July 17, 2103
Dear brothers and sisters,
I am taking the good news today from Luke 9:26-27.
“Whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. Truly I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.”
These verses come right after Peter stated that he believed Jesus was the Messiah. Jesus responded with the prediction of his suffering and death and statement that whoever wished to follow him must take up his cross daily. What follows the verses above is the transfiguration wherein God announced, “This is my chosen son; listen to him.”
Clearly, Jesus was warning his disciples that discipleship was arduous and dangerous. However, he cautioned them that there was something worse. The English Oxford Dictionary defines ashamed as “disconcerted by a recognition that one’s actions or circumstances are in any way not to one’s credit.” It defines shames as “the painful emotion arising from the consciousness of something dishonouring…in one’s own conduct (or in those of others whose honour or disgrace one regards as one’s own).
Jesus made it abundantly clear to his disciples repeatedly that to be a disciple was to imitate him, to be an instrument of his teachings, to be true to his word. They were to cloak themselves with his identity, to conform their conduct with his. To knowingly act otherwise was to discredit him. Consequently, he would not recognize them as his disciples when he returned in glory after his resurrection. He would be painfully disappointed that they had subverted the kingdom of God, the will of God, the word of God.
That makes sense to me. Jesus was entrusting them with a tremendous responsibility to continue to preach the good news after his death and to work to bring about the kingdom of God on earth. They needed to know the consequences of following him; they needed to commit.
But what about the second verse? Luke was writing his gospel well after Jesus died, anywhere from 50 to 80 years later according to scholars. Jerusalem and the Temple had been utterly destroyed by the Romans. The Christians or Christian Jews were no longer expecting the imminent return of Jesus. So, it doesn’t seem to me that Jesus would tell them that he would be returning before some of them had died. Why would Luke do that and undermine his own credibility and Jesus’ prediction?
It could be that those who acted in any way to discredit him, to belie his teachings would be denied death. They would be forced to endure unending suffering, the pains of old age, the loss of all those dear to them. That is until they saw the kingdom of God, until they came to a faithful pursuit of the kingdom in their daily behaviors. In other words, by taking up their crosses and following him, by shedding their shame and proclaiming the good news. I think in this way Jesus was underscoring his dire warning to his disciples.
And for me? He wants me to proudly proclaim his word, my faith in his life and resurrection. But mainly he wants me to be true to his teachings, to live my life in accord with them. He wants me to see the kingdom of God in that way, to be part of it now. He doesn’t want to be ashamed of me, to be disappointed in my faithlessness when he comes in his glory. That would pain him. He’s here with me now every day to encourage me to be faithful, to be his instrument. At least that’s the sense of these verses for me.