In these verses, we have Christ discoursing with his disciples about the great things that pertained to the kingdom of God; and one circumstance of this discourse is taken notice of here which we had not in the other evangelists-that Christ was alone praying, and his disciples with him, when he entered into this discourse, Luke 9:18. Observe, 1. Though Christ had much public work to do, yet he found some time to be alone in private, for converse with himself, with his Father, and with his disciples. 2. When Christ was alone he was praying. It is good for us to improve our solitude for devotion, that, when we are alone, we may not be alone, but may have the Father with us. 3. When Christ was alone, praying, his disciples were with him, to join with him in his prayer; so that this was a family-prayer. Housekeepers ought to pray with their households, parents with their children, masters with their servants, teachers and tutors with their scholars and pupils. 4. Christ prayed with them before he examined them, that they might be directed and encouraged to answer him, by his prayers for them. Those we give instructions to we should put up prayers for and with. He discourses with them,
I. Concerning himself; and enquires,
1. What the people said of him: Who say the people that I am? Christ knew better than they did, but would have his disciples made sensible, by the mistakes of others concerning him, how happy they were that were led into the knowledge of him and of the truth concerning him. We should take notice of the ignorance and errors of others, that we may be the more thankful to him who has manifested himself to us, and not unto the world, and may pity them, and do what we can to help them and to teach them better. They tell him what conjectures concerning him they had heard in their converse with the common people. Ministers would know better how to suit their instructions, reproofs, and counsels, to the case of ordinary people, if they did but converse more frequently and familiarly with them; they would then be the better able to say what is proper to rectify their notions, correct their irregularities, and remove their prejudices. The more conversant the physician is with his patient, the better he knows what to do for him. Some said that he was John Baptist, who was beheaded but the other day; others Elias, or one of the old prophets; any thing but what he was.
2. What they said of him. “Now see what an advantage you have by your discipleship; you know better.” “So we do,” saith Peter, “thanks be to our Master for it; we know that thou art the Christ of God, the Anointed of God, the Messiah promised.” It is matter of unspeakable comfort to us that our Lord Jesus is God’s anointed, for then he has unquestionable authority and ability for his undertaking; for his being anointed signifies his being both appointed to it and qualified for it. Now one would have expected that Christ should have charged his disciples, who were so fully apprized and assured of this truth, to publish it to every one they met with; but no, he strictly charged them to tell no man that thing as yet, because there is a time for all things. After his resurrection, which completed the proof of it, Peter made the temple ring of it, that God had made this same Jesus both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36); but as yet the evidence was not ready to be summed up, and therefore it must be concealed; while it was so, we may conclude that the belief of it was not necessary to salvation.
II. Concerning his own sufferings and death, of which he had yet said little. Now that his disciples were well established in the belief of his being the Christ, and able to bear it, he speaks of them expressly, and with great assurance, Luke 9:22. It comes in as a reason why they must not yet preach that he was the Christ, because the wonders that would attend his death and resurrection would be the most convincing proof of his beingthe Christ of God. It was by his exaltation to the right hand of the Father that he was fully declared to be the Christ, and by the sending of the Spirit thereupon (Acts 2:33); and therefore wait till that is done.
III. Concerning their sufferings for him. So far must they be from thinking how to prevent his sufferings that they must rather prepare for their own.
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. Reckon upon it, (1.) That he who to preserve his liberty or estate, his power or preferment, nay, or to save his life, denies Christ and his truths, wilfully wrongs his conscience, and sins against God, will be, not only not a saver, but an unspeakable loser, in the issue, when profit and loss come to be balanced: He that will save his life upon these terms will lose it, will lose that which is of infinitely more value, his precious soul. (2.) We must firmly believe also that, if we lose our life for cleaving to Christ and our religion, we shall save it to our unspeakable advantage; for we shall be abundantly recompensed in the resurrection of the just, when we shall have it again a new and an eternal life. (3.) That the gain of all the world, if we should forsake Christ, and fall in with the interests of the world, would be so far from countervailing the eternal loss and ruin of the soul that it would bear no manner of proportion to it, Luke 9:25. If we could be supposed to gain all the wealth, honour, and pleasure, in the world, by denying Christ, yet when, by so doing, we lose ourselves to all eternity, and are cast away at last, what good will our worldly gain do us? Observe, In Matthew and Mark the dreadful issue is a man’s losing his own soul, here it is losing himself, which plainly intimates that our souls are ourselves. Animus cujusque is est quisque—The soul is the man; and it is well or ill with us according as it is well or ill with our souls. If they perish for ever, under the weight of their own guilt and corruption, it is certain that we are undone. The body cannot be happy if the soul be miserable in the other world; but the soul may be happy though the body be greatly afflicted and oppressed in this world. If a man be himself cast away, e zemiotheis—if he be damaged,—or if he be punished, si mulctetur—if he have a mulct put upon his soul by the righteous sentence of Christ, whose cause and interest he has treacherously deserted,—if it be adjudged a forfeiture of all his blessedness, and the forfeiture be taken, where is his gain? What is his hope?
3. We must therefore never be ashamed of Christ and his gospel, nor of any disgrace or reproach that we may undergo for our faithful adherence to him and it, Luke 9:26. For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, and justly. When the service and honour of Christ called for his testimony and agency, he denied them, because the interest of Christ was a despised interest, and every where spoken against; and therefore he can expect no other than that in the great day, when his case calls for Christ’s appearance on his behalf, Christ will be ashamed to own such a cowardly, worldly, sneaking spirit, and will say, “He is none of mine; he belongs not to me.” As Christ had a state of humiliation and of exaltation, so likewise has his cause. They, and they only, that are willing to suffer with it when it suffers, shall reign with it when it reigns; but those that cannot find in their hearts to share with it in its disgrace, and to say, If this be to be vile, I will be yet more vile, shall certainly have no share with it in its triumphs. Observe here, How Christ, to support himself and his followers under present disgraces, speaks magnificently of the lustre of his second coming, in prospect of which he endured the cross, despising the shame. (1.) He shall come in his own glory. This was not mentioned in Matthew and Mark. He shall come in the glory of the Mediator, all the glory which the Father restored to him, which he had with God before the worlds were, which he had deposited and put in pledge, as it were, for the accomplishing of his undertaking, and demanded again when he had gone through it. Now, O Father, glorify thou me, John 17:4, 5. He shall come in all that glory which the Father conferred upon him when he set him at his own right hand, and gave him to be head over all things to the church; in all the glory that is due to him as the assertor of the glory of God, and the author of the glory of all the saints. This is his own glory. (2.) He shall come in his Father’s glory. The Father will judge the world by him, having committed all judgment to him; and therefore will publicly own him in the judgment as the brightness of his glory and the express image of his person. (3.) He shall come in the glory of the holy angels. They shall all attend him, and minister to him, and add every thing they can to the lustre of his appearance. What a figure will the blessed Jesus make in that day! Did we believe it, we should never be ashamed of him or his words now.
Lastly, To encourage them in suffering for him, he assures them that the kingdom of God would now shortly be set up, notwithstanding the great opposition that was made to it, Luke 9:27. “Though the second coming of the Son of man is at a great distance, the kingdom of God shall come in its power in the present age, while some here present are alive.” They saw the kingdom of God when the Spirit was poured out, when the gospel was preached to all the world and nations were brought to Christ by it; they saw the kingdom of God triumph over the Gentile nations in their conversion, and over the Jewish nation in its destruction.