By Mark D. Proctor
Pastor, Highland Park Baptist Church, Columbia
When I was 16 I learned to fly. During a solo cross-country flight one afternoon the radios in my little plane malfunctioned and I had to learn — quickly — how to reenter controlled airspace using light signals from the control tower. By watching the tower, a pilot can see air traffic controllers flashing red and green lights. A steady green light means it’s safe to land, a flashing green light means it safe to head back to land. Red lights mean stay away. A safe landing depended on two things: my ability to identify the lights and my willingness to ignore everything else and obey the lights.
Luke 9 has the same lessons. A safe arrival in the eternal kingdom (“when he comes in His glory,” Luke 9:26) depends on identifying Christ and following Christ. In verses 18-20, Jesus focuses on the identity questions: Who does the world say He is and who do the disciples say He is? Who, or whom, is the interrogative pronoun Jesus used to elicit a response. It is the directed, emphatic, “Come on listener, tell me who …” and it demands an answer of the believer because, Scripture says, the world doesn’t understand the light (John 1).
Some followers of Christ are like flashing lights indicating their intermittent loyalty to Christ. He said in Revelation 3:16 that lukewarm followers get rejected. Jesus is looking for steady followers, those with a laser-like focus on the authority who are ready to ground their lives on His true identity. Take a moment this Easter season and interact with this truth. Who do you say that Jesus is? Now take a look at your checkbook, your calendar, your Internet history. Who do they say Jesus is to you? Do they tell the tale of a Sunday-only flash of green or is the truth of the identity of Christ bound to your fingers, written on your forehead, hidden in your heart, and steady on your lips?
The second major focus of the passage plays upon the first: once you’ve identified the light then move toward the light. Obey it — and nothing else. Verse 23 contains one of Jesus’ most piercing and powerful statements, yet it is often the most overlooked: “If you want to follow then deny yourself and follow me.” Want to land in the kingdom? Focus not on you but me. The world’s most perfectly maintained and most opulent aircraft is valueless if it can’t successfully land in eternity (v. 25). The pilot of that aircraft has to pay meticulous attention daily, (v. 23) to watch the instruments, listen to the tower, and obey the authorities.
Friends, the message of this passage is so simple we often skim right over it. This Easter season, let’s help our world identify the authority and daily fly by His instruments. He’s not our copilot; God is the strong tower (Proverbs 18:10). The righteous fly right to it — and are safe.