For the Joy Set Before Him (Luke 9:18-22)
I. Would You Still?
If I was a well-known psychic, and I came to you and told you that next week, at exactly 8:47pm, you would enter a burning building, save a handful of lives, but in the process suffer third-degree burns and be overwhelmed by the smoke, to the point that you would flat-line when the EMTs tried to revive you; and yet, in the end, after 19 minutes, you would be resuscitated; you would be okay... knowing all that, would you still run into that building?
Keep that scenario in mind as we look together at the third book of the NT, the Gospel of Luke.
II. The Passage: “And on the Third Day Be Raised” (9:18-22)
As most of you know, as Way of Grace Church, we have been reading through the NT together since October, and currently find ourselves in this Gospel. So one of the chapters we looked at this past week was Luke 9. Turn there if you would, and listen as I read verses 18-22...
Now it happened that as he [Jesus] was praying alone, the disciples were with him. And he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?”  And they answered, “John the Baptist. But others say, Elijah, and others, that one of the prophets of old has risen.”  Then he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answered, “The Christ [i.e., the Messiah] of God.”  And he strictly charged and commanded them to tell this to no one,  saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”
If you were wondering why I chose this passage for this morning, that last statement should have made clear the connection. This is the first mention of Easter in Luke! But before we talk about that phrase, “and on the third day be raised”, we need to understand why this passage is here. Why did Luke choose to include this conversation? Why did God inspire it to be recorded? And even more fundamentally, why did Jesus have this exchange with his disciples?
Based on the text, I believe there are three reasons why Jesus had this conversation with these men. Let's talk about those. First, he wanted his disciples to understand...
1. The Nature of His Mission
Please notice how what Jesus eventually tells them is connected to what he initially asked them. His statement in verse 22 actually flows from his questions in verses 18 and 20. How are they connected? Look at how the questions eventually lead to Peter's confession. Who is Jesus? He is “the Christ of God”. He is the Messiah! Of course, Jesus doesn't reject this identification. Why would he? He was and remains the Messiah, the promised king of Israel.
But Jesus absolutely wants to clarify what that title means. Why? Because He understood that his followers didn't understand the true nature of the Messiah's mission. They envisioned power and prestige. They thought in terms of conquest and acclaim. Their aspirations drifted toward glory... the earthly kind. But Jesus corrects that thinking in verse 22. Look back at that verse...
“The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”
Whoa. That sounds like the exact opposite of what they and most first century Jews would have thought about the Messiah's mission. Nevertheless, what Jesus describes here is in fact the nature of the divine path. Now, in addition to this, I also think Jesus wanted them to understand..
2. The Plan of His Father
You probably picked up on the fact that Jesus is describing for his disciples in v. 22 the details of what will happen to him long before (probably months before) any of it will actually take place. I believe he did this in order to point them to the Father's plan for his life. The things that would happen to Him were no accident. His suffering and rejection and death were not a cruel twist of fate. No, everything was the outworking of God's plan. As He declared at the beginning of his ministry in 4:21, he was the fulfillment of God's word through the prophet Isaiah. And he expanded on this at the end of his earthly ministry in 24:44...
Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”
While there are many OT passage about the triumph of the Messiah, these men should have also known about his sufferings. Isaiah 53:4–7...
Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.  But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities... the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.  He was oppressed, and he was afflicted...
But Luke makes it abundantly clear to us that these disciples did not remember such passages, and they didn't understand what Jesus was telling them. Drop down, if you would, to verses 43–45 of this same chapter. Luke tells us that...
...while they were all marveling at everything he was doing, Jesus said to his disciples,  “Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men.”  But they did not understand this saying, and it was concealed from them, so that they might not perceive it. And they were afraid to ask him about this saying.
And if we were to jump ahead to 18:31–34, we would find these same exact elements:
And taking the twelve, he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon.  And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.”  But they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.
But if they didn't get it, why is Jesus trying to explain for them the nature of his mission and that this is the plan of the Father? Well, even though they didn't grasp what he was saying at that point, they eventually would. And that brings us to a final point. Jesus also told them what he told them in 9:22 because he wanted them to understand...
3. The Example of His Endurance
When all was said and done, when Jesus really had suffered “many things”, when Jesus actually was “rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes”, after Jesus was “killed, and the third day... raised”, after everything was finished, these disciples would remember his words. They would remember that Jesus knew in advance everything that would happen to him (the betrayal, the lies, the humiliation, the beatings, the injustice, the mockery, the rejection, the cross, the agony), and yet, he still pressed on. In fact, as we read down in verse 51, “When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.” The verb there speaks of his determination, his resolve, his fixed intention.
Whatever your answer was when I asked you earlier about that burning building, please know that we don't have to speculate about how Jesus would answer that question. The fact that he knew ahead of time about his suffering, rejection, and death, did not deter him saving us.
Remember, when he spoke about these things, the disciples didn't get it. But later on, they would. And undoubtedly, he wanted them to learn from and be inspired by his example of endurance in the face of certain suffering. He will go on to tell them that the authorities...
(chap. 21) ...will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and... You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death.  You will be hated by all for my name’s sake.  But not a hair of your head will perish.  By your endurance you will gain your lives.
But I believe he also wanted them to recognize, eventually, that the words “suffer”, “rejected”, and “killed”, though they seem dominant here, they are not the final word in 9:22. The final word is “raised”. You see, beyond the cross, there was a crown. After the gory, there would be glory. The humiliation would eventually lead to exaltation; His pain to his reign. In the end, death would be defeated by life. Yes, his words were a warning. But they also provided incredible hope.
III. “Trials of Various Kinds”
Now, please take a minute and think about what we've learned. Though they would not grasp it right away, Jesus wanted his disciples to recognize three important ideas about his path as Messiah: first, he wanted them to understand the nature of the Messiah's mission. Second, He wanted them to understand that this path was no accident or tragic twist of fate, but instead, the plan of his Father. Finally, Jesus wanted his followers to embrace the example of his endurance in the face of certain suffering.
So what should we do with all of these things? How might we live in light of these words, two-thousand years after they were spoken? First and foremost, we should give thanks for what Jesus endured in order to fulfill the Father's plan. And since the rest of the NT goes on to explain why Christ suffered and was rejected and was killed and was raised, we should turn and trust.
What does that mean? Well, if Jesus, the Son of God, had to suffer and die for my wrongs so that I could be forgiven, then I should turn away from the mindset and posture that led me so far astray. And if Jesus then rose from the dead in order to defeat death and offer us eternal life, then I should trust that he alone can lead me and give me life. Turn and trust.
But when we do that, and we begin to follow just as those early disciples followed, it's important that we grasp the same truths Jesus wanted them to remember: the nature of His mission, the plan of His Father, and the example of His endurance. What's amazing about these three ideas is that we find them later on in the NT, in a book called Hebrews. Listen to Hebrews 12:1–7...
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,  looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.  In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.  And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him.  For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”  It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?
Just as God's one and only Son endured suffering as part of the Father's plan, so too will you and I. The nature of our path through this world is the same as that of Jesus. As Jesus taught us in John 15:20, “Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” Brothers and sisters, we must expect such trials. James, the half brother of Jesus encouraged us about these trials. He wrote, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds”. (James 1:2) “Trials of various kinds” include persecutions and pressures, disease and dysfunction, loss and confusion. All of it!
This is what I hope you will leave with today: yes, that the nature of the genuine Christian life is one that involves suffering; yes, that these are not random or tragic twists of fate, but part of the Father's redemptive design; and yes, that Jesus is our ultimate example when it comes to the endurance we need because of this certain suffering. But on this Easter morning, as you turn your eyes to him, and fix your eyes on him, please, please, please cling to the joy that Jesus exemplified. What kind of joy? Heb. 12:2... “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated [even now] at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Jesus accepted the certainty of his sufferings. But as we read here, he also rejoiced in the reality of his resurrection. Shouldn't we as well? The Apostle Paul teaches us that, “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.” (Romans 8:11) The joy of Easter is first the joy of knowing Jesus lives. We have a living Lord, amen? But the joy of Easter is also this joy, the joy of resurrection; a joy that should inspire us as we run such a difficult race. If you belong to Jesus Christ, by God's grace alone, through faith alone, then as you endure “trials of various kinds”, treasure your hope, the hope of eternal life that Christ has made possible. Eternal comfort. Eternal commendation. Eternal prosperity. Eternal fellowship. Eternal fullness. Eternal wonder and worship. That, brothers and sisters, is the joy set before us. And all of it is ours through Jesus. He endured that we might endure. Be encouraged. He will bring you through. In light of Easter, let's trust him for that very thing this morning.
More in Our Bible Reading Plan (2021-2022)
October 2, 2022Visions of Jesus (Revelation 19:9-10)
September 25, 2022Why Justice is Worth Singing About (Revelation 15)
September 18, 2022How to Conquer the Dragon (Revelation 12:11)