“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” – Luke 9:20
One Sunday morning an elderly pastor was getting ready for church, and he noticed that on his wife’s side of the closet, there was an old shoebox that he didn’t recognize. He opened it and was surprised to see three eggs and 100 one-dollar bills. He called his wife into the closet to ask her about it. Well, she was pretty embarrassed, but she ’fessed up. She said she’d been hiding the box for the past 30 years. The pastor was disappointed and hurt, and he told her, “I just don’t understand!”
She responded, “Well, I didn’t want to hurt your feelings, but every week you preached a bad sermon, I put an egg into the box.” At that point the pastor thought to himself, “There are only three eggs in the box. Three bad sermons in 30 years…that’s not bad at all!” But then he asked his wife, “What about the 100 one-dollar bills?” “Well,” she said, “every time I got up to a dozen eggs, I sold them to our neighbor for a dollar.”
Now, Jesus Christ is the greatest teacher who has ever lived, and I feel comfortable saying you wouldn’t find any eggs stashed in his disciples’ closets. But there are some who would say that Jesus was a good teacher, but not the Son of God. Have you ever heard that crazy rumor? Well, it’s nothing new. Going clear back to Jesus’ day, there were plenty of rumors and misconceptions about who he was. And in Luke 9:18, Jesus took this up with his disciples when he asked them: “Who do the crowds say I am?”
Why did Jesus ask this question? I believe he wanted to make sure his apostles could separate fact from fiction. And when Jesus asked, “Who do the crowds say I am?” they responded in verse 19: “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.” Once they confessed the fiction that other people believed, Jesus asked in verse 20: “But what about you? Who do you say I am?”
This is one of the most important questions Jesus ever asked his disciples, and it’s one of the most important questions he will ever ask you. Your answer to this one simple question affects everything else in your life. And Peter’s full response, which we now call the Good Confession of faith, is given in Matthew 16:16: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Surrounded by a sea of false rumors and lies about Jesus’ identity, Peter knew the truth. And he boldly spoke it.
This eternal truth would be the foundation upon which Jesus would build his entire Church. But, as Jesus continued to teach his disciples, it’s not enough to accept the truth that Jesus is the Christ and the Son of the living God. Jesus’ followers must also accept the truth about what that means. In Luke 9:22, he said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”
And since suffering and dying would be a very real part of Jesus’ life, it shouldn’t surprise us that it will be a very real part of our lives as we follow him. In verse 23, Jesus revealed three commands for anyone who has chosen to be his follower: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” What do those three commands mean?
#1: We must deny ourselves. As Chuck Swindoll explains, “The emphasis on ‘denying oneself’ is submission to HIS agenda, saying no to what WE want and saying yes to what HE wants.” This doesn’t mean to constantly deny yourself all food and rest and pleasure. But when Jesus says you must “deny” yourself, he means that if YOUR plans ever conflict with HIS plans, you must surrender to HIS plans.
#2: We must take up our cross daily. If denying ourselves means to submit to Christ’s agenda, taking up our cross means to die to our own agenda. William Barclay says it this way: “To take up our cross means … to be ready to endure the worst that man can do to us for the sake of being true to him.” And Jesus asks you and me today, “Knowing this, will you follow me anyway? Even if it means that suffering and death are on the horizon, will you pick up your cross every day and follow me anyway?” I want to make that commitment to my Lord and Savior, and I hope that you do too.
#3: Finally, a Jesus follower must FOLLOW Jesus. That sounds like a no-brainer, doesn’t it? But millions of so-called “Christians” don’t follow Jesus. If we are serious about following him as the Christ, we must be ready and willing to follow in his footsteps. As he speaks, we must speak. As he acts, we must act. As he prioritizes, we must prioritize. As he suffers and dies, we must suffer and die. That’s not the feel-good message we hear preached in many pulpits across
. But it’s the truth. America
Follow Christ boldly. Follow Christ publicly. Follow Christ without any shame or regret. Followers of Christ, be very, very proud to proclaim to your family and friends and neighbors that Jesus Christ is your Lord and Savior. Without hesitation, he picked up his cross and carried it for you. So you and I must, without hesitation, pick up our cross and carry it for him.
Dane Davis is the Lead Pastor of First Christian Church in Victorville. For more information, visit www.YourVictorvilleChurch.com and join us for worship Sundays at 10 a.m.