Why We Follow (Part 2)
February 24, 2019
Let’s open our Bibles to Luke 9:23. Today we hope to finish studying this really challenging, challenging call to discipleship that’s been issued by Jesus Christ. That verse says, “He said to all, ‘If anyone wants to come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily, and follow me.’” And that call sounds as radical in our day as it did in his. It strikes our ears as a severe and limiting call, especially in what can only be described as a fundamentally self-centered age—today’s age, in which the individual and individual liberty is prized above all things. And as we’ve learned what at first, here, sounds severe and limiting—the more we’ve studied it, we really don’t even grasp the depth or the breadth of that offense in Jesus’ own day.
The more we’ve been able to hear this call through first-century ears, the more we’ve come to realize how scandalous and offensive the call to cross-bearing and discipleship is. Jesus called the people to the cross, to execution by degradation and torture. The cross is something you didn’t bring up in polite company. If you brought it up, mothers would cover the ears of their children. The cross was purposely designed and employed to heighten a sense of public humiliation of the victim, to increase the individual torment of the crucified. Really, it was meant to make an example of that condemned soul, so that everybody would know that “this person, put on this cross, is rejected by us—rejected by the world.” Jesus uses that imagery for a Gospel invitation. That’s the picture that he puts on the evangelism tract that he hands out. He’s not inviting would-be disciples only to initiation by suffering, but to a lifetime of something, starting with self-denial and continuing day after day after day of cross-bearing, following in his steps as he leads them step-by-step toward the Cross.
So due to the nature of this call to discipleship, due to its comprehensive and exclusive and permanent demands, Jesus takes some time, here, to provide any of these would-be disciples with reasons why they should follow him. By now you’ve found your way to the text, so let’s read that again—Luke 9:23-27:
*And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.”*
So why deny self and follow after Christ? Because—first reason, verse 24—Jesus said you need to lose your life to save it. Second reason—verse 25—because Jesus said you need to release the world to gain your soul. We studied those first two reasons that Jesus gave for following him last week, so I’ll forego an extended summary and just point you to that sermon, which is available on the website. But today, we’re going to study the third and final reason that Jesus provides for following after him, and as you see there in verses 26-27, it has to do with what’s future, with what’s coming.
And to understand this reasoning, we have to embrace something that is very hard for us to do as modern people. To understand Jesus’ argument, here, and his reasoning, and why this is a compelling reason to follow after him, we have to do something that is hard for us to do as American modern people. It’s a concept called “delayed gratification.” It means you invest now—you work now, you wait patiently, looking for a reward later—then. And that’s what Jesus is calling for in verses 26-27 as he encourages us to—third point in your outline—to embrace the shame to see the glory. I’ve got a lot to teach this morning. I have tried to do what I can to cut out anything surplus and superfluous, but I am finding that difficult. The things that I’ve left out I want to say, but I’m not going to. I’m going to restrict myself to what I’ve put down as much as I can. And I want you to know that as we go through this, we have to approach this section, here, at a higher level of summary. We’re going to do some biblical theology this morning. We’re going to be tracing some big themes because that’s really what these next two verses require of us, here. So just warning you.
When we say, here, in our point—embrace the shame to see the glory—we really talking not about true shame. What does shame come from? Biblically speaking, theologically speaking, shame is a result of guilt. Guilt comes when we sin against God. Guilt comes when we transgress his commands, when we transgress what he’s clearly revealed in Scripture. So if I commit sin against God, guilt is registered, whether I sense that guilt or not. A number of sins we commit we don’t even realize that we’ve committed them. Sometimes there are subtle things in the motives and intentions of the heart. We don’t even notice. We keep passing on as if we did nothing wrong. We don’t feel any shame about that even though guilt is registered before God. But when we become aware of guilt, we feel that burning sense of shame. We feel ashamed of ourselves. We feel embarrassed. Our conscience strikes us and smites us and won’t leave us alone. And the wise person will listen to the compelling voice of conscience and go before God and confess sin—agree with what God says in his Word about your sin—and then confess it and repent of that sin, ask him for forgiveness.
The shame, here—the shame over Jesus Christ, the shame of the Cross, the shame of being identified with him, the shame of repeating and speaking and living by his words—it’s not true shame. God sent Jesus Christ. What’s there to be ashamed of? This is just an apparent shame. It’s a visible shame, which is really part of the first advent. It’s what led to his crucifixion, his suffering on the Cross. But you need to understand, here, as we approach this and talk about shame, that it’s not that there’s anything shameful in Jesus Christ whatsoever. There’s nothing shameful about his person or his work. There’s nothing to be ashamed of about his teaching, his miracles, his sinless perfection, his holiness, his purity. There’s nothing shameful about his compassion, about his grace, his truth, his justice. The perfection and the beauty of divine holiness, which was incarnated in Jesus Christ, was embodied in him. But because the world loves its sin, and therefore its standard of judgment is perverted and distorted from the very foundation—from the very beginning—the world rejected Jesus, putting him to open shame, crucifying the Savior in the most heinous miscarriage of justice ever known. The world, blinded by its love of sin and idolatry, treated the love of God in Christ with contempt and scorn.
So when we turn from the world and its judgment against Jesus Christ, when we join him, we embrace that so-called shame. We make it our own. And we do so, as we’ve said, to save our lives, to gain our souls, to gain our soul’s reward, which is God himself. And we do so, as we’re saying in this third point, because of the hope of future glory. We want to see the glory of God. What glory? What is the nature of this glory that we’re hoping to see? Well, in a word, it is the glory of Jesus—comma—as the Christ. It’s the glory of Jesus as the Christ. In other words, it’s the fulness of messianic glory—the glory of the Messiah. And that’s what we see in verses 26-27, which really describe for us, here, the first and second advents of Christ, and they’re used, here, as motivations that compel us to discipleship, that compel us to deny the self, take up the cross daily, and follow Christ. Why follow Christ? Why deny self? Why take up our daily cross. Why follow Christ all the way to the very end, even it means our very life? Because that is how we will see the glory of the Messiah. That is how we will see the glory of Christ, our Savior and Lord. That is how we will see the Kingdom of God in its power and its fulness—from its beginning all the way to its consummation and beyond.
So look at verse 26 again, which gives us a snapshot, here, of the second coming of Christ—the second advent. “For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory, with the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” That is a clear reference to the second coming—the first reference, by the way, in Luke’s Gospel. We know that because of the reference to the “Son of Man,” his coming in glory, to the accompanying glory of the Father and also of the holy angels, we know that this refers to the second coming. We follow Christ, now, because of what will happen when Christ comes again. In verse 27—this is where Jesus motivates us with what happened at the first advent, which for the people here is still future to them. For us, we’re looking back at this first advent, the first coming of Christ. He says, “But I tell you truly, there are some standing here [This is a promise to some of those present right there in front of him] who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.”
As I said, both of these verses summarize the Messiah’s ministry. The “Son of Man” in verse 26 and the “kingdom of God” in verse 27 make this abundantly clear to us. “Son of Man” is a messianic title, and “the kingdom of God” is what the Messiah came to proclaim, and to provide for, and to teach about, and then to inaugurate before returning to the Father’s side. In my study this past week, I looked up every New Testament use of the title “the Son of Man.” I looked at it in its context. What I discovered is how that title, “the Son of Man”—by the way, that’s Jesus’ favorite self-designation—tells us everything that we need to know about the person and work of Jesus Christ. And just by reading every use of that title, the “Son of Man,” in the New Testament, each in its own context, you’ll see that the title tells us who he is and what he does. It tells us about his person and his work—who he is and what he does.
So who is he? The “Son of Man” is the one who descended from heaven—John 3:13. He is the one who speaks with heavenly authority—John 8:28. He’s come from God, and he speaks for God. He’s the Lord of the Sabbath—Luke 6:5—which means he is therefore Lord of all Creation. Being the Lord of the seventh day, he is Lord of all the days, one through six, as well. He has authority on earth to forgive sins—Luke 5:24—and those who do not heed his authority now will fall under his judgment because that’s what the Father gave him authority to do, according to John 8:26 and 8:28: “‘I have much to say about you and much to judge,’ Jesus said, ‘but he who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him.’” “When you’ve lifted up the Son of Man,” Jesus says, “then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing of my own authority, but I speak just as the Father taught me.”
So when Jesus finishes the work of his first advent, he will return to the heaven from whence he came—John 6:62—“ascending to where he was before.” So who is he? The Son of Man is the one who has come from the Father, he speaks with the Father’s authority, he hears from the Father, speaks to us. He’s the Lord of Creation, who has authority on earth to forgive sins and to judge sins. To forgive and to judge. To forgive and to judge. Those two prerogatives of the Messiah’s authority become markers—dividing lines—of his messianic work here on earth. They really do summarize the work of his first and second advents. The first advent—to forgive. The second advent—to judge. So what does he do? Well, as I said, the work of the Son of Man divides into those two advents—the two arrivals, the two comings of Christ, which we’ll call for our purposes the first advent and the second coming.
The first advent we associate, rightly, with grace in salvation. Jesus came to announce and to explain and to provide for and to inaugurate the Kingdom of God. The second coming we associate with judgment and retribution, in which Jesus comes to enforce the Kingdom of God. So first, he comes to win a people—winning them from the heart, providing for all of their needs for time and eternity. Then he comes to enforce the Kingdom from the outside. He starts with the internal, and then he enforces the external. It’s quite the opposite of every worldly kingdom we’ve ever seen, isn’t it? So that’s exactly what we see outlined in verses 26 and 27—both advents are like bookends on the career of the Son of Man. Both advents are pictured in these two verses, but in reverse order. The second coming is put first to emphasize the reality of coming judgment. The first advent, then, is put second to leave believers with the certain hope of a promise.
We’ve actually heard this outline already in Luke’s Gospel, by the way. We’ve been prepared by the prophetic ministry of John the Baptist. He came baptizing with the baptism of repentance, preparing the way of the Lord. And as he came, the people were in expectation—Luke 3:15—“And all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ. And John answered them all, saying this, ‘I baptize with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie, and’”—get this—“‘he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.’” “‘He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.’” John came with the authority of a mighty prophet. The Son of Man comes with the authority of God himself, being the divine second Person of the Trinity, the Son of God. And when he comes, he will baptize with the Holy Spirit—that’s the mission of the first advent, to bring salvation to his people, to show them the Kingdom of God coming in power—and he will baptize with fire—that’s the mission of the second coming, to bring judgment, to enforce the rule of the Kingdom of God on earth.
Now with that introduction in mind, we want to get into the details of the text and see how Jesus uses this outline of messianic mission to motivate us and to encourage us to follow after him—a very powerful motivation that we find, here. I’ll give you two subpoints to hang your thoughts on as we go forward: subpoint A and subpoint B. We need to embrace the shame of the Cross now, in our lives today, which as I said is not true shame. It’s only shame and scorn heaped on by the judgment of the world, and the judgment of the world is based on unrighteous standards of judgment. So you have God’s permission—in fact, you have God’s command—that you need to reject the standard of the world. Reject it—reject its standard, reject its guilting, reject its shaming of you—and embrace his standard. Embrace his Messiah, and let the world shame you. Embrace the shame of the Cross now, in our lives today. Why? So that we will see the full glory of Christ. Subpoint A: Verse 26: We’ll see the glory of Christ in judgment. No matter who you are—believer or unbeliever, righteous or unrighteous, saved or condemned—we’re all going to see the judgment of Christ. And depending on your orientation to Jesus now, you’ll either see Christ’s glory in judgment as a target of his judgment, or you’ll see it as one who has escaped the judgment because of the Cross, which you have embraced your whole life long. Again, verse 16: “For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words”—ashamed of his Person and of his teaching—“of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”
Not that I could improve on what Jesus said, here, but let me restate that just in another way, hopefully to make the meaning plain, here. Reject Christ now, and he will reject you then when he comes in judgment. Listen—for judgment to come upon anyone who is ashamed of Jesus and of his words.… And by the way, in case you aren’t aware—speaking some of Jesus’ words about marriage today, speaking Jesus’ words about roles of men and women, speaking Jesus’ words about anything to do with sexuality and gender and all that—that will get you run out. There is a cost to pay, and I think more and more in our culture and in our world, we’re feeling the heat, and I think it’s good for us because that fire and that heat refines. It clarifies who are truly his. So for judgment to fall upon anyone who is ashamed of Jesus and of his words, you need to understand, that judgment is absolutely just. That verb “ashamed” in the voice means “to put to shame” or “to make someone ashamed,” but here it’s in the passive voice—“to be ashamed,” which can refer to feelings of shame or embarrassment when we fear the ridicule and the bad opinion of other people.
And we’ve got to ask, again, why in the world would anyone be ashamed of Jesus Christ? What in him evokes feelings of embarrassment? Does sinless perfection embarrass you? Is it the beauty of his holiness? Is it his absolute purity? Is it the truthfulness of his speech? Is it the faithfulness of his life? What about the love demonstrated in his selfless sacrifice of his own flesh and blood—giving himself for the salvation of sinners. Any of that? If you’re a believer, here, absolutely not. You know that nothing in him gives us reason shame or ashamed of his teaching that presuppositionally just embarrassed all his opponents, stumped the greatest minds of his day. Are we ashamed of his kindness and compassion toward weak, hurting people? Are we ashamed of his identification with sinners, with the lowest of the low?
Again, we’ve got ask, what is there in him to be ashamed of? Nothing. Nothing! Listen—to be ashamed of this perfect life is to indict ourselves for the greatest injustice. To be ashamed of Christ is to identify with those who put him on the Cross. It’s to prefer the fallen, corrupt, dead, rotting world and its judgments and opinions over Jesus. So for anyone who would dare to be ashamed of Christ, listen—their condemnation is just.
But I want to speak just a quick word to any of you who with sensitive consciences, you who may think this has to do with you as a believer in your temporary, momentary lapse of loyalty to Christ—maybe that time you failed to speak up for Christ at school or in the workplace, or in public, or around an unbelieving family gathering. Maybe your conscience is convicting you about the time that the Spirit prompted you to testify to the truth and to share the Gospel with someone who was ripe for the picking, and you didn’t do that out of embarrassment. I want to show you that that’s not what Jesus is talking about, here. In fact, I believe that’s one of the reasons in the kindness and mysterious sovereignty of God that he allowed Peter to deny Christ three times!—and then plastered the story all over the Gospels. And Peter, understanding now, says, “All praise be to Christ! All praise be to God because of the encouragement that my temporary, momentary lapse provides for all the elect.” We see that Peter loved Christ—John 21—albeit imperfectly. He had a temporary lapse of loyalty. He had a momentary descent into cowardice as he failed to stand for Christ. You and I understand that perfectly, don’t we? But Jesus forgave Peter. He died for that very sin on the Cross. And then he restored him as a true disciple into Gospel ministry. What an encouragement to all of us as believers, right?
But what’s going on here in verse 26 is something different. When Jesus points to “whoever is ashamed of me and of my words,” he’s talking, here, about unbelievers. Shame, here, refers to someone who is characterized by rejection, rejecting Christ as Savior—and especially as Lord. They’re refusing to obey his words. This, here, about “being ashamed” refers to outright rebels, yes—hardened unbelievers, yes—but it also refers to false professors of Christianity, those who sit in churches and never really live under the lordship of Christ. But listen—you need to understand that this doesn’t refer to true believers who fail from time to time in weakness. They need to repent and find God’s forgiveness in the very Cross of Christ.
The word group, here, for “shame”—the basic verb form—is “aischuné.” It’s used in the Septuagint, which is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament. And “aischuné” translates the Hebrew word “bosh,” and this word group, especially in an Old Testament context, when the verb is used, God is mostly the one commonly the subject of the verb “bosh.” He’s the one who puts to shame. It’s an active voice verb often—“bosh.” God is the one who puts others to shame. Wicked unbelievers, enemies of his people—God puts them to shame, which is another way of saying that God rejects them. He treats them as enemies, not friends. He judges them, destroys them, pursues them, hunts them down in judgment. You see this all through Scripture—the Psalms, the Prophets—there are too many scriptures to cite. Let me give you just a couple from Isaiah, which really capture it as God speaks to the wicked, he promises his coming judgment. Isaiah 65:13: “Therefore, thus says the Lord God, ‘Behold, my servants shall eat, but you shall be hungry. Behold, my servants shall drink, but you shall be thirsty. Behold, my servants shall rejoice, but you shall be put to shame.” Notice the turn of the tables for those who are well-fed and well-watered and rejoicing now. They will eventually be hungry and thirsty and put to shame. Sounds like the Beatitudes, right? That’s where Jesus borrowed the same imagery. And this isn’t just a consequential judgment; this is an execution of judgment at God’s hand because Isaiah 65:15 says, “The Lord God will put you to death.” Embrace the shame now to see the glory later.
One more verse—Isaiah 66:5. And this is speaking to the true people of God, who are being oppressed by a false people of God—a “people of God” who claim to be truly God’s people, but they actually oppress the righteous within their midst. “Hear the word of the Lord, you who tremble at his word.” It’s an encouragement to those who tremble at God’s word. “Your brothers who hate you and cast you out—it is they who will be put to shame.” Once again, that’s not just a consequential thing; this is a prosecution of God. The very next verse says this: “The sound of an uproar from the city, the sound from the temple, the sound of the Lord rendering recompense to his enemies.” In the Hebrew, that word for “sound” is the same word for “voice.” It’s the word “qol…qol…qol.” It sounds like war drums beating. You can hear it in the Hebrew text: “God comes to recompense his enemies.”
So when Jesus uses the word “shame”—to “be ashamed”—the idea from people informed by an Old Testament reading—what was conjured up in the minds of those who were listening to Jesus had to do with rejection. Shame equates to rejection. The one who is ashamed of Jesus and his words, he is effectively rejecting Jesus and his words. And Jesus actually strengthens that association. Shame means rejection, and God’s rejection means judgment, and he employs that title, the “Son of Man.” Back in Daniel’s prophecy—you can turn there if you’re fast enough—but Daniel chapter 7—that’s where the title comes from—“Son of Man.” In a vision Daniel sees—it pictures a judgment scene, there, with the Ancient of Days—that’s God, the Father—sitting on the throne of judgment in verse 10, “a thousand thousands served him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him.” Who are all those? It refers to an innumerable company of holy angels. They are servants who stand around the throne of the Ancient of Days, and they are ready to do his bidding. And then it says, “[T]he court sat in judgment, and the books were opened.” God is there with his holy angels. Court is in session. The angels are pictured, there, like the bailiffs. Holy angels are like the deputies of the court, and they go out to the ungodly effectively to arrest them and to bring them before the bar of God’s justice, for prosecution, for sentencing. And afterward, those same holy angels execute the sentence. But then down in verse 13 it says, “But with the clouds of heaven there came one like a Son of Man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him.” And as the vision continues there in Daniel, he sees God, he sees the Ancient of Days presenting the Son of Man with dominion and glory and a kingdom. Why? So “that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him.” God puts this into effect in the ministry of the Christ, of the Messiah. The Son of Man is the Christ, the Christ is the Son of Man. As Jesus says—John 5:22-23—by giving “all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.” Or in Daniel’s terms, “Whoever does not honor the Son of Man does not honor the Ancient of Days, who sent him.”
Go back to Luke 9:26. Jesus is using very familiar Old Testament language when he talks about shame and judgment. He is using powerful, very powerful, poignant Old Testament imagery when he refers to himself in the third person as “the Son of Man.” This is a warning to anyone who would turn away from him in shame, who would reject his words rather than obey his words. For those who would reject him, that’s reciprocated. When Jesus is ashamed of that one who rejects him, he rejects him back. Jesus said a little later on in Luke’s Gospel—Luke 12:8-9: “I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God, but the one who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God.” Basically, he’s saying, “If you’re ashamed of me now, I’ll be ashamed of you then. Deny and reject me now; I will deny and reject you, then.” Jesus isn’t being petty, here. He’s simply acknowledging the true reality of the relationship, and he’s responding as truth and justice demand.
When will all this judgment come? This is future; it’s coming at the second coming of Jesus Christ. Jesus says, there, at the end of verse 26, that the Son of Man will reject those who reject him—when?—“when he comes in his glory.” That’s singular—the word “glory.” The next use of the word “glory” in the ESV is not in the original; it’s implied, though. So when he says, “When he comes in his glory and of the Father and of the holy angels”—there’s one glory, here. We might say one facet or aspect of divine glory. Christ came the first time in saving glory, redeeming glory, manifesting the glory of sovereign grace and compassion and mercy. When Christ comes in glory the second time, he comes in the glory of judgment, of retribution, of divine justice and holy recompense.
Why does Jesus say, here, speaking of the singular glory of the judgment—the second coming of the Son of Man—“as well as that of the Father and the holy angels?” What’s the point? Here’s the point. He is being emphatic. He is putting extra punctuation at the end of this event. He’s putting it in all caps, bolded, highlighted, with exclamation points, and whatever emoji fits that whole statement. He’s being emphatic. It’s an angry emoji, right? When Christ comes again in judgment, it’s as if all of heaven invades the earth. Listen—there’s not only full agreement of the members of the Trinity and all the angelic residents of heaven on this point—about the coming judgment. Here it shows there’s full participation of all of heaven in the judgment at the second coming. In other words, when the Son of Man comes to execute judgment, heaven comes with him. All the divine perfections of the essence of God, all the Trinitarian power and authority resident in Father, Son, Spirit—the power of is God handed over to the Son for the administration and justice and then executed perfectly by the angelic hosts, who do all of his bidding.
That’s the judgment that Jesus revealed to John in Revelation 14:14-16. And again, you’ll hear, just as we heard read in Daniel chapter 7, “one like the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven.” Listen to this from Revelation 14:
*Then [John says] I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and seated on the cloud one like a son of man, with a golden crown on his head, and a sharp sickle in his hand. [What does the sickle signify? Reaping. Judgment.] And another angel came out of the temple, calling with a loud voice to him who sat on the cloud, “Put in your sickle, and reap, for the hour to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is fully ripe.” So he who sat on the cloud swung his sickle across the earth, and the earth was reaped.*
In that day, when God puts all enemies under the feet of Christ, when Christ executes that final judgment, it will bring to completion the messianic work of Christ, the Son of Man. “Then comes the end”—1 Corinthians 15:24—“we he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and every power.”
Let me just ask you a very basic question: Which side do you want to be on on that day? Can I suggest to you that whatever the cost, whatever the shame, whatever the scorn, whatever the rejection—even if it means rejection unto death—that it’s worth it to embrace him publicly now, to stand with Christ now, to speak his words openly today, in our day, in a wicked and evil generation. Because whatever you suffer at the hands of the ungodly, God knows, and as Paul says [2 Thessalonians 6-10a],
*God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints and to be marveled at among all who have believed.*
We will all see the glory of Christ in judgment—everyone will. So we want to embrace the shame of the world now, which is associated with our identity in Christ, so that when we see Christ come in judgment, we watch from the gallery—we watch from outside the courtroom. Why? Because Christ has already passed through that courtroom for us. He’s already taken the sentencing and the execution of the sentence in his own body on the Cross. If you’re in Christ, you have no fear of future judgment. Why? Because Christ took your punishment in that Cross. In his own body on the Cross, the just suffering for the unjust, “in order that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit” [1 Peter 3:18].
Well, we’d better get on to the next subpoint. We follow Christ Jesus, first because he has told us that we need to “lose our lives,” that is, to deny ourselves, in order to save our lives—verse 24. We follow Jesus because, second, he says in verse 25 that we need to release the world to gain our souls. We follow Jesus, third, because he’s telling us that we need to embrace the shame—the shame of his Cross, the shame of identifying with a rejected Messiah. We need to embrace the shame to see the glory—the glory of Christ’s judgment.
But then another subpoint—verse 27—subpoint B: We will see the glory of Christ in power. If we embrace the shame now, we will see the glory of Christ’s reign in power, the Kingdom of God inaugurated in power, and consummated in power. Jesus says, “But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.” Mark records the rest of what Jesus said; he gives us a little further clarity. Mark 9:1: “Some standing here will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power.” With power.
Now this is a promise associated with the first advent. And again, Jesus gave this promise to those who were standing there, people who are listening to him on this particular occasion. So who’s Jesus speaking to? His elect. He’s speaking to those for whom he would die who are standing there in the crowd that day. Most of the Twelve are included, though not all of them—not Judas Iscariot. Judas went his own way, became a perpetual warning of false professions of faith, false identification with Christ, false branches on the true vine, false disciples. So Judas didn’t partake of the promise. But there were the disciples at least—others as well—standing there.
We need to ask, now, what’s the nature of the promise? Some people attach this to being fulfilled immediately following this in the Transfiguration, with Peter, James, and John going up on the mountain, seeing the glory of Christ displayed in the Transfiguration. But that’s not how I see this. I see that as a preview—but not the Kingdom of God in power. The Kingdom of God in power is coming still. That’s just a preview. The promise, as we’ve already said, is that they would not taste death—they wouldn’t experience death—until they see the inauguration of the Kingdom of God. Immediately after Peter identified Jesus as the “Christ of God”—Luke 9:20—Jesus revealed the outline of the work yet to be done in the Messiah’s first advent, what remained for the Christ to accomplish. He’d already announced the Kingdom of God—Luke chapter 4—taught repeatedly about the Kingdom of God—five, six, seven, eight—he’s teaching, teaching, teaching. He had more to teach them, more coming. But he stops at this point—as you see there in the text—he tells them what remains—Luke 9:22. “The Son of Man must”—what?—“suffer many things, be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” Later in his ministry, as Jesus approaches Jerusalem, he’s drawing near to the climax of the work of his first advent, and it says there in Luke 18:31-32, “Then He took the twelve aside and said to them, ‘Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man will be accomplished. For He will be delivered to the Gentiles and will be mocked and insulted and spit upon. They will scourge Him and kill Him. And the third day He will rise again.’” So after the rejection by men comes the powerful vindication by God, that the King has come, that he truly did represent the Kingdom of God. What’s the vindication? The Resurrection. God raised Jesus from the dead.
You may remember that Jesus rode into Jerusalem—Matt 21:7-9—he’s mounted on the foal of a donkey, a colt. That’s a prophesied sign of the messianic king who entered into Jerusalem to reign over his people. Zechariah 9:9 says, ““Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, Lowly and riding on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey.” Jesus rode on that donkey—Matthew 21:8-9 says that most of the crowd spread out their cloaks on the road. “Others cut down branches from the trees and spread them on the road. Then the multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying: ‘Hosanna to the Son of David! “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” Hosanna in the highest!’” It’s a direct fulfillment, and the people who were spreading their cloaks and all the palm branches knew it. They’re coronating Jesus as their king, as a people. Three days later—they’re calling for his blood! It’s a wholesale reversal, an unthinkable act of rejection, betrayal. They were all Judas to Jesus.
Why did he have to be rejected and die? Jesus said the Son of Man had “to be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” Why? To pay for the sins of his people. God “made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” [2 Corinthians 5:21]. After Jesus’ rejection, death, burial, resurrection, he appeared to his people—some of these people—fulfilling the promise. And then he ascended into heaven, and from heaven Jesus poured out the Holy Spirit upon his people, baptizing them with the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of power, just as John the Baptist prophesied before the messianic ministry had even begun.
If you can turn just quickly, briefly, to Acts chapter 2. This is Luke’s “part 2” of the story—this shows the fulfillment, the Kingdom of God coming in power, in Acts chapter 2, coming on the Day of Pentecost. Starting in verse 22, Peter is preaching. He’s been baptized by the Holy Spirit, and all the Jews who came to visit from all different tribes and tongues and living in other nations came, and they’re hearing the Word of God in their own language because of the gift of tongues—revelatory ability to speak in other languages that they hadn’t previously studied. In verse 22, Peter says,
*”Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know—this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.”*
Skip down to verse 32:
*”This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God”—[What’s that imagery? Daniel 7, “Ancient of Days,” “Son of Man,” Revelation chapter 1, chapter 14]—“and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”’ Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”*
Isn’t that marvelous? After dying, God raised Jesus from the dead. He allowed some of the people here listening in Luke 9 to see him, as Paul says—1 Corinthians 15:6—he was seen by Peter and the other Apostles, Paul, and then to 500 at once. And after 40 days he ascended into heaven, which was his enthronement. He takes the throne. That’s how he’s pictured now. Whenever we see him in his post-Resurrection, post-ascension glory, that’s how he’s pictured—seated at the right hand of God, the Son of Man beside the Ancient of Days. In fact, that’s where Stephen saw him just before he was put to death—Acts 7:55-56. “Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven, saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, ‘Behold, I see the heavens open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’”
Back to Luke 9 verses 26 and 27. Jesus speaks about the glory of the Son of Man, first in the final consummation of his glory—verse 26—and then, here, in verse 27 about the beginning of his glory, the inauguration of his glory. Both verses taken together speak of the future vindication of the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ—his person and his work. And every word that he has spoken is true. Once Jesus died on the Cross, once he was raised from the dead, all the dominoes start to fall—every word vindicated, every promise in Christ is “yes and amen.” The Spirit came with power such that the power that came and worked in and through Christ is the same power that came and worked in and through his Apostles. They are the foundation stones of the church, and their names are etched into the foundation of the New Jerusalem.
Now back to Luke 9:27, what is the significance of what Jesus promised to some of those standing there? Just this: that they would see the Kingdom of God come in power, that they would live to see that Kingdom. It doesn’t mean that they’re never going to die. It just means that they would live to see it—live to see this inauguration, that they would be able to see it, which—get this—that’s the promise of regeneration. It’s what Jesus told Nicodemus: “Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” So by Jesus promising, “You will see the kingdom of God,” it means, “You will be regenerated. You’ll be born again.” He’s promising some standing there listening to him that they will be saved.
But then, finally—number 3—the promises that they would, in fact, see it. They saw the death, the burial. They saw the Messiah, their Lord and Savior, fall. Ah—but then they saw God raise him from the dead, vindicate him, approve of him, affirm him. They see the Resurrection. They see Jesus ascend into heaven. They see Jesus then sending the Holy Spirit from his place in heaven to the church, inaugurating the Kingdom of God in power. They saw the first advent of the Messiah. They saw the glory fulfilled.
Now if that’s the promise for them, what’s the power that we see? What hope do we have? What is the promise for us? How do we apply this to us? What are the implications for us? Well, the power that we see is the power to take those who are naturally disinclined to obey—Luke 9:23—and to change them into those who not only want to but long to obey—Luke 9:23—change them into those who show forth the power and the life and the vitality and the fruit of the Holy Spirit in their lives because their lives are changed from the inside out. The same power manifested at Pentecost is working now. It’s manifested less dramatically—in the forms of seeds that are sown and grow in the soil, and manifested in plants breaking through the soil and then growing stronger and stronger and bearing fruit and bearing much fruit. The more dramatic displays of power that happened at Pentecost to accomplish God’s particular purposes at that unique, pivotal, transitional time in his redemptive plan—that kind of manifestation of the Holy Spirit’s power—signs and wonders—doesn’t continue to this day. “By this is the Father glorified,” Jesus said, “that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples” [John 15:8].
These verses, here, are all inducements—strong encouragements and motivations—for heeding this strict and provoking and powerful call of Christ to discipleship in Luke 9:23. Verse 26 compels us with a warning. We want to be very much on the right side of history then, don’t we? God’s side. But then verse 27 us compels us with a promise that we’ll see the Kingdom of God in power. What has been inaugurated with the heavenly enthronement of Christ the King we know will one day be fully consummated with an earthly enthronement and an earthly reign. Amen! And all praise be to God! Amen?
Well, when we return to Luke 9, we’re going to get a preview of coming attractions, a preview as the glorious God pulls back the veil and gives us a brief but very, very exciting and importance glimpse of the divine glory of his beloved Son. So stay tuned. Let’s pray.
Our Father, we want to thank you, first of all, for your help by the Holy Spirit to go through this text together and to see some of the wonderful things that you have shown us in your Word, to be encouraged—greatly, profoundly—by Jesus Christ, to deny self, to take up our cross daily, bearing the shame, scorn, and rejection of the world as he did, for his sake, for his name’s sake, for the Gospel’s sake. We take the encouragement from you to deny self, take up the cross, and follow Jesus Christ as our Savior and our Lord. We’re so thankful that you sent him and have fulfilled what verse 27 says. You have fulfilled the mission of the first advent—that he has died to save us from our sins, that he has resurrected to give us new life, that he reigns from on high even now, and that has sent the Spirit to empower us to live godly and holy lives before you. May you give us all joy in believing—hope in the Gospel, hope in the Resurrection—that we will walk faithfully before you and so bring glory to your name. In the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen.