Summary: Jesus calls disciples to assess what is truly valuable, boldly seizing that aspect of life.

“What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?” [1]

He who dies with the most toys wins. At least, that is the sentiment expressed in contemporary bumper sticker theology. It probably sums up the contemporary worldview that esteems winning at any cost. However, the words Jesus spoke are applicable in a broader context than merely acquiring “things.” No doubt, we who name the Name of Christ will benefit from thinking through the issues surrounding this great question.

CONTEXT —The verse that is our text for this message follows closely on the heels of one of the better known miracles of the Master. Jesus had just fed five thousand people [see LUKE 9:10-17]. Crowds followed him as He led His disciples to an isolated place situated outside of Bethsaida. Jesus had removed Himself to that place with His disciples. The crowds, eager to hear His teaching and seeking healing for loved ones and friends sought Him out. According to the Word, He showed compassion, teaching them and healing many who attended His teaching.

As evening approached, the disciples asked Jesus to send the crowd into the surrounding towns so they could find something to eat and perhaps even find lodging. However, to their dismay, He instructed His disciples to feed the people. These men knew they were unable to fulfil His demand, having between themselves only five loaves of pita and two fish. For the disciples to feed such a large crowd, it would be necessary to go into the town, purchase enough food to care for the large number of people. It is doubtful that there was enough money between them all to fulfil His request.

No doubt noting their discomfort, Jesus instructed the disciples to organise the crowd into groups of about fifty people each. So, with over one hundred groups arranged around the Master, He took the five loaves and two fish, and placing them before Himself, He looked up to heaven and recited a blessing over them. Then, breaking the loaves, He gave them to the disciples, instructing them to distribute bread and fish to the people seated before them.

When the people finished eating, the disciples were instructed to gather up what was left. They picked up twelve baskets of left-overs. Moreover, the people had enough to eat. The divine record states, “They all ate and were satisfied” [LUKE 9:17]. This was one of at least two incidents recorded in the Gospels when Jesus fed large crowds of people. [2]

This incident set up the events that would lead to the teaching that will be central to our study today. After the crowd had been sent away, Jesus retired to a place where He could be alone, giving Himself to prayer with His disciples. It was at this time that He asked the disciples, “Who do the crowds say that I am” [LUKE 9:18b]? You will recall that the disciples reported the various statements they had heard others making about the Master. Some say You are “John the Baptist. But others say, Elijah, and others, that one of the prophets of old has risen” [LUKE 9:19]. Jesus’ response was elicited to draw them out, “But who do you say that I am” [LUKE 9:20]. Peter got it right when he answered, “The Christ of God” [LUKE 9:20b].

I wonder whether Jesus’ response to Peter’s confession startled the disciples. Superficially, it startles us. First, He commanded them that they were to tell no one who He was. It flies in the face of modern marketing; we imagine that it is necessary to promote the church, to promote the spokesmen of God, to promote the activities of the congregation, if anything significant is to happen. We are taught that we have to generate enthusiasm and excite people with the promise of spectacular events. Jesus, however, operated on the premise that He would draw men to Himself. When He walked among us in the flesh, He drew men to the message He declared. After His crucifixion and resurrection, He draws men through the revelation of who He is as the Word He has given is declared.

If the disciples had been startled by His command to be silent concerning His identity, He surely stunned them when He informed them, “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 9:22]. Jesus had just informed His disciples that He was the promised Messiah, following that by telling them that He would be rejected by the religious elite of the land before being murdered! However, they needed to know that He would not stay dead. The revelation must surely have been too much to take in; these men must have stood there with their mouths agape!

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