In a somewhat different context it has been said that there are two things which are inevitable in life: death and taxes. Although the inevitability of these two aspects of life may be true, I believe the number count is off by one. The third thing every person must come to grips is another question much like the one posed at the end of every Lone Ranger episode. It is the question, "Who is Jesus?" But unlike the Lone Ranger whose identity remained unknown, Jesus wants us to know the answer to this question. In Luke 9, people from a wide cross-section of society both ask and must answer this question and then decide how they will respond to the answer. Here is a partial outline of the chapter:
Luke 9:1-9. The Commissioning of the 12: While the disciples are deployed to proclaim the Good News, Herod the Tetrarch wants to know who Jesus is. His findings indicate the people are equating Jesus with prophets like Elijah and John the Baptist. This causes him great anxiety.
Luke 9:10-17. The Feeding of the 5,000: Many people are now following Jesus. Jesus continues to teach about the kingdom of God and people are healed. After a day of teaching outside of Bethsaida, Jesus exhorts the disciples to feed the crowd and miraculously extends the supply of food in order for them to do so.
Luke 9:18-27. Peter's Confession and Jesus' Teachings on the Cost of Discipleship: Jesus and the disciples have retreated to a quiet place to pray. Jesus asks the disciples about the crowd's opinion of Him. They say the people perceive Him to be a prophet like Elijah or John the Baptist. Jesus then asks the disciples, "Who do you say that I am?" Peter speaks for the 12 and states they believe Jesus is the "Anointed of God" (Messiah). Jesus then speaks about His suffering and death for the first time in Luke's Gospel and explains to the disciples that the cost of discipleship is high, but the gain of discipleship far outweighs the loss.
Luke 9:28-36. The Transfiguration: Eight days later, Jesus takes Peter, John and James to a quiet mountain to pray. During this time these disciples catch a glimpse of Jesus in His glorious state. God the Father affirms Peter's confession by instructing the disciples to listen to "My Beloved Son" in a scene reminiscent of Jesus' baptism. The Transfiguration occurs after Peter's confession and the teaching on discipleship, implying two things: Jesus is God and His glory far surpasses any earthly suffering. This amazing event is the answer to the initial question of Herod- Who is Jesus?
The question of Jesus' identity is central to the Gospel of Luke and for those who want to be His disciples so it is imperative that the answer to “Who is Jesus?” must be an answer based on truth that can be validated. You would certainly not want to believe and follow someone who was delusional or an all-out liar. If you are to respond to that question in faith, Jesus must be someone who is completely trust-worthy. Luke states at the beginning of his Gospel that he has compiled his account so that the reader (first Theophilus and now us) will know the “exact truth” about what has been taught concerning Jesus. The events recorded in chapter 9 are there to prove that believing Jesus is in fact the Son of God is trustworthy. They authenticate Jesus' claims and prove them to be true.
Discipleship, however, is more than a mental assent that Jesus is Who He claims to be. Discipleship is a total lifestyle change and commitment because we believe what Jesus says is true and it applies to how we live. It is reshaping the way we look at the world and interact with it. It reorients our priorities, thoughts and actions. And so, just as Jesus questioned the 12, He asks us today as well, "Who do you say that I am?" How we live as His disciples answers that question every day.
Ann H. LeFevre, M. Div.
https://www.annhlefevre.com; Olivetreeann@mail.com; https://www.linkedin.com/in/annhlefevre; https://www.facebook.com/ann.h.lefevre