THE HEAVY COST OF DISCIPLESHIP PALES IN CONTRAST TO THE MIGHTY DISPLAY OF POWER IN THE COMING KINGDOM OF GOD
The disciples of Jesus now understand His Messianic identity as the Christ. They have been introduced to His Mission of suffering and rejection and death and resurrection. They have been challenged to embrace the heavy cost of discipleship. They have even been graciously given some fundamental reasons to align themselves with Jesus Christ and Renounce Self, Take up their Cross and Follow the Master. The final accounting at the Second Coming is put before them: The Son of Man will come “in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” But after hearing what to their ears would have amounted to a very difficult challenge (a far cry from the type of kingdom experience they have been anticipating in the short term), they needed words of reassurance to give them courage and boldness in facing anticipated suffering and persecution.
Look at how the words of reassurance directly correspond in chiastic structure to the revelation that has just been communicated:
A1. (8:27-30) Clarity Regarding the Person of Jesus Christ
B1 (8:31-33) Clarity Regarding the Mission of Jesus Christ
C. (8:34-38) Challenge Regarding the Heavy Cost of Discipleship –
Allegiance to His Person and Mission
B2 (9:1) Reassurance Regarding the Mission of Jesus Christ
A2 (9:2-13) Reassurance Regarding the Person of Jesus Christ
Remember that the chapter and verse divisions were added at a later point in time — not part of the original inspired scripture. While very helpful, they are not always positioned at the best point – such is the case with 9:1. It really is tied more directly to what precedes. The disciples have been challenged to follow the way of the cross which will lead to suffering for all true disciples and violent and painful death from persecution for many of the Apostles standing before Jesus. How can they take courage and act boldly moving forward – knowing that they may soon “taste death” because of their allegiance to Jesus Christ?
Remember also the concept of “Already and Not Yet” (sermon by Joseph Greer – first time I have borrowed from him). We need to know that there is a sense in which we already are living under the dominion of Jesus Christ in the kingdom of God; while there yet remains a future aspect to the kingdom that has yet to be realized. This dual nature of “Already and Not Yet” must be maintained. Very important text … but very enigmatic . . . very difficult to interpret . . . many good scholars with a wide range of interpretations – can’t be dogmatic here . . . but the application is clear.
Sproul: this text is used frequently by skeptics and by higher critical scholars in the academic world to deny the credibility of Jesus and of the New Testament. When Bertrand Russell wrote his essay “Why I Am Not a Christian,” he cited this text as his number one argument for not believing in Jesus.
I. EXPOSITION – THE MISSION OF JESUS CHRIST WILL RESULT IN HIS VICTORIOUS DOMINION BY THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
“And He was saying to them, “Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who shall not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power.”
Remember the 4 elements of the Mission of Jesus Christ:
His suffering, rejection, death, resurrection
This passage looks forward to what will happen after those events have transpired.
A. Importance and Certainty of the Prophetic Word
1. “And He was saying to them” –
Greer: Splices this verse with preceding discourse yet makes it stand out on its own by introductory phrase
Jesus still speaking to the multitude here … not just His immediate disciples
2. “Truly [Amen] I say to you” –
This well-known formula occurs 13 times in St Mark, 31 times in St Matthew , 7 times in St Luke, 25 times in St John.
Greer: what follows will happen; Mark 3:28-29; it is a certainty; Mark 8:12
Enigmatic statement follows – mysterious; have a prophetic ring to them – fulfillment is coming;
MacArthur: a solemn statement appearing only in the gospels, and always spoken by Jesus. It introduces topics of utmost significance.
B. Additional Observations
Hiebert: “taste death” – a Hebrew idiom for physical death. The figure regards death as a bitter poison which all, sooner or later, must taste. . . having come (perfect participle), hence present
Dale Crawford: “the gospel of the kingdom” — Luke 8:1 – kingdom of God was the heart of the gospel message that Jesus preached; Matt. 4:23; Kingdom at the very heart of the parables – particularly in Gospel of Matt. – 13:24; etc. Wants us to understand the nature of this kingdom; important aspect also of preaching of apostles; Acts 28:23; 30-31
C. Possible Interpretations: Have to look at both what Jesus meant and what He didn’t or couldn’t have meant; what He said and what He didn’t say
1. The Second Coming of Jesus Christ
If there were no problems with this view, it would be the logical connection to 8:38 that clearly speaks of the Second Coming.
However, the timeframe indicated by the word “until” makes it impossible to hold to inerrancy of Scripture and truthfulness of Jesus Christ and still take this view. That will certainly be the ultimate display of the power of the coming Kingdom of God … but that cannot be the mighty “Boom Goes the Dynamite” that is in view in this context. Context is everything.
2. The Transfiguration
This view is very attractive and probably the most popular among theologians in our circles. Certainly the chapter and verse division show that it has been customary to see a close connection between vs. 1 and what follows in each of the Synoptic Gospels = the account of the Transfiguration.
– Timeframe does not seem to make sense – after just 6 days – how could there even have been the possibility of anyone dying in the short intervening week? Yet the timeframe seems to be an important part of the prophecy given – why would Jesus narrow the focus down to “Some of you” when in reality all of them will not have tasted death …
– The Transfiguration seems to be more about the display of glory and majesty of the preeminence of the Person of Jesus Christ then it has to do with the manifest display of the Power of the kingdom of God (but 2 Pet. 1:16-17 “eyewitnesses of His majesty”)
– This interpretation does not tie as directly to the Mission of Jesus Christ and what He was charging His disciples to undertake as reflected in the Great Commission of Matt. 28.
3. Jesus’ Resurrection and Ascension
These are important for what they make possible … but not the ultimate interpretation. Certainly there could be no Ascension back up into heaven until after the victory and power demonstrated in the Resurrection. Certainly the Resurrection and Ascension make possible the Exaltation of Jesus to the right hand of God the Father and ultimately the sending of the Holy Spirit.
While this view looks too close to the events right at hand … the next view I think looks too far into the future
4. The Destruction of Jerusalem by Rome in 70 AD
This interpretation looks the farthest into the future that is possible while maintaining the timeframe limit of restricting the view to something that is experienced by the immediate generation to whom Christ was speaking. There would have been many of the Apostles who would have been martyred by this point in time; at the same time there would have been a few (certainly John who lived to about 100 AD) who still would have been alive to see this dramatic and climactic end to the temple worship in Jerusalem. By this point it was clear that the Old Covenant had given way to the New Covenant. Yet I think this is too specific a reference to an event that had more to do with earthly kingdoms than with the struggle between the two kingdoms that are really in view here: the kingdom of Satan and the kingdom of God as depicted in 8:33 – are you following the interests of God or the interests of Satan? Everyone is either in one or the other of these 2 radically opposed kingdoms.
Sproul: When these terrible events occurred in AD 70, the Christian church was finally understood as an entity distinct from Judaism. It was no longer considered a subset or a sect within Judaism. The triumph of the Messiah’s church was made visible and manifest in power with the judgment of God on the Jews. And some of those who were present when Jesus prophesied the manifestation of the power of the kingdom did, in fact, die between His announcement and the coming of the kingdom in power in 70.
The key to the passage (and remember I cannot be dogmatic here) is the connection between the manifestation of power and the agency of the Holy Spirit. That is why the coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost and the subsequent activity of the Holy Spirit in the spread of the gospel in the early church seems to be the correct view to me.
5. The Powerful Coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and Spreading Dominion of Christ in the Church
You can see that those from the Amillennial persuasion might be more disposed to adopt this view or the previous one regarding the destruction of Jerusalem. But that doesn’t mean that those who believe God still has a millennial kingdom of 1000 years in view for the future can’t still hold to this view as well. This is part of that “Already and Not Yet” perspective we discussed earlier. Not a postmil perspective that the gospel is going to conquer the world – yet where the gospel is effective it proves to be the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes (Rom. 1:16)
Greer: “after it has come and been established in power” – not speaking of a one-time thing but the presence of the kingdom after it is established; something permanent; you will see it;
William Barclay: At the moment Jesus had only once been outside Palestine, and on that occasion he was just over the border in Tyre and Sidon. Only a very few men in a very small country had ever heard of him. Palestine was only about 120 miles from north to south and about 40 miles from east to west; her total population was 4,000,000 or thereby. To speak in terms of world conquest when he had scarcely ever been outside such a small country was strange. To make matters worse, even in that small country, he had so provoked the enmity of the orthodox leaders and of those in whose hands lay power, that it was quite certain that he could hope for nothing other than death as a heretic and an outlaw. In face of a situation like that there must have been many who felt despairingly that Christianity had no possible future, that in a short time it would be wiped out completely and eliminated from the world. Humanly speaking, these pessimists were right.
Now consider what did happen. Scarcely more than thirty years later, Christianity had swept through Asia Minor; Antioch had become a great Christian church. It had penetrated to Egypt; the Christians were strong in Alexandria. It had crossed the sea and come to Rome and swept through Greece. Christianity had spread like an unstoppable tide throughout the world. It was astonishingly true that in the lifetime of many there, against all expectations, Christianity had come with power. So far from being mistaken, Jesus was absolutely right.
Hendriksen: Here in 8:38; 9:1 Jesus regards the entire state of exaltation, from his resurrection to his second coming, as a unit. In 8:38 he refers to its final consummation; here in 9:1 to its beginning. . . Momentous events would occur: the becoming “of age” of the church, its extension among the Gentiles, the conversion of people by the thousands, the presence and exercise of many charismatic gifts, etc.
Usage of “power” (dunamis):
1) OT Background:
1 Chr. 29:10-13 “Both riches and honor come from Thee, and Thou dost rule over all, and in Thy hand is power and might; and it lies in Thy hand to make great, and to strengthen everyone.”
David in awe at the sacrificial response of the people in giving offerings for the construction of the temple
2 Chr. 20:6 “and he said, ‘O LORD, the God of our fathers, art Thou not God in the heavens? And art Thou not ruler over all the kingdoms of the nations? Power and might are in Thy hand so that no one can stand against Thee.’” Moab invading Judah; King Jehoshaphat turning in prayer to God to seek help
Ps. 62:11 “Once God has spoken; Twice I have heard this: That power belongs to God;”
Dan. 2:20 “Daniel answered and said, “Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever, For wisdom and power belong to Him.” Power of God often associated with wisdom and with Truth
2) Anticipation of the Sending of the Holy Spirit
John 7:39 “the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified”
John 14:12 “he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do because I go to the Father”
Vs. 16 – “He will give you another Helper”
John 16:7 “It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you”
Not some little helper but a mighty helper like the one who could turn back the armies of Moab in the days of King Jehoshaphat
Lk. 24:49 “And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”
Acts 1:8 “but you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”
3) Demonstration of the Power of the Holy Spirit
Day of Pentecost – Acts 2 – vs. 41 – “that day there were added about three thousand souls”
Not inflated numbers; not false conversions; genuine new believers
Acts 4:33 “And with great power the apostles were giving witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all.”
1 Cor. 4:20 “For the kingdom of God does not consist in words, but in power.”
II. APPLICATION: ARE WE FOLLOWING JESUS IN A WAY THAT IS CONSISTENT WITH OUR IDENTITY AND OUR MISSION?
A. Who Are We?
1. Disciples of Jesus Christ
– Our Identity does not come from our Ancestry
– Our Identity does not come from our Job
– Our Identity does not come from our Possessions
– Our Identity does not come from our Accomplishments
Are we continually learning at the feet of the Master?
Are we doers of the Word and not Hearers only?
Are we making our boast in our Lord Jesus or ashamed of Him?
2. Indwelt by the Holy Spirit of Power
Surrounded by Christians who are in denial about the power that resides within each of us
– We feel we lack power over whatever sins are our specialty
– We feel we lack power to witness effectively
– We feel we lack power to effectively use our spiritual gift
2 Cor. 4:7 “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves;”
Eph. 1:19 “and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might”
Col. 1:29 “And for this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.”
2 Tim. 1:7 “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.”
We need a power revival – don’t surrender the reality of Holy Spirit power to the domain of the charismatics – we criticize them from a theological standpoint – saying they put too much emphasis on emotions and experience … but we could be criticized on the other side of the spectrum for not fully embracing the power of the Holy Spirit
Christian life is all about balance in our perspectives
Live by the Power of the Holy Spirit
Right now is the age of Holy Spirit power – we don’t have to look for power to come to us in the future; we have the Holy Spirit indwelling us right now
B. What is Our Mission?
1. Fulfill the Great Commission = Making Disciples on a Worldwide Basis
Sense of Mission – Matt. 28; Acts 1
Witness Boldly in Anticipation of Victorious Results
Rom. 1:16 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”
Maximize the Use of My Spiritual Gift for Ministry in the Context of the Body of Christ
Every member is important and plays a key role – Importance of the local church
1 Cor. 12
Can’t get distracted
Can’t serve two masters
Must seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness
2. Embrace the Heavy Cost of Discipleship Without Reservation
Rom. 8:18 “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”
– Renounce self
– Take up our cross daily
– Follow after Jesus