In Luke’s gospel we have just witnessed a long series of miracles and healings by Jesus, ending in the miracle of the loaves and fishes. Immediately after that event, Jesus questions his disciples, asking them their opinion about his true identity (which those miracles revealed). They quote the crowds who believe that he is directly linked to the prophets. But, Peter reveals a deeper insight. He is inspired by God to proclaim that Jesus is the Messiah.
Nevertheless, Peter’s understanding is still faulty, because he (like everyone else) was thinking only of the presumed political changes that would result from the coming of the promised Messiah. For that reason, Jesus had to restrain his followers as strongly as possible to make sure they would remain silent about this new revelation – at least for now. If they revealed his true identity at this point in time, they would certainly stir up immediate opposition from temple leaders and Roman officials; and that would prevent Jesus from continuing his public ministry. His “hour” had not yet come.
Since the disciples misunderstood the true nature of the true Messiah, Jesus had to spell it out for them. After his constraining remarks to silence them, he proceeded to explain to them what was unavoidably in store for Jesus as the Messiah: rejection by the religious leaders, suffering and death. Furthermore, if anyone wanted to be his disciple, they too had to prepare to suffer just like their leader would suffer. Discipleship has its price. It requires one to take up one’s cross, and follow Jesus wherever that path might lead.
The disciples must have been astonished at this description of true discipleship and the future of the Messiah. It did not fit their culturally-accepted theories. That could be expected, of course, because the disciples and the crowd were expressing opinions based on incomplete information. What about you: are you taking some things for granted? How well do you know the reasons that underlie church teachings and doctrine?
We note that Jesus always prays at decisive moments in his public ministry, thereby revealing his trust in the action of the Holy Spirit and the revelation to him of his Father’s will. How much time do you regularly spend time in prayer, asking for guidance from the Holy Spirit, and also wait for the answer?