So, we’re continuing on in the “Seek the things above” series for Wednesdays … and actually, this time delving into a verse I mentioned last week, but as one of the comments from that post was mentioning an interest in a printable of this verse, I wanted to dive into it a little more.
Luke 9:23 … it’s such a fundamental passage to follow Jesus, and we have heard it so many times. And to us, the cross immediately makes us think of spiritual things. But have you ever thought about the fact that at the time that Jesus said this, it was *before* he died on the cross, and so when he mentions it here, it wouldn’t have had and religious significance to them? What would they have thought of a cross? A form of execution. A means of punishment. It would be like someone today saying, “Take up your electric chair.”
And this really sheds some interesting light on the meaning of the passage, when you stop and think about what a cross is. It is something on which a person dies. Sometimes you’ll hear people mention this verse when talking about various incidental problems in their life … maybe their boss is rude, maybe they have headaches, and they’ll say, “Well, that’s just the cross I have to bear.”
But is that really what this verse is talking about? Is that what the take up your cross meaning is? If you think about the context in which Jesus spoke it, that doesn’t make so much sense. Just like saying “take up your electric chair”, wouldn’t make you think of everyday type problems, it would make you think of death.
So if we’re supposed to take up our cross DAILY, though, how can that be? How can I die daily? Well, Paul actually said in 1 Corinthians 15:31, “I die daily.” Physically? No. But let’s look at a couple passages to see what this could mean…
Romans 6:1-11: “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Ephesians 4:19-24: “They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!—assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”
Colossians 3:9-10: “Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.”
There is the continuing thought of an “old self” of ours who we crucify and put off in order to follow Christ, and a “new self” we become to follow him. Luke 9:23 is something much more profound than just dealing with the hassles of life, it is a choice of who we will be – it means we have to give up having everything my way, like in the days of the Judges where “everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (Judges 17:6 ESV), and instead living our lives God’s way. It’s denying ourselves, taking up our cross, and following after him. And it’s doing it every day. It’s not sugar coated, and it doesn’t mean life will always be easy. But it is always worth it.
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”
(Romans 8:18 ESV)
Leave your thoughts and comments below! As always, my goal isn’t to convince people of my opinions, but instead to take a look at the Bible itself to see what it teaches. :)