Jesus the Christ spoke unto Simon Peter when he boldly and emphatically declared and proclaimed that He was the Christ, the Son of the living to be absolutely astounding, for Jesus’ response to him seems to indicate that only flesh and blood can make such a reality known, and only that through revelation. It is this concept of revelation from the Father in heaven concerning Jesus that is actually worth noting and pointing out, for there are two distinct moments within the life and ministry of Jesus when the Father spoke from heaven and declared and proclaimed that Jesus was indeed His beloved Son. At the waters of the Jordan when Jesus had emerged from the waters of baptism the heavens were opened, and the voice of the Father spoke declaring Jesus to be his beloved Son in whom He was well pleased. At the mountain of transfiguration where Jesus had taken Peter, James and John, the heavens were once more opened, a cloud overshadowed them, and the voice of the Father once more had broken through the moment, and declared that this was His beloved Son. It’s interesting and worth noting that at the waters of the Jordan River the Father declared that Jesus was His beloved Son, and would go on to declare that He was well pleased with Him. At the mountain of transfiguration, the voice of the Father again spoke and declared that Jesus was His beloved Son, however, this time, the Father instructed these three disciples to hear Him. How interesting it is to think about and consider the fact that when Jesus asked the disciples whom men said that He the Son of man was, they responded by declaring that some said He was John the Baptist resurrected, while others declared that He was Jeremias resurrected, or Elias resurrected, or one of the other prophets resurrected. Interestingly enough when Jesus was transfigured before Peter, James and John, two of those ancient prophets appeared speaking with Jesus concerning those things which must be accomplished in the city of Jerusalem. There at the mountain of transfiguration we find the collision of the distinction between Jesus and the prophets of old, as well as revelation from the Father concerning Jesus. It was there at the mountain of transfiguration where Jesus appeared speaking with Moses who represented the Law, and Elias who represented the prophets. It was there at the mountain of transfiguration where not only was Jesus exalted and glorified above Elisas and Moses, but the Father also emphatically declared that this Jesus was His beloved Son, and then instructed them to hear and listen to Him. How ironic it is to think about and consider the fact that it was in the company of the disciples when they declared how others declared Jesus to be John the Baptist resurrected, or Elias resurrected, or Jeremias resurrected, or one of the other ancient prophets resurrected, and when Peter, James and John were atop the mountain with Jesus, two of those prophets—including Moses who represented the Law—appeared speaking and talking with Jesus. What’s more, is that one of those whom men declared concerning Jesus appeared in glory speaking with a transfigured Jesus concerning those things which must be accomplished in the city of Jerusalem.
What I find to be so amazing and wonderful about the encounter between Jesus and these three disciples atop the mountain of transfiguration is that it was directly on the heels of Simon declaring that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God, and Jesus declaring unto him that flesh and blood had not revealed this unto him, but rather His Father who was in heaven, that we find the collision of the opinions of men and the revelation of the Father atop the mountain. THE COLLISION OF THE OPINIONS OF MEN AND THE REVELATION OF THE FATHER! WHEN THE OPINIONS OF MAN AND THE REVELATION OF THE FATHER COLLIDE IN THE PLACE OF TRANSFIGURATION! I absolutely love what is found and written within this particular passage, for there atop the mountain in the place of transfiguration we find the collision of the opinions of men as Moses and Elias appeared with Jesus atop the mountain, and the revelation of the Father as the voice of the Father broke through the encounter and experienced and emphatically declared that Jesus was His beloved Son, and then instructed the disciples to hear Him. What’s more, is that this was the second time when the voice of the Father broke through the experience and encounter and declared that Jesus was in fact his beloved Son, for at the waters of the Jordan River the voice of the Father emphatically declared that Jesus was His beloved Son—and not only was Jesus His beloved Son, but also that He was well pleased with Him. I absolutely love how the experience of the transfiguration came directly on the heels of Jesus bringing the disciples into the place where they would choose between the opinions of men and the revelation of the Father. In all reality, I am convinced that there must come a point within our lives when we must make a conscious and deliberate decision between the opinions of men and the revelation of the Father. It was there at the top of the mountain of transfiguration where the opinions of men and the revelation fo the Father came to a head and collided with each other, for not only did Jesus appear with the Law and the prophets, but so also did the voice of the Father speak within the experience and declare that Jesus was His Son. What’s more, is that the voice of the Father not only declared that Jesus was in fact His beloved Son, but the voice of the Father also instructed them to hear Him—to hear Him who was exalted and glorified over and above the Law and the prophets. It was there at the mountain where the voice of the Father not only once more confirmed the identity of Jesus the Christ as His beloved Son, but also instructed the disciples to hear Him. I would dare say that one of the greatest purposes for what we find and read in this particular passage of Scripture is not only to exalt Jesus above both the Law and the prophets, but also to once more provide revelation concerning Jesus as the Son of the living God. It would be in a personal and private encounter between Jesus and the disciples that Simon Peter would declare that Jesus was the Christ the Son of the living God, and where Jesus would declare that His Father in heaven revealed that to Him. Only eight days later this reality of the Father revealing the identity of Jesus the Christ came to a striking head, as Peter, James and John not only witnessed Jesus being transfigured before their faces, but they also saw Him speaking with one whom men said and believed Him to be, as well as heard the voice of the Father declare concerning Jesus that He was His beloved Son.
I have to admit that the sequence and course of events which we find within this particular portion of Scripture is truly remarkable and wonderful, for directly on the heels of Jesus asking His disciples whom they said and believed Him to be, we find Him speaking unto them concerning His rejection by the scribes, the chief priests and the scribes, and how He would suffer, be killed, and ultimately be raised from the dead. This is intriguing when you consider it, for only eight days later we find Jesus being transfigured before the faces of these three disciples, and speaking with Moses and Elijah concerning His decease, and those things which must be accomplished in the city of Jerusalem. It’s worth noting that in between the place of identity and revelation we find Jesus the Christ emphatically and boldly declaring that if any one of His disciples sought to come after Him, they must deny themselves, take up their cross daily, and follow Him. Between Jesus speaking of His own death and resurrection and Jesus’ conversation with Moses and Elijah concerning His death and resurrection, we find Jesus inviting those who would come after Him to deny themselves, to take up their cross daily, and to follow Him. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand this, for this same invitation which was given unto the disciples is one that is given unto us, for if we desire to come after Jesus the Christ, it is absolutely necessary and imperative that we deny ourselves, that we take up our cross daily, and that we follow Jesus the Christ wherever He leads. What’s more, is that it is only in the place of denial that we can truly take up the cross, and it is only in the place of taking up the cross that we can truly follow after Jesus the Christ. I have never seen or experienced anyone who has been able to take up their cross daily who has not first entered and stepped into a place of self-denial. In fact, I would dare say that until and unless you are willing to step and enter into that place of self-denial, you cannot and will not be able to take up your cross daily. Try and take up the cross which is before you on a daily basis, and doing so outside of that place of self-denial, and you will find it incredibly difficult to do. No man has ever been able to take up the cross—much less take it up daily—who has not first entered into and engaged themselves in denying themselves. It is only to the degree and measure of denying ourselves that we can truly embrace taking up the cross, for so long as self is involved within our hearts and lives, it is most difficult—if not completely impossible—to take up the cross, and to take it up daily. Oh that we would read the words which are found within this passage of Scripture, and not only encounter that place of revelation from the Father in heaven, not only choose this day who Jesus is for us, but also that we would enter into that place of self-denial in order that we might take up the cross daily that we might follow Jesus whithersoever He leads us. Oh that we would be willing to lay down self fully and completely in order that we might embrace the cross and take it up daily so we can truly follow and walk with Jesus in this life.