Between verses 17 and 18 we have Luke's "omission" of the material found in Mark 6:45 to 8:26.
Marshall: This omission is doubtless deliberate on Luke's part. There is no reason to suppose either that the present text of Luke is defective or that Luke was using a defective copy of Mark.
Arndt: Scholars are at a loss to explain this omission.
It is an omission only if Luke used Mark and copied from him. This is still only a hypothesis. The "omission" is an argument against Markan priority.
"Once" draws our attention to a noteworthy event. The parallels are found at Matthew 16:13-28 and Mark 8:27 to 9:1. From Matthew we learn that this took place near Caesarea Philippi and from Mark that they were somewhere on the road.
Jesus and the disciples were far north of Israel, enjoying quiet and leisure for the sake of instruction. We are less than a year from His suffering and death. Only the disciples were with Jesus. He is in constant prayer by Himself.
NEB translates: "When He was praying alone in the presence of His disciples." AAT: "Once when He was praying and only His disciples were with Him."
Other references in Luke to Jesus praying are found at 3:21; 5:16; 6:12; 9:29; 11:1; 22:42; 23:34 and 46.
Jesus was not praying for further revelation as some modern critics claim. He prayed for His redemptive work or for specific people, in this case, surely, for His disciples. He asked the Father to give them the proper confession of Jesus. That is clear from the parallel at Matthew 16:17.
Then He asked the disciples a question, not for His own information but to bring out their confession more clearly. Jesus wants them to state the current and popular opinions concerning Himself.
The disciples knew what people were saying. Does their answer mean that generally people were saying He was John the Baptist but that lesser opinions were Elijah or one of the ancient prophets come back to life? Or does it mean that all three opinions were equally prevalent? "Some, others, others." Look at Luke 9:7-8. It makes little difference. In any case they were not confessions of faith, but merely hearsay. They did not consider Him divine. It is the same today. We still have Arians, Nestorians, and rationalists with us. Jesus spends no time with these false observations.
Jesus is very much concerned about what His disciples think about Him. There can be no salvation without a proper confession from the heart.
Peter serves as spokesman for the disciples.
He answers: "The Messiah whom God has sent." "The One whom God has anointed."
Stoeckhardt: This Jesus is the Christ, who was ordered by God to be our Savior and Redeemer.
God anointed the human nature of Christ for His saving work. Look at Luke 2:26; 4:18; 23:35; Acts 3:18. The Baptist knew this by revelation, see John 1:32-34. The first disciples knew it clearly, see John 1:41, 45 and 49. Jesus revealed it to the Samaritan woman, see John 4:25-6. Despite great difficulties they had confessed what is stated in John 6:69.
The shallow, popular opinions must have tried the disciples sorely but Jesus prayed for them and they came through with a clear confession.
Arndt: It is implied that Jesus accepts the homage of the twelve.
Marshall: It is obvious that the command does not imply any repudiation of the confession.
Jesus had brushed aside the ideas of the people, verse 18, and by what now follows He confirms what had been confessed by the disciples. There is a close connection between verses 21 and 22.
"Gave them strict orders," "strictly warned them," "warned them and instructed them."
The word "Messiah," for the people, had overtones of a carnal, political Messiah. Look at John 6:15. Telling them that Jesus was Messiah at that point would have harmed them more than helped them.
Negative critics claim that this prohibition to the disciples means that in His lifetime Jesus was not recognized as the Messiah but that the church produced the idea of His Messiahship after His resurrection. Albert Schweitzer and M. Dibelius rejected this idea. Bultmann called it a legend. The negative critics cancel each other out.
Morris: The reason is surely the near certainty of misunderstanding if it was spread abroad.
Not only the "near" certainty but rather the "absolute" certainty.
Lenski notes here that the disciples had been brought to a full realization of the DIVINE PERSON of Jesus. And only they, true believers, would be made to realize the REDEMPTIVE WORK that Jesus was about to complete. All others, who denied His divine person, could not yet hear about His redemptive work, something totally different from what they expected from a Messiah.
In this verse Jesus charged His disciples that they should tell no one that He is the Christ. The reason becomes apparent in the next verse.
"And he said" could also be translated "saying at the same time." The intended sense is "explaining." The contents of this verse would be abhorrent to the carnally minded. And even Peter had trouble with it. Look at Matthew 16:22-23 where Peter is shocked at the thought but Jesus calls his thoughts satanic.
All this is necessary because:
The Old Testament had prophesied it;
It was the will of the Father;
Jesus did it willingly.
"The Son of man" is equated with "The Christ of God." The Son of man is truly man but His divine nature gave His human nature the qualities and attributes to do what is here said. Jesus reveals His omniscience. He knows exactly what will happen.
He had alluded to His death and resurrection before, see Matthew 12:39-40; John 10:18, John 2:19, but never this precisely. The disciples are to have no delusions as to the redemptive work of the Messiah, the Son of man.
"Rejected" is the verb which in Classical Greek was used for examining coins or candidates for office. It denotes deliberate action.
One article is used for three groups, making them all one group. Elders are old men who are supposed to have good judgment. Chief priests were the spiritual leaders. Scribes were the theological experts. The Sanhedrin was composed of these three groups, lumped here into one group.
His redemptive work did two things:
Redeemed all human beings;
Once and for all revealed the true meaning of the terms "the Christ of God" and "the Son of man.
This is a new paragraph. It is a new subject but related to what precedes. "He went on to say." The audience is now "all," the people, the disciples and people in general.
All depends on how one answers the "if" clause. If he says "yes", he must do as the second part indicates. And visa versa. If one answers "no," then he will not do the actions of the second part.
It is an open invitation, "anybody." To "will to come after Him" and "to follow Him" mean the same thing. And this is explained in verses 20 and 22: to acknowledge and confess Him as the Christ of God and to believe in what He did for all human beings, as stated in verse 22.
But this immediately involves one in suffering, not atoning suffering but the battle with self. Jesus is not speaking of asceticism, considering the right use of pleasures in this life as sinful. Nor is He speaking of Gnosticism which considers material things as evil in themselves.
Add the word "truly" to the phrase "if anyone would come after Me," to get the idea. To deny means to have nothing to do with. Remember Peter who said of Christ: "I don't know Him."
The best commentary on this is found in Galatians 5:16-26. The one who wishes to come after Jesus, to follow Him, is the one who knows that he is justified before God by faith in Christ. He has Christian liberty, freedom from the condemnation of the Law. But a fierce battle with his own flesh ensues. That's what it means to deny one's self.
He will have to pick up his very own cross, not Jesus' cross, but his very own. His cross covers all the trials and tribulations which the Lord permits to come to him as he walks in the Spirit.
He doesn't drop his cross. The Lord has done all for his justification and supplies strength to bear the cross. Galatians 2:20. It must be done "daily," which means "constantly." Even when he is asleep the Christian's faith is alive.
Now come the explanation. It is a paradoxical saying which explains the previous verse. But in the explanation Jesus divides all people into two classes. There is no third possibility.
The translation of the NEB is definitely NOT recommended here: "Whoever cares for his own safety is lost; but if a man will let himself be lost for My sake, that man is safe."
We recommend Stoeckhardt:
He who wants to preserve his natural life, in which he yields to his natural desires, will lose his soul. But whoever mortifies the "I" for Christ's sake and crucifies his flesh with its lusts and yearnings, will rescue his soul into eternal life.
Arndt: It is not merely the loss of one's life that counts, but it must be a loss, a sacrifice FOR CHRIST'S SAKE, that is, in order to be loyal to Him and to His Gospel.
The first part of the verse is a warning. The second part is a promise.