The mission of the Messiah, 1:5-9:50

6. The nature of the Messiah's kingdom, 9:1-50

iii] Meaning of Peter's confession


Jesus, while in a private place, asks his disciples if they know who he really is, not just who the crowds think he is, but who they think he is. Peter replies on behalf of the disciples that he believes that Jesus is the messiah. Jesus then speaks to his disciples about the nature of cross-bearing discipleship.


The wilderness journey of the people of Israel was a way of suffering and death. So Christ, the Israel of God, must similarly suffer, and we must stand with him in this journey.


i] Context: See 9:1-9. The meaning of Peter's confession is the third episode of The nature of the Messiah's kingdom, 9:1 to 9:50. The imagery of the opening episodes takes us back to the Exodus story. As Moses is sent to call the people of Israel out of Egypt, so Jesus sends out his apostles to call out a people for God, 9:1-9. As God fed Israel in the wilderness, so Christ feeds the five thousand, 9:10-17. As the wilderness is the way of suffering, so Christ must suffer, 9:18-27.


ii] Structure: This passage, The meaning of Peter's confession, presents as follows:

A question / answer, v18-19;

Peter's confession, v20;

The messianic secret, v21;

Jesus' 1st. prediction of his death, v22;

"the Son of Man must suffer ......"

Sayings on cross-bearing discipleship, v23-26:

"whoever wants to be my disciple ......"

"whoever wants to save their life ....."

"what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world ....."

"whoever is ashamed of me and my words ......"

Prophetic saying, v27:

"some who are standing here will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God."


iii] Interpretation:

Cross-bearing discipleship: Jesus' linkage of his suffering-servant role with cross-bearing discipleship is quite fascinating. Both Mark and Luke constantly note this link. Whenever Jesus speaks of his suffering he goes on to speak about discipleship. The literal application of Jesus' discipleship demands is next to impossible (although Francis did give it a go!). Commentators either record the impossible and hope that no one ever asks them to live it out, or get into reductionism and end up with a pale imitation of servanthood. So, how do we handle our Lord's call to cross-bearing discipleship?

It is more than likely that Jesus' is speaking of discipleship in the terms of identification / union with him, the glorious, but suffering, messiah. Jesus' words are a visual expression of faith, a saying No to oneself, with regard eternal verities, and a Yes to Christ. The form of Jesus' words, namely, sacrificial service / cross-bearing, are idealistic / utopian in their demands. This form is similar to Jesus' utopian ethic, an ethic which exceeds that of the Scribes and the Pharisees. Jesus' exposition of the perfect law serves to undermine any reliance on self-righteousness and thus force a dependence on God for salvation. Similarly, Jesus' demand for sacrificial service similarly forces a dependence on the suffering servant and his sacrificial service on our behalf. By identification with Christ's cross-bearing, not only do we find cariV, "a grace" of divine approval, a righteousness in Christ apart from ourselves, but we also find in him cariV, "a grace" for kingdom service which no power of darkness can subdue. In our own power we will fail; in Christ, the powers of darkness will flee, cf. 9:37-45. So, we rest on his denial of self, on his cross-carrying, on his sacrifice of life. We take up his cross, his light load, and follow him, v23; we lose our life in him and so save it, v24.


"Some who are standing here will not taste of death before they see the kingdom of God", v27. Given that the kingdom of God is already realized / inaugurated in the ministry and person of Jesus, what is it that some of the disciples will see? Will some see its manifestation in the transfiguration? Certainly, the context pushes in this direction. Will some see it powerfully manifested in Christ's death, resurrection and ascension, or even in the coming of the Holy Spirit (Judas being the one who misses out)? Have we here an example of Jesus (or the apostles! cf. John 21) getting it wrong (he/they thought he/Christ would return in the lifetime of some of the disciples)? Is this a reference to the kingdom's manifestation in judgement? There have been many such "comings" of kingdom power, in the sense of God's reign/judgment, and so here the reference could be to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD.

It is interesting to note how Luke leaves out Mark's concluding phrase "having come with/in power." Ellis suggests it is not a significant omission, since for Luke, the kingdom always comes in power. Yet, this may well be the point of the exercise, Luke doesn't want us to think in terms of the kingdom's powerful coming. Bock, reflecting on Ellis' study Eschatology in Luke, notes that the disciples' seeing means much the same as believing. Jesus is simply saying that "some" with him at this moment in time will see the present manifestation of the kingdom of God in Jesus the messiah, will enter through faith, and as a consequence, will experience the kingdom ie. witness the manifestations of its present reality, eg. the transfiguration, signs and wonders, etc.. Unlike those who are ashamed of Christ's teachings, there are some who will rely wholly on the truth of the cross and empty grave. They will enter the kingdom and taste something of its glory long before they die. Those who are ashamed must wait till their death before they "see" and experience (in a negative way!) that terrible day. So, as Marshall notes, "a saying of Jesus about the coming of the kingdom (the realization of the kingdom in the ministry of Jesus) has been misinterpreted in apocalyptic terms from the time of the early church down to the present day."


iv] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

Text - 9:18

Peter's recognition of Christ and its consequences, v18-27: i] Question / answer, v18-19. Unlike Matthew and Mark, Luke doesn't locate this episode at Caesarea Philippi. Obviously he wants to link the story to the feeding of the 5,000. Jesus' question of the disciples seeks to draw out their understanding of his person. The crowds have their opinions, but what do the disciples believe?

egeneto "once" - it came about, it happened. Used with kai to introduce a new episode.

en tw/ einai proseucomenon (proseucomai) pres. part. "when Jesus was praying" - while/during he is praying [alone]. The infinitive of the verb "to be" with the participle forms a paraphrastic present construction, possibly emphasizing durative aspect. The infinitive is articular and led by the preposition en forms a temporal clause, "while/when", as NIV. The subject, "Jesus", auton, "he", serves as the accusative subject of the infinitive. "While Jesus was praying."

kata monaV prep + acc. "alone" - according to alone. Idiomatic construction; "by himself", "alone", BAGD.

sunhsan (suneimi) imperf + dat. "were with" - Used of being with someone or something, or sometimes of movement together with someone or something. Jesus has moved away from the frenzied feeding of the 5,000 and is now with his disciples, but apart, praying by himself.

autw/ dat. pro. "him" - dative of direct object after a sun prefix verb.

legwn (legw) pres. part. "[he asked them]" - [he asked them] saying. Attendant circumstance participle, redundant / Aramaic idiom.

ecloi (oV) "crowds" - Mark has "people" and for meaning we could use the word "people" instead of "crowds". The plural "crowds" indicates that Jesus is not just asking for the opinion of the crowd which witnessed the miraculous feeding.

ei\nai inf. "[Who do the crowds say] I am?" - [whom the crowds say me] to be. The infinitive, with its accusative subject, me, "me / I", forms an object clause / dependent statement of indirect speech expressing what people are legousin, "saying" = "asking". They are asking "who is he? / what is he?" Marshal argues that they are asking "what role does he fulfill", rather than wanting to know who he is. "In the opinion of the people we have ministered to in the last year or so, who do they say I am? / what role do they say I am performing?"


de "-" - but, and. Coordinative, "and".

oiJ "they" - Subject, as NIV.

apokriqenteV (apokrinomai) aor. pas. part. "replied" - having answered [he said]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "they said", semi-redundant Semitism.

"Some say [John the Baptist]" - Gk. short-talk / ellipsis; "some say you to be John the Baptist = some say that you are John the Baptist (ie. an assumed recitative infinitive ei\nai) ..... alloi others say that you are ......"

alloi de "[Some say ....] others say ..... and still others ....." - but others ........ and others ....... The grammar may imply that the majority say John the Baptist, but some others say ....

oJti "that" - that. Introducing a dependent statement, indirect speech, expressing what the others say, legousin, "say", is again implied.

twn arcaiwn gen. adj. "[one of the prophets] of long ago [has come back to life]" - [a certain prophet] of the ancients [rose again]. The adjective serves as a substantive, while the genitive is probably ablative, expressing source/origin; "from of old." Mark has "one of the prophets." There is some truth in the fact that Christ is a Baptist, Elijah and Prophet type, but the question is, do the disciples see beyond this limited understanding of Christ's person.


ii] Peter's confession, v20: Peter, speaking on behalf of the disciples, states that Jesus is the messiah; the Son of Man is the long-promised savior of God's people.

uJmeiV de "but what about you?" - but you. Emphatic

autoiV dat. pro"he asked" - [he said] to them. The dative of indirect object.

ei\nai pres. inf. "[who do you say] I am" - [whom do you say me] to be. The infinitive forms an object clause / dependent statement of inderect speech, see v18; "whom do you say that I am?"

aporkiqeiV (apokrinomai) "answered" - As in v19.

ton criston "the Christ" - Mark simply has "Christ". "God's messiah", God's davidic deliverer, but as we will see, Christ's messianic credentials are defined by the prophet Isaiah. That is, Christ's messiahship is expressed more as a suffering servant than a king. It is this function of Jesus' messiahship that Peter has yet to understand.

tou qeou (oV) "of God" - The genitive is ablative, expressing source / origin; "from God."


iii] The messianic secret, v21. Numerous reasons are given for the "messianic secret", the most common being the necessity to limit popular messianic expectations and what would be an inevitable reaction from the authorities. Added to this is the likelihood that Jesus refrains from open disclosure so as to draw out the genuine seeker, those with eyes to see (a similar function operates with kingdom parables). The synoptic gospels, as a whole, retain the nature of a riddle such that we are very much dependent on the apostle Paul to exegete the message for us. Only those who recognize Jesus as messiah have the right to know the secret that he is the suffering servant, the benefits of whose sacrificial death may be appropriated through faith.

de "-" - but, and. Here coordinative, so not translated.

oJ "Jesus" - he. Subject.

epitimhsaV (epitimaw) aor. part. "[strictly] warned" - having warned/warning [he gave orders/ordered]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the main verb "gave orders", so, "gave orders and warned" = "he forbid [them] strictly", Moffatt. Jesus is not rebuking his disciples, but giving them strict orders not to tell anyone that he is the suffering servant. "He gave them strict orders", NEB.

autoiV dat. pro. "them" - to them. dative of direct object after the verb parhggeilen, "commanded, ordered".

legein (legw) pres. inf. "[not] to tell" - The infinitive forms a dependent statement of indirect speech expressing what Jesus commanded his disciples. Mark uses a hina clause - a small piece of evidence indicating that both Luke and Mark may be working off a common oral tradition.

touto "this" - What is the "this" that the disciples must not "tell"? Is it Christ's claim to messiahship, or more particularly, the suffering servant nature of his messiahship? Jesus is often less than frank about his messiahship and its atoning work.

mhdeni dat. adj. "to anyone" - to no one. Dative of indirect object.


iv] The Son of Man must suffer, v22: Jesus goes on to tell his disciples that he must suffer, die, "and on the third day be raised." Jesus, representing God's people, must travel the way of judgement, suffering and death - he is the suffering servant of Israel, cf. Isaiah 53. The way of the cross is similar to the way of the wilderness. In the wilderness the people of Israel rebelled against God and so died in the desert. The suffering servant must also make his wilderness journey, but unlike Israel of old, he will not fail the test. And so it is that God's people, in hand with Christ, are enabled to enter the promised land.

eipwn (oJraw) aor. part. "and he said" - saying. The participle is probably adverbial, modal, expressing the manner of the action in v21; "he charged and commanded them saying."

oJti - that. Introducing a dependent statement of direct speech which serves to expand on the warning not to speak about the suffering-servant and the nature of his messiahship.

tou anqrwpou (oV) gen. "the Son of Man" - The genitive is adjectival, relational, limiting "Son". Jesus happily uses this messianic title with the crowds. Jesus is Daniel's Son of Man, the one who possesses divine authority to reign. Yet, although a classic messianic title, in that it is Davidic in nature, it is also not easily recognized as messianic. For those without eyes to see Jesus is just "the man", a special man, but not necessarily the messiah. The special information for the disciples is not that Jesus is "the Son of Man" ("the Christ"), this much they know, but that he "must suffer."

dei pres. "must" - it is necessary. Divine necessity is often implied when this word is used in the gospels.

paqein (pascw) aor. inf. "suffer" - to suffer. The infinitive functions as the subject of the verb dei, "is necessary", along with the other infinitives, "to be rejected", "to be killed" and "to be raised"; "to suffer ..... is necessary for the Son of Man." The focus is necessarily on the cross, but includes the wider rejection of Christ's ministry.

polla (polluV) neut. adj. "many things" - much, many. May be rendered as an adverb, "greatly".

apodokimasqhnai (apodokimazw) aor. pas. inf. "be rejected" - to be rejected/repudiated. As above, the infinitive functions as the subject of the sentence; "to suffer and be rejected is necessary ...."

apo + gen. "by" - from. An example of the rare usage of this preposition to express agency, "by" (often with a passive verb, so Culy), instead of the more common preposition expressing agency, namely, uJpo; "at/by the hands of." The list of those who do the rejecting covers the members of the Sanhedrin.

th/ trith/ hJmera/ "on the third day" - The dative is adverbial, of time. A more accurate statement than Mark's "after three days."

egerqhnai (egairw) pas. inf. "be raised to life" - to be raised. The infinitive, as above. The passive indicates the divine act of raising (a theological passive). The authorities may condemn, but God vindicates his chosen one.


v] A condition of discipleship - to gain life a disciple must give away their life to Christ, v23-26: Jesus calls on his disciples to follow him into the wilderness. The disciples are, as it were, to leave Egypt, its security and plenty, and join with Jesus on the dusty road to the promised land. Jesus calls on us to take up the cross, in the sense of give allegiance to him and his journey of shame. This image of cross-bearing powerfully illustrates allegiance to Christ. It certainly encourages dedicated discipleship, but above all it is a call to identification with Christ, a call to allegiance. Only Christ's self-denial has any eternal value, ours is flawed, compromised, "filthy rags." Are we willing to accept the shame of following a crucified messiah? The promise land is ours, or better we say, eternal life is ours through faith in Christ, the rejected and suffering one.

a) A saying on cross-bearing, v23. The gospel tradition has coalesced a set of independent sayings of Jesus under a common theme. These sayings were probably used originally in a range of different settings. Some of the sayings are repeated in the gospels in isolation, eg. 14:27, 17:33, ... Luke has shaped this collection of independent sayings and has rounded them off with a punch-line saying in v27.

elegon (legw) imperf. "he said" - he was saying. The imperfect is durative, often used for speech.

pantaV "them all" - all. The "all" is probably the disciples, given the context. Mark has Jesus including the crowd with the disciples for these words, but Luke does not mention the crowd, further implying that, in his opinion, these are words for disciples, not crowds.

ei tiV + ind. "if anyone [would] / whoever [wants]" - if anyone [wills, wants, wishes]. Introducing a relative conditional clause 1st. class where the stated condition is assumed to be true; "if, as is the case, ..... then ....." The NIV "would" is a bit weak, the NRSV "if any want" is closer to the Greek and conveys a more decisive desire to follow.

ercesqai (ercomai) pres. inf. "come [after me] / to be [my disciple]" - to come/go [after me]. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb qelei, "wills, wishes". The sense is "if anyone wants to be my disciple", as TNIV.

arnhsasqw (arneomai) aor. imp. "he must deny" - let him deny [himself]. Usually understood to mean self-denial, setting aside the enjoyment of life for the greater cause of following Christ. Yet, it more likely expresses the setting aside of self-reliance, as far as right-standing in the sight of God is concerned, for reliance on a crucified messiah. Constantine Campbell in his work on Verbal Aspect argues that an aorist imperative denotes "a specific agent performing an action within a specific situation", see Culy 311. The verbs "must deny" and "take up" are aorists while "follow me" is a durative present. The aspect chosen for these verbs supports the idea that denying self and taking up one's cross represents an act of decision, while following Christ represents a daily living out of that decision. The decision of denying self involves placing one's faith in the lowly crucified one, rather than one's own self-sacrifice. "He must once and for all say No to himself", Barclay.

aratw (airw) aor. imp. "take up" - let him lift up [his cross]. Usually understood to mean associating with the sufferings of Christ through self-denial, even to a willing acceptance of persecution. Yet, it it is more likely to mean that the one who wills to follow Christ must, as Paul puts it, die to self and sin by identification with Christ in his sufferings on our behalf, ie. it is a symbol of allegiance rather than self-denial / self-sacrifice.

kaq (kata) + acc. "daily" - according [to the day]. Distributive; "day by day / day after day." Luke's addition of the phrase "day by day" to Marks' "take up their (his) cross", does not sit well with the punctiliar aorist "take up." It may be a positional issue such that "day by day" is intended to go with "follow me", but it is more likely that this phrase, commonly used by Luke, is not original here, so Turner, contra Metzger; it is omitted from a number of important manuscripts.

akolouqeitw (akolouqew) pres. imp. "follow" - Unlike the other imperatives in this verse, being aorist, this imperative takes a durative present tense expressing ongoing action.

moi dat. pro. "me" - dative of direct object after the verb "follow".


b) A saying on saving one's life, v24. The person who saves their life stands opposed to the person who takes up their cross. The person who takes up their cross is one who trusts in the suffering servant's redemptive work. This is the one who loses their life in their loyalty to the person and work of Jesus, and as a consequence, gains life eternal. The loss of their life entails the setting aside of any claim to righteousness on the basis of race, religious pedigree, or law-obedience. "The one who trusts God, who gives life and saves through death, gains for his life freedom and eternity", Grundmann.

gar "for" - Expressing cause/reason; introducing a causal clause explaining why it is important to apply the above imperatives.

o}V an + subj. "whoever" - who if. This verse contains two indefinite relative conditional clauses, 3rd. class, where the condition has the possibility of becoming true; "whosoever, as may be the case, ..... then ....."

qelh/ (qelw) pres. "would" - wishes, wills... Here an intent backed up with action. If I think that I can gain eternity on the basis of my own goodness etc., then I am lost. On the other hand, if I abandon any dependence on my own self-righteousness and look to the righteousness of the crucified one, then I will find life eternal.

swsai (swzw) aor. inf. "to save" - save, preserve, keep.... The infinitive may be classified as complementary, completing the sense of the verb "would", or as introducing an object clause / dependent statement of perception expressing what the person "wants".

autou gen. pro. "his" - The genitive is adjectival, possessive.

yuchn (h) acc. "life" - The Greeks used the word for the "soul", the spiritual element that separates from the body at death. The Jews had no such idea and used the word of a person's life force, their breath, their being as a God-breathed creation with the potential for immortality. The word "life" today carries the sense of mere existence, but this is not the intended sense here. "Soul" may express the word better, but in common thought "soul" is understood in Platonic terms which inevitably works against the Biblical notion of our being as a unified whole. Something like "eternal self" may express the intended sense better; "your true self", Peterson.

apolesei (apollumi) fut. "will lose [it]" - will destroy/lose.

eneken + gen. "for [me]" - because of, for the sake of / on account of [me]. Causal. Definitely not "for the benefit of me", but rather "for my sake", ie. because of loyalty to me.


c) A saying on the vanity of gaining the whole world, v25. Understandably commentators have generally understood these words in terms of the gaining of riches. On the surface, at least, v25 does seem to reinforce the interpretation that cross-bearing is all about self-denial. "Looking to one's own well-being and security in the world turns out not to be so important after all. Jesus' call to self-denial leads to life; the accumulation of the good things of this world cannot secure us against its loss", Nolland. Interestingly, Luke drops Mark 8:37, "for what can a person give in return for their life", and moves directly to "if anyone is ashamed .......", again with the connective gar, "for". So Luke has actually reduced the possibility of a literal interpretation in order to encourage a figurative interpretation. The next saying brings out this figurative meaning. Gaining the world is all about affirming our own self-righteousness through race, religious purity and law-obedience, rather than accepting the shame of following a crucified messiah.

gar"-" - for. Here connective, rather than causal; serving as a stitching device - tying one saying to another.

wfeleitai (wfelw) pres. pas. "[what] good" - [for what] profits/benifits. "In what respect is a person benefited". The words illustrate a profit loss situation.

kerdhsaV (kerdainw) act. part. "to gain" - having gained [the whole world]. The participle, as with "having lost" and "having forfeited", is adverbial, modifying "profits", probably conditional, "if he gain."

de "and yet" - Adversive; "but".

eJauton ... apolesaV (apollumi) act. part. "lose [or forfeit] his very self" - himself having lost. The participle is adverbial as above, ie. conditional. "Having lost/ruined himself."

h zhmiwqeiV (zhmiow) pas/mid. part. "or forfeit" - or having forfeited. The participle as above; "or be punished/destroyed/judged/lose everything...."


d) A saying on the consequences of being ashamed of Christ and his words, v26. What we have here is an unidentified pressure which prompts shame and so causes the person to shrink from their reliance on the teachings of Jesus, and as a consequence, they disown him. If we are embarrassed to rest on the rejected suffering servant for our salvation, then when he comes in his glory, he will be embarrassed with us and have nothing to do with us.

gar "-" - for. Again serving as a connective, so not translated, as NIV

o}V ... an "if" - Introducing an indefinite relative conditional clause, 3rd class, where the condition has the possibility of being realized; "whosoever, as may be the case, ..... then ......"

epaiscunqh/ (episcunomai) sub. "is ashamed" - A sense of shame or disgrace.

touV emouV logouV "of my words" - "Of my teachings."

tou anqrwpou (oV) gen. "[the Son] of man" - The genitive is adjectival, relational.

touton acc. pro. "[will be ashamed] of him" - this one [the son of man will be ashamed of]. Emphatic by position.

oJtan + aor. subj. "when he comes" - This construction forms an indefinite temporal clause, with the aorist subjunctive, as here, often used to express a singular event, so "when", as NIV, rather than "whenever". A reference to the coming Son of Man, Dan.7:13, the one who comes with his angels into the presence of the Ancient of Days, to receive dominion and power -rule. He is the one we must stand before on that dreadful day. Note that the "coming", assuming that this is an allusion to Daniel 7:13, is a coming into heaven, and not a coming to earth. In Daniel's perspective, the angels (messengers) are the saints, believers, who come with the Son of Man into the throne room of the Ancient of Days - a reality which, for us, is both now and not yet.

en th/ doxh/ (a) "in the glory" - This prepositional phrase is probably adverbial, modal, expressing manner; "surrounded by, clothed In glory." In Mark, glory belongs to the Father, but here it belongs to the Son as well as the Father and also to the angels, all of whom add to the glory associated with Jesus' coming.


iv] A saying on the coming kingdom, v27: See "Interpretation" above.

de - but. Adversive, ie. those who are ashamed are now contrasted with the faithful.

legw .. uJmin alhqwV "I tell you the truth" - I say truly to you. The dative uJmin is a dative of indirect object. This phrase serves to underline the following statement.

twn ... esthkotwn (iJsthmi) gen. perf. part. "[some] who are standing here" - [some] of the ones having stood [here]. The participle functions as a substantive, the genitive is adjectival, partitive, limiting "some". The verb is used in the sense of the disciples' presence with Jesus. "I tell you honestly, some of you who are present here with me today ..." The implication is that not all "see" the kingdom of God.

autou gen. pro. "here" - The pronoun is being used here as an adverb of place. We would expect w|de and in some manuscripts scribes have made the adjustment.

ou mh + subj. "not" - never, not in any way, by no means, certainly not. A subjunctive of emphatic negation.

gouswntai (gouomai) aor. sub. " will [not] taste" - taste. Used in the sense of "experience".

qanatou (oV) gen. "death" - of death. A genitive of direct object after the verb "will [not] taste" / adjectival, partitive. Some of those presently with Jesus will "see" the kingdom "before" they die.

eJwV an + subj. "before they see" - until/before they see. This construction forms an indefinite temporal clause expressing future time in relation to the main verb - a time up to which = "before".

tou qeou (oV) gen. "[the kingdom] of God" - The genitive is possibly adjectival, possessive, "the kingdom that belongs to God", or ablative, source, "the kingdom that comes from God", or verbal, subjective.


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