Luke 9: 27
‘ I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God (coming in power).’
This verse is much debated. Some think that ‘the kingdom of God’ is a reference to the transfiguration of Jesus, which Peter James and John were to witness. Others understand it as foretelling the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. Again, some say it refers to the second coming of Christ. But, along with some other commentators, I believe Jesus is referring here to regeneration. In other words, he is saying that some of the people there would become Christians.
I think this is the best explanation because of what came before this statement.
Jesus had asked his disciples who they thought he was. Peter’s answer, ‘The Christ of God’, was the trigger for Jesus explaining what his mission was – that the ‘Christ must suffer many things, be rejected by the elders and high priests and scribes, and be killed, then rise on the third day.’
All this talk of Jesus dying was too much for Peter. He thought to snap Jesus out of this morbid state of mind by a few strong words. By this reaction, Peter showed that he was not yet thinking about his relationship with Jesus in the right way. Peter thought that he was fine as he was. There was no need for Jesus to die in Peter’s opinion. Besides, it seems that the disciples at that time were looking for some kind of nationalistic salvation, and thought that Jesus would be a king like David who would deal with the Roman oppressors. This thinking had to change.
Our Lord Jesus knew far better than Peter what was needed for Peter, and any one else, to be reconciled to God. Sin had to be dealt with. Later, in a garden, Jesus prayed that a cup might pass from him. It was the cup of God’s anger and judgment against sin. But Jesus knew that he must take that cup in the place of his sinful people, if they were ever to be saved from the condemnation due to their sin.
Jesus knew that his death and resurrection were necessary so that the Holy Spirit could apply the benefits of His finished work to people like Peter. Peter needed to be born again, to use the language of John chapter 3 and I Peter chapter 1, or he would never understand or enter the kingdom of God. Our Lord implied as much in his address to the crowd (Luke 9: 23 – 26).
Jesus started his talk with the word ‘if’.
‘If anyone wants to come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily and follow me.’
He was talking to a mixed crowd of people, and his message is one of repentance. His words declare that their lives are wrong, and they need to admit it to themselves. This sort of confession, if it is to be real and permanent, has to be the sovereign work of the Holy Spirit. It is a turning from death to life. If left to ourselves, we would continue to have an all-too-good opinion of ourselves. Such a change as Jesus describes is effected only by regeneration or the new birth.
At the new birth, a person abandons their old Christ-less way of life. They then realise that, if they were to reject Christ, they would lose everything on the day of judgment and receive a well-deserved condemnation. They see that in losing their old way of life they gain instead eternal life in Jesus. Their former attitude to Jesus Christ and his words is fundamentally changed. They begin to see him as the one who has the words of eternal life. They will follow him.
Jesus implies that this change is for sinners; for people who in the past had been ashamed of Jesus’ words, as Peter had been. Jesus told the crowd that some of them would see the kingdom of God before they died. Some, like Peter, would be born again. They would take up the cross (the gospel) and follow Jesus.