Whatever condition we are in now cannot hinder nor prevent us from worshipping the Lord because we have faith that He is with us wherever, whenever and in whatever conditions we are. We need His living word to keep us alive. His word is the most powerful above all else on earth, in the sky, or even under the earth.
The impact of Covid-19 is so great that a lot of people are suffering and even mourning because their beloved ones passed away. What we need is a serenity, consolation and helping hands. What about today’s topic that talks about suffering? To be honest, if we can choose, we prefer listening to the word of God that could console us. Doesn’t Jesus promise to give peace, relief, and rest but why the word of God refers to “The Suffering Messiah”?
Nevertheless, we are reading the word of God that not only contains verses that are pleasant to our ears, but it also gives us an image that is more beautiful than just a consolation although there is a process that we need to go through.
We will dive deeper into what kind of process that we need to know from the event in Luke 9:18-27:
- To accept Jesus, the Messiah from God (vv. 18-21)
He said to them: “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered and said, “The Christ of God.”
As Christians, we are taught in detail that Jesus is the Son of God, the Christ, and the Messenger of God, not John the Baptist nor Elijah nor one of the prophets who rose from the death.
Introspection: Have we truly believed that Jesus is the Messiah of God?
If we stop doubting the identity of Jesus as the Messiah, we will be willing to listen to what Jesus said next. What is it?
- To suffer with Jesus (v. 22)
After He heard Peter’s answer, Jesus told His disciples, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.”
We must acknowledge that we tend to listen to Bible verses partially and then quickly draw a conclusion from it just like what Peter did when he heard his Teacher saying about His suffering. Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!” (Matthew 16:22).
Peter rejected God’s plan for him and put forward his own mind; therefore, Jesus said to Peter “Get behind me, Satan!” (Matthew 16:23).
What Jesus said was not out of His anger but rather according to the Father who sent Him and thus, it must be done. Jesus came to this world so that mankind could be refined toward a different situation from the world we live in. Jesus told us the truth as it is. Isn’t the word of God “amen” and “amen”? We must no longer focus on Elijah, John the Baptist and other prophets who already died but let’s focus our mind onto Jesus who suffered-died-risen.
When we commit ourselves as His followers, don’t we need to suffer as well? Or was it enough with Jesus’ suffering? What did Jesus do next?
- To be willing to deny himself, take up his cross to undergo the change in his life (vv. 23-24).
“If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.”
So, to follow Jesus, we have to be brave to deny ourselves and to carry our cross. Is it easy to do so? After the miracle of five loaves and two fish, a lot of people followed Jesus because they were filled (John 6:26). What was their reaction when Jesus told them that His flesh is food, and His blood is drink indeed? From that time, many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more (v. 66) for they did not understand the spiritual meaning behind His word.
Following Jesus ‘doesn’t stop’ with enjoying every gift from Him but there must be a progress in it. He wants us to follow Him wherever He goes because He is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). Sadly, Thomas did not recognize His way.
Is following Him all about suffering, denying ourselves and carrying our cross? The purpose of our following Jesus is that His life becomes our lives. In other words, we cannot retain our old lives anymore because the flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 15:50).
Be mindful, serving in a lot of ministries or being a Christian for a long time is not a guarantee that we are whole-heartedly following the Lord. What did Jesus say? “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it” (v. 24).
Logically, each of us surely appreciates his own lives but he cannot save it using his own way, for example: by looking for a religion that we consider the truth. However, if we lose our lives (not to keep our ego, our positions, our own plans, our own strength) because of Jesus – the Messiah – we will be saved. If we “died” because of the word of God, we become His new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) and this is what can save us because our flesh and blood will not inherit His Kingdom.
How does the life-changing process go? Jesus reminded us, “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels.” (vv. 25-26)
Introspection: Are we willing to exchange our lives with all we have in this world? To gain wealth through corruption, and doing everything, even the things that trespass the word of God, just to gain popularity?
Jesus also reminded us that if we are ashamed of Him in public that we do something He forbids, He, too, will be ashamed of us and disown us when He comes the second time. If we deny Him, He also will deny us (2 Timothy 2:12). Take heed, Jesus is the only one who can guarantee us to enter His Kingdom and His word will give us salvation.
Jesus told His disciples what would befall upon Him – to suffer and even to die but to rise on the third day. For us nowadays, the word of God already told us about His second coming. What about the situation in the world lately? Lawlessness abounds and the love of many will grow cold (Matthew 24:12).
Application: We shall love the word of God and ensure that we are willing to deny ourselves and ready to bear His cross to follow Him. Jesus did not force those people who left Him to come back but Peter, on behalf of the other disciples, stated that they would still faithfully follow Him. When we follow Jesus, we must not focus only on the suffering such as losing our jobs or getting sick, because then it will cause our faith to weaken.
- To see the Kingdom of God (v. 27).
Furthermore, Jesus said, “But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the kingdom of God.”
So, who saw the Kingdom of God at that time?
- The Apostle Paul who was alive and caught up to the third heaven (2 Corinthians 12:2-4).
- The Apostle John who was caught up into Paradise (Revelation 4:1-2) before he died because of old age (± 96 years old)
Can we see the Kingdom of God? The word “truly” means “amen” which means that His word is powerful yesterday, now and forever.
What does the Kingdom of God mean? Is it like a building where governance takes place? Illustration: Merdeka Palace is an official residence and office for the president of Indonesia where only certain people are allowed to enter. If we had the chance to, surely, we would testify about everything we see inside.
We will not know about the Kingdom of God and everything that is inside unless the One who came from there told us. So, who was He? Jesus went on from one city to another to preach the Kingdom of God (Luke 4:42-44). He longs for everyone to be able to enter the Kingdom of God.
What is the advantage of our preaching the Kingdom of God? The Kingdom of God will be ours if we are poor (Luke 6:20) – humble and innocent like little children (Matthew 19:14). Jesus has nothing against the blessed wealthy people, but we must not act like the young man who loved his great possessions so much that he refused to sell them all when Jesus asked him to (Matthew 19:21-22). If the Merdeka Palace only allows certain people to enter, the Kingdom of God, on the other hand, belongs to the poor and children; it is hard for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 19:23).
How to invite the Kingdom of God? By welcoming our Heavenly Father through our prayer (Luke 11:2). If we believe that the Kingdom of God is filled with peace that only comes from Him, so will our household.
A long and dawdling prayer is not needed and we shall not seek what we should eat or what we should drink for all these things the nations of the world seek after. He knows what we need but first we need to seek His Kingdom and all these things shall be added to us. It is our Father’s good pleasure to give us, little flock, the Kingdom (Luke 12:29-32). Our faith, although it is as small as a mustard seed, must grow greater to be like the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 13:31-32).
How can we know about the Kingdom of God without any visible signs? Jesus sternly said, “For indeed, the Kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:20-21)
The Kingdom of God that is filled with peace and tranquilty is hidden in our hearts. The Pharisee, however, who understood His law, rejected Jesus because they did not comprehend the meaning behind the verse.
The importance of the Kingdom of God depends on our hearts. It is eternally heritable if we ask for it whole heartedly. Even though it is physically invisible, we can see the specific characteristics of the people who own the Kingdom of God from their words – whether they are kind words or rather negative words.
Let us follow Jesus though we have to deny ourselves and bear our cross to suffer temporarily in this world, because we have a clear purpose and that is to live in the Kingdom of God – the New Jerusalem. Now we, the Gentiles, have seen His Kingdom (2 Timothy 4:17-18) and it is even inside our hearts giving us peace to go through all struggles and difficulties especially during this pandemic until it is time for Him to return to take us to live with Him in His Kingdom for eternity. Amen.