Bible spine dwtx.orgContinuing a study of the passages from Luke’s Gospel which have been omitted from the three-year Lectionary for public worship, today’s post is part of my ongoing series Forbidden Bible Verses, also essential to understanding Scripture.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur (The Gospel: Self-love or Self-Hate?, The Gospel in Perspective, Who’s Ashamed of Whom?, A Glimpse of the King’s Return — Part 1) .

Luke 9:25-27

25 For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? 26For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. 27But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.”

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The preceding verses to this passage are:

23And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.

It is noteworthy that already Jesus has mentioned the cross — and our own personal cross of trial and tribulation in this world.

Matthew Henry says (emphases in bold mine):

1. We must accustom ourselves to all instances of self-denial and patience, Luke 9:23. This is the best preparative for martyrdom. We must live a life of self-denial, mortification, and contempt of the world we must not indulge our ease and appetite, for then it will be hard to bear toil, and weariness, and want, for Christ. We are daily subject to affliction, and we must accommodate ourselves to it, and acquiesce in the will of God in it, and must learn to endure hardship. We frequently meet with crosses in the way of duty and, though we must not pull them upon our own heads, yet, when they are laid for us, we must take them up, carry them after Christ, and make the best of them.

2. We must prefer the salvation and happiness of our souls before any secular concern whatsoever.

In verse 25, Jesus asked how a person benefits if he seeks after the pleasures and trinkets of this world whilst forfeiting his soul. No doubt we can think of any number of people who must have the latest ‘must have’ item as soon as possible. They think mainly in terms of buying things and going on holiday.

Yet, spiritually, they are bereft. Most abandoned their faith — if it ever existed — a long time ago. For them, the final breath they draw will mean the end of their physical life with no afterlife. No wonder they see fit to enjoy themselves with such abandon.

Yet, Jesus’s words tell us otherwise. In verse 26, He clearly tells us of His Second Coming. People who are ashamed of Him during their lifetimes will not share in eternal life in His presence. Clearly, not all of us will be entering the Kingdom of God. Yet, universalism persists.

Who is ashamed of Jesus? Those who lost their faith when they married an atheist. Those who refuse to investigate the truth of Scripture because their spouse is an unbeliever. Those who place more value on family, pleasure or work than in Christ. And there are likely to be churchgoers in this group.

When Jesus spoke, He had an immediate message for his Jewish audience. John MacArthur explains:

If you’re not willing to come to Me with such complete abandon, such total commitment that it might cost you your father, your mother, your wife, your children, your brothers, your sister, and your life, you’re not coming on My terms. What He means, of course, by that is you’re stepping away from their religion and it’s going to cost you that relationship. Many people know this, of course. You become a Christian, everybody else in your family who’s not a Christian is immediately alienated. It is especially severe if you happen to come out of a family like these people were in, in the…steeped in the midst of historic Judaism, the price was high. And so this is another way of Jesus saying it will cost you everything. And if you’re not willing to pay that price, although He may not require it, if you’re not willing to pay, you’re not desperate enough, you don’t understand the narrowness. You’re coming through without the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life, the baggage you’ve always carried, you’re coming through without holding on to all the relationships, you can’t drag everybody with you through the narrow gate, it’s…you come alone. You can’t even consider your life something to hold on to because the Lord may require that.

Today, in Europe, the challenge is to admit one is a faithful Christian. It is as difficult for us as it was for Jews following Christ. It is a narrow road and one must be prepared to be denounced, to be denied work, to be forced to the margins of society in subtle and unsubtle ways. My advice to American parents is to prepare their children for this eventuality in the United States; it is surely on its way within the next generation or so. To that end, pray and study Scripture with them. Make sure they know what they believe and why they believe it. Too many Sunday school lessons are bereft of biblical messages, which makes it all the easier for adolescents and young adults to drift away from Christ.

In verse 27, Jesus makes what must have been a curious statement at the time. He said that some would see His Kingdom before they died. They were already seeing great manifestations of it in His creative miracles, although it wasn’t registering quite as it should in their minds. In the near future, they would know of His crucifixion and His rising from the dead. He would then ascend into Heaven and send the Holy Spirit. More immediately, however, another manifestation of the Kingdom came roughly a week later with the story of the Transfiguration (Luke 9:28-36). Jesus chose Peter, John and James to see Him with Moses and Elijah.

MacArthur analyses this heavenly and marvellous event for us:

Why Moses and Elijah? Well I thought about this and I thought…well, if I could go back to the Old Testament and think of which two characters most prominent in the Old Testament had unusual demises, or unusual exists out of this world, the first two that come to my mind are Moses and Elijah. Most people, they died and he was buried with his fathers, right? You go through Genesis, he died and he was buried, he died and he was buried. You know, it’s kind of a routine thing. It’s still going on, obviously. But not Moses and Elijah. Moses had a very unusual death and his body was never found. His body was never found because there was a battle over his body between Satan and Michael and they were fighting over the body of Moses. Satan wanted to do something really bad with the body of Moses. We don’t know what because he didn’t succeed. They were contending for the body of Moses and it tells us in Deuteronomy 34:6 that God just took his body and buried it Himself. Nobody knows where…nobody knows where. So somebody could raise the question…well what happened to Moses? We’re not sure what happened to Moses? Well good news, he’s over there on the other side. You may not be able to find his body, you may wonder about where it is and why he disappeared in such a strange way, but the good news is he’s over there because here he is appearing on the other side.

Deuteronomy 34 describes Moses’s death and Joshua’s ascent to leadership. What follows is Deuteronomy 34:4-8:

4And the LORD said to him, “This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, ‘I will give it to your offspring.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not go over there.” 5So Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the LORD, 6and he buried him in the valley in the land of Moab opposite Beth-peor; but no one knows the place of his burial to this day. 7 Moses was 120 years old when he died. His eye was undimmed, and his vigor unabated. 8And the people of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days. Then the days of weeping and mourning for Moses were ended.

Jude 9 explains:

9But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.”

Calling all wishy-washy Anglicans — especially clergy: note the mention of the devil, the one whose existence is theologically difficult to justify.

Back now to MacArthur and his analysis of the Transfiguration:

And Elijah, Elijah, do you remember what happened to him? He didn’t even die … He went to heaven in a chariot of fire. That’s what it says in 2 Kings 2:11, he just…God just picked him up in His private chariot and shwissh, he was in heaven. Never died. So that’s the second person who had the sort of strange exodus …

What follows are excerpts from 2 Kings 2, which describe Elijah’s and Elisha’s dramatic final walk together and what happened to Elisha afterward:

6Then Elijah said to him, “Please stay here, for the LORD has sent me to the Jordan.” But he said, “As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So the two of them went on. 7Fifty men of the sons of the prophets also went and stood at some distance from them, as they both were standing by the Jordan. 8Then Elijah took his cloak and rolled it up and struck the water, and the water was parted to the one side and to the other, till the two of them could go over on dry ground.

 9When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Ask what I shall do for you, before I am taken from you.” And Elisha said, “Please let there be a double portion of your spirit on me.” 10And he said, “You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it shall be so for you, but if you do not see me, it shall not be so.” 11And as they still went on and talked, behold, chariots of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. 12And Elisha saw it and he cried, “My father, my father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” And he saw him no more.

   Then he took hold of his own clothes and tore them in two pieces. 13And he took up the cloak of Elijah that had fallen from him and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. 14Then he took the cloak of Elijah that had fallen from him and struck the water, saying, “Where is the LORD, the God of Elijah?” And when he had struck the water, the water was parted to the one side and to the other, and Elisha went over.

Elisha went on to cleanse — ‘heal’ — the local water in the Lord’s name. At the end of the chapter, a group of boys ridicules him:

23He went up from there to Bethel, and while he was going up on the way, some small boys came out of the city and jeered at him, saying, “Go up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead!” 24And he turned around, and when he saw them, he cursed them in the name of the LORD. And two she-bears came out of the woods and tore forty-two of the boys. 25From there he went on to Mount Carmel, and from there he returned to Samaria.

MacArthur says:

Now if there were two Old Testament witnesses that the people of Israel would trust more than any others, it would probably be Moses and Elijah. Moses was the most revered, still is the most revered among the Jews. The greatest leader in Israel’s history led them out of captivity, that’s why he’s their final hero. He was a king in authority, he was a prophet in message, he was a priest in service to God for His people. He gave the Pentateuch, the five books that set down the law. I mean, he was trustworthy. As a witness to the other side, couldn’t get better than Moses and running a close second to Moses would have to be Elijah. Elijah was such a godly person that like Enoch, the only other person who was so beloved by God that he didn’t die, and Moses stands for the law and Elijah stands for the prophets and the Old Testament was always called the law and the prophets. And what was Elijah’s distinction? He had fought against idolatry. Moses gave the law, and Elijah guarded it. He was probably the primary guardian of the law of God among the people. First Kings 17 through 19, 2 Kings chapters 1 and 2, he fought for the law, he fought for the honor of God against idolatry. God validated his prophecies with miracles, you remember. Moses the prominent lawgiver, Elijah the prominent prophet, they represent the Old Testament. They represent the saints. And there they are standing in the presence of Jesus having a discussion about Jesus’ upcoming exodus. There couldn’t be anybody give more assurance to Peter, James and John than Moses and Elijah ...

Here the men representing the Old Testament and what they’re saying is as those who represent the Old Testament, isn’t it wonderful, Lord, that You’re on schedule. This is not an interruption. Your departure is coming and down the way, so is Your glory. The very men from inside the Kingdom representing the law and the prophets standing with Jesus in His glory is a confirmation of His messiahship, confirmation of His deity, confirmation that the plan of God is on schedule, confirmation that it will ultimately end in glory. They appear, verse 31 says, in glory. That is to say they’re a part of that whole majesty, that whole glory, that whole essential life that’s characteristic of that eternal kingdom. And they’re talking about the departure which he was about to accomplish. That’s wonderful. The word accomplish means to fulfill. It wasn’t an accident, it wasn’t a breach in the plan, it was a fulfillment of the plan.

Jesus, as ever, has given us much to consider in these verses. He warns us about lukewarm or convenient belief; He tells us that the road to salvation is indeed difficult but He also gives three blessed Apostles a glimpse of what Kingdom life will be like.

May we never be ashamed to confess Jesus as Lord.

Next time: Luke 9:37-43