I remember coming home for Christmas break during my freshman year at Iowa State University. I had become a Christian during the fall and was not exactly sure how my family would react. I soon found out. While reading my little Gideon's Bible in our living room one evening my dad asked, “That's not a Bible you're reading is it son?” He couldn't hide the disappointment in his voice. As a free-thinking, liberally-minded humanist he was concerned for my intellectual health. “Yeah.” I said sheepishly.
“Son,” Dad replied, “the Bible is an excellent book of virtuous sayings, but it can't be taken literally.” His voice was gentle and concerned. He sounded really convincing. “I know, I know,” I said. I was so intimidated. I didn't really know what to say. Of course, after the fact I thought of many wonderful and clever things to say. But the moment was gone. When confronted, I was ashamed of my love for Jesus and his words and I shrunk back.
There are so many moments when our association with Jesus is unpopular. It's fine to read the Bible so long as we see it as a collection of virtuous sayings and not really believe them. It's great to believe in the Jesus who says to "love your neighbor" but not the Jesus who says to "love the Lord your God with all your strength." In this passage, Jesus is trying to prepare his disciples for the life of unpopularity that awaits them. As you think about following Jesus on mission, consider the parts of your mission trip that are popular and the parts that are unpopular.
Read Luke 9:18-20
- How does the disciples' answer to Jesus first question (verse 18) differ from the options Herod had considered in verses 7-9?
- Why is Jesus' second question (verse 20) so much harder than the first?
- Who do you say that Jesus is? Are you prepared to admit that to others?
Read Luke 9:21-27
- After the feeding of the 5,000, Jesus is near the crest of his popularity. How do you think his description of what lies ahead sounded in the ears of his disciples? (See Peter's reaction in Matthew 16:22)
- The cross was the ultimate symbol of public shame. Have you felt as though you were bearing a cross in order to follow Jesus faithfully? If so, how?
- What are some things you stand to gain by pursuing your own interests (think career, relationship, power, etc)? What might you stand to lose if you follow after Jesus' interests?
- In what ways have you been ashamed of Jesus? If you haven't apologized, do so.
- In what ways do you hope to see the Kingdom of God this summer?
Close in prayer.
More studies in the series
- Letting Go
- Transformation to Serve
- The Struggle of Association
- The Full Picture
- Greatness of God
- Lambs Among Wolves
Adapted from "Orientation Bible Studies," by Scott Bessenecker, Director, Global Urban Trek, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, 2001.