Okay, so where do I begin? And further more, where do I go? There is a whole heap in this passage. It’s actually more like three passages. First of all, let’s deal with the first chunk. This is a key moment in the Gospel. Jesus’ ministry has picked up some serious steam, and a lot of things are happening through his work and teachings. And Jesus asks a very honest question: “Who do the crowds say that I am?” I imagine him gathering his disciples and honestly wondering, “hey guys, what are they saying about me? What’s the word on the street?” But this then leads to the piercing question that should cause us all to wonder, “Who do you say that I am?” Great question. We’re nine chapters in. So far, who do you say that he is? Take a moment and wonder about that, and perhaps even journal or write about it. Based on what you’ve read in Luke so far, who is this Jesus? What is he about? What does he care about? What are his values? What is his purpose? Who is he?
But then Jesus takes this conversation more deeply. He predicts his arrest, death, and resurrection for the first time in Luke (it won’t be the last). Imagine how those words must have landed on these disciples. They’ve left everything to follow him, and now he’s saying that he will die (he’s also saying that he will rise again, but don’t you imagine that what they hear the most is that he will die? I know that’s what I heard.) It begs this question, “where is this all going?”
And then Jesus drill down even deeper. He not only predicts his death, he then tells us that anyone who wants to be one of his followers, must enter their own death. That is, they must be willing to die to themselves. What does this all mean? How do we do this? What does it really mean to “take up my cross daily” and to “lose my life for his sake”? These are big statements that, if we want to follow Jesus, we must wonder about.
Here’s what I’m wondering about this these days: I wonder if what Jesus is getting at is that we are not here for our own selves. This isn’t actually a survival of the fittest game. I wonder if what Jesus is calling us to is giving our lives to making this world a better place, or to put it another way, to be a missionary for shalom- for wholeness, for restoration. I wonder if what Jesus is saying is, “if you really want to live, if you really want to come alive, give yourself to this world for this world.” It’s a call not to chase after “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. It’s not a call to chase after the American dream, but God’s dream.
Glossing over that weird stuff in this passage about Jesus appearing in ghostly fashion with Moses and Elijah (aka: the transfiguration), I’ll leave it there. Which dream am I giving my life to? The American dream or God’s dream? What is the difference between the two? What is God’s dream? And how do I step into it? What do I have to offer it?