Take Up Your Cross- Luke 9:23

In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus tells His followers, on two different occasions, that to be His disciple it is necessary to “take up your cross”. What does He mean by this? Does this mean we must be nailed to a piece of wood? Is sickness, poverty or persecution the cross we must bear? We will examine the two instances in Luke in which Jesus tells us this in order to determine exactly what He means. The first is in Luke 14:26-27. In this passage, Jesus has attracted a large crowd of followers, most of whom are not disciples, and here He defines for them what a disciple of His truly is, and what it costs to be His disciple. In verse 26, he begins by telling the crowd that in order to truly come to Him, one must “hate” his father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters and even his own self. This verse causes much confusion, due to the use of the word translated “hate” in the NIV. The Greek word hate here, miseo, is not used in accordance with our common understanding of the word hate. To us, the word hate generally conveys an emotion, to hate someone is to despise them. Miseo, though, has nothing to do with emotion, but is used to represent a choice rather than a feeling, and what Jesus is saying here is that if someone chooses to follow Him ,this will likely bring them into conflict with their “loved ones”, and a choice will have to be made between Jesus and their families. He then tells them that anyone who would follow Him must “carry his cross and follow me” and those who do not do so “cannot be my disciple”. Part of the cost of discipleship is to carry our cross. Carry here is in the present tense, which means it is something we must continually do, and with the use of “his” here, Jesus tells us that this is a personal thing, something each of us must do. The word follow here means to “follow after or behind”, to go where Jesus went (which is what true disciples do), and Jesus went to a cross, and it is “not possible” to be His disciple without going to a cross as well. So we find here the necessity of taking up our cross, but exactly what does this involve? We turn now to Luke 9:23 for the answer. Here Jesus tells His true disciples, in private, that “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me”. Again, following Jesus means going where He went, and He went to a cross, which is where all of His true disciples will go. In this verse, Jesus gives us more information about the nature of our “cross”. He tells us here that this cross is a “daily” thing, showing it not to be a monumental, one time type happening, but a moment by moment decision. And what does that decision involve? It consists of “denying ourselves”. To take up our cross is to deny ourselves, and this is to be a moment by moment type of thing. So the question with which we are now faced is: just what does it mean to “deny yourself”? This is what Jesus did, and it is what all His disciples are called to do, this is the cross we must take up and carry. We turn then, to Philippians 2:6-8, to see what Jesus did. We find here, in verse 7-8, that Jesus “emptied Himself”, and He did so by “humbling himself” and “becoming obedient to death- even death on a cross”. So we find here that the cross, for Jesus, meant “emptying Himself”, to deny ourselves means to empty ourselves, but what exactly does this mean, what is an “empty self”? Our next post will take a closer look at this, in order to determine exactly how Jesus emptied Himself, and what it means for each of us to empty ourselves, to deny ourselves, which is what we must do in order to take up our cross and follow Jesus, what we must do to be true disciples.

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