Learning the Way of the Cross

As time went on, Jesus began to teach the disciples in new ways. He gave them things to do.  He trained them in His mission and purpose.

At the start of Luke 9, He formed His followers into teams. He equipped them with power to dispel demons and to heal diseases. And He commissioned them to preach. They were to tell people about Him. They were to do mighty things in His Name. And these men went as they were instructed.

The Lord sent them and they saw results. It was the beginning of a new phase of testing for these chosen ones. They did what Jesus told them to do and they were much enamored with how they were used.

The demon encounters were what they were most excited about. Who wouldn’t like to see victories over supernatural forces? It was surely an ego rush —one that Jesus took pains to temper.

The real miracle, He said, was not that the demons were subject to them. The greatest thing for these men — and for anyone really — is that their names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

The intoxicating sense of power makes people do crazy things. Later, as the Cross time drew closer, these very ones would argue over who among them was the greatest.

And yet Jesus used these people. He empowered these people. He trusted these people.

This reality has to be the most maddening thing for the devil and his cohorts to see and hear and experience. How can people be crowned with such privilege? Why is it that the Lord makes these dusty ones so welcome to His glory?

Such frustration fuels the attacks of Hell. The bitter embers of pride have burned since iniquity was found at the center of the anointed cherub known as Lucifer. The companies of the angelic host had been created and positioned and empowered.

They knew the Son and His authority, status, and standing. They may have even recognized that they owed their existence to Him. They possessed so much, but they missed the whole point about God and His true essence.

God is love and all Creation was spoken into being according to His good pleasure. He made all that He made to express love, the very love exchanged between the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. He desired to watch it fill and move those made in His image.

Moments of Power, Scenes of Service

Here, Jesus loved His chosen men enough to let them go out in His Name. Seemingly, they did well. Perhaps they were some hiccups, some missteps along their ways, but these things are not revealed to us.

Instead, the Savior put them into a different kind of situation not long after they finished their road trips. It was another test for them, a somewhat bewildering one for sure.

Jesus taught a multitude in a remote place. The crowd hung on His every word for hours that stretched into the evening. They were captivated. None could bring himself to leave the scene.

When He was done, the Savior knew that they were in need. They were hungry.

Even the disciples could sense this. And their thought was to shut down the meeting, dismiss the hearers, and let them find their ways to the nearest fast food joints — places that obviously didn’t exist.

Jesus had another idea. “You guys, feed them all.” They’d just come home from a serious season of demon defeating moments. Could they see another avenue for His power to go down? Seemingly, He now tasked them to be more like waiters. Serve the people a meal, He said.

They were flabbergasted. One of them, however, saw a boy with five loaves and two fish. This, he told to Jesus and it was all the Savior needed. “Bring them to Me,” He said. The Son said a prayer and blessed the bread and fish. Before long everyone had eaten. There was more than enough. Leftovers filled 12 baskets.

This food moment revealed the breadth of the Mission of the Son. He came to meet people at the lowest level. Knocking off demons was cause for revelry, feeding the famished was a delight. Everyone needs to eat and to drink.

As He gave out bread, real bread to fill bellies, He would give His life and His Word to make for full hearts and souls. His living water would flow within those who believed upon Him.

All that Jesus did was ordered and designed to reveal that His “mercy fills the whole earth,” as it is written in Psalm 119:64. He came to show the heart of God and that heart revealed His loving kindness and care in the details of life.

Sure, it is marvelous to possess power. It is even more marvelous to possess compassion that makes a difference.

The Statement of Ultimate Fact

Were these followers learning of Him? He wanted to know, so He posed this question:  “Who do men say that I am?”

They had heard things. News of what Jesus was saying and doing traveled and circulated along the lines of the social media outlets of the day. People talked of Him in the markets and at the wells and around their tables. Even Herod, the ruler of the region, got wind of His movement and became curious about the Son. Herod even flattered himself somewhat, thinking that he might be responsible for His presence since he had ordered John the Baptist to be beheaded.

The disciples spoke of how the word on the street was that Jesus was Elijah come anew or one of the other prophets. There was buzz about the Son.

“Who do you say that I am?” Leave it to Jesus to drop a great but subtle hint right there. “I am.” The phrase pointed to His nature as the Lord. He was Yahweh come in the flesh.

Now the Word from Heaven had come to define His identity for them. Click To Tweet

Would any of them get it?

Peter did. He said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” as Matthew recorded the moment (see Matthew 16:16). Here in Luke, this apostle declared Him to be the Messiah, the anointed One expected to come and reign on earth.

Another piece of the puzzle had been fitted into these followers. They had heard Truth spoken with clarity and integrity. They had witnessed His power over demons, disease, and death. They had even acted in the authority of His commission.

Now the Word from Heaven had come to define His identity for them. Again, this was heady stuff. These men were hanging with the Lord of all. They had been handpicked for this mission. The future seemed so bright to them. They were ready to march and shout this news far and wide.

Not so fast. First, this revelation was not for public consumption.

“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’” (Luke 9:21-22)

Laying Down Our Lives

Just when such visions of grandeur may have started to swim in the disciples’ minds, the Savior doused their expectations. Taking up the Cross of life would be the pattern they would follow as His messengers and leaders.

These disciples would learn more and more of Jesus as the new and living way, the only way to the Father. And as they discovered more about Him, they would find themselves more ready to stand fast in a world in rebellion toward Him.

The battle belongs to the Lord. He determines the mode of attack. And the way to victory would be through the Son’s laying down of His life for us.

He calls us into the same manner of life:  a life of humility, a life that sometimes may leave us confused and shaken, a life that He Himself lived out to the full.

Let us keep these words of His in mind:  “… 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.”

Steve Andrulonis
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