(v18-20). Peter’s great confession. Peter certainly had his faults—we will read of his denial of Jesus a little later in this story. He was no paragon of virtue, perfect, or without the tendency to open mouth and insert foot. But Peter did, by God’s inspiration, see the truth: Jesus is “the Christ of God.” Would you today ask God for his Holy Spirit to reveal to you (perhaps for the first time, or if not, afresh) that Jesus is the Christ of God? That he is the most important person in all of history? What matters is my response to him? That when all others let me down, Jesus will never let me down. People today, as then, still have many different opinions about Jesus. But what about you? Who do you say he is?
(v21-22). Now, again, Jesus tells them not to tell people about this (9:21). Most are not yet ready for this great news. The time for wide proclamation would come, but only after Jesus knows that the time is right for his crucifixion, and then subsequent resurrection. Indeed, Jesus must die and rise again (9:21). Note the word “must.” People today will try to marginalize the cross. They will find ways to focus on other parts of Jesus’ life. But the gospels themselves bear unequivocal witness to the centrality of the crucifixion. We are sinners. God is holy. God’s righteous judgment on sinners is the wrath of God. God is also loving and loves sinners. Therefore, Jesus “must” die and rise again: the cross is God’s way of expressing both his love and his justice. Would you this morning thank God for the cross? Thank him that Jesus was faithful even unto death, and death for us sinners? What joy is this to know that every last sin, past, present and future, is covered by Jesus’ righteous, atoning blood!
(v23-27). But there is still more to this great truth about Jesus’ identity (the Christ), and his purpose (to be crucified). We, too, who follow him are called to live “cross-shaped” lives. We are to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Jesus. There is a necessity to this even for our salvation. Our fallen, natural selves, have become “self-ish.” The self-ish self must die so that God’s purpose for our true selves, with Christ as Lord, might rise to new life: this is the miracle of regeneration. “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it” (9:24). Think logically, Jesus says. What is the point in gaining everything in the world, if you lose yourself! You have gained nothing thereby; there is no profit to that contract (9:25). Do not then be ashamed of Jesus and his words, even if following Jesus and his Word in this life costs you. Eternity is at stake (9:26). Which brings Jesus to focus on the coming kingdom of God, in his own person, centered on his death and resurrection, foreshadowed in the transfiguration (that we will read about tomorrow), which great events “some standing here” (Peter, James and John, 9:28) will see before they physically die (9:27).
Would you today “take up your cross”? That is, will you determine again that following Jesus, having him as your Lord, and giving him your life, is worth it, eternally worth it, worth it in every possible way. Do not believe the lie that you must miss out if you do not set your heart on everything that this world has to offer. The one who lives for this world is the one who loses. Set your heart on Christ, take up your Christ by making him the Lord of your life, and then you will save your life (9:24).
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