10 August 2015

Luke 9:18-27

"He sternly ordered and commanded them not to tell anyone, saying 'The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised'." (vv. 21-22)

Psalm: Psalm 65



Did Jesus know what was going to happen to him and understand its significance? If so, why did he not include it explicitly in his public teachings before his death? In this passage Jesus rehearses in private with his disciples the same questions that caused Herod to be perplexed (Luke 9:7-9). Who was he and what was his purpose?

The prediction of his suffering and death is the first of three in Luke's Gospel (see 9:43-45 and 18:31-34). These predictions were very important in the teaching of the early Church in understanding what had happened to Jesus and why. Given that the Gospel accounts of Easter morning do not show Jesus' close circle looking forward to a resurrection when they go to the tomb (they are all surprised and scared in varying degrees) we might ask whether Jesus truly taught this. Did the disciples just forget or not fully trust it, fallible and frightened people that they were? Or how much did the early Church writers massage the recorded teachings of Jesus to demonstrate the growing consensus about him?

While leading into an interesting textual treasure hunt this problem is not (nor should it be) the main focus of our passage.

The main question is still Jesus' own - "But who do you say that I am?".

Not some dead hero come to life but the anointed one of God, the "Messiah", or Christ says Peter. The point is that far from triumphing in the world, God would transform it. The transformation would be accomplished in his death and resurrection - and in the way of the kingdom shown in his life.

To Ponder

  • Does everything in Scripture need to have actually happened for it to be 'true'?
  • 'Fully human and fully God.' What does this mean to you in relation to Jesus in this passage?
  • Many still talk about Jesus as a prophet or a moral role model or a teacher. Who would you tell people he was?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Jennifer Smith

Revd Dr Jennifer Smith is a Methodist minister, and superintendent of the Ealing Trinity Circuit in the London District. Though resident in the UK since 1993, she is a US citizen and continues to observe US political and religious culture with interest.