Discover the Truth and Spiritual Significance of Luke 9:23
What did Jesus mean when he said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23)? This reference to the cross—the torturous instrument of Jesus’s death—is enough to make us squirm.
Though not to dismiss this idea of taking up our cross to be a follower of Jesus, it’s not where we should place our focus—at least not right away. This verse contains three key elements. It’s a progression, a spiritual journey.
Here they are in order.
The foremost thing—the most important part of this verse—is to follow Jesus. When we follow Jesus, it implies we stop following the things of this world. We make a U-turn with our life and go after Jesus. We say yes to him and no to other distractions.
This is the first step to becoming his disciple.
Yet this isn’t the destination, it’s the beginning.
Yes, making this decision may be enough to get our go-to-heaven-card when we die. But if that’s the only reason for us to say yes to Jesus, we’ll miss out on so much here on earth. And though we may enter heaven by the smallest of margins, we’ll miss out on a fuller reward.
Do It Daily
The next word to focus on in this verse from Luke 9:23 is daily. Following Jesus shouldn’t be a once-and-done decision. We should make it a daily commitment. When we open our eyes each morning, we should make a conscious decision to say yes to Jesus again.
Who would get married and think that saying I do at the wedding ceremony would be enough to establish and sustain a strong, long-term marriage? No one. For a marriage to work well, we need to work at it daily. We need to say I do every day.
The same is true when we follow Jesus. To grow in our relationship with him and realize the riches of being his disciple, we must do it daily.
Having committed ourselves to following Jesus each day, we can now address this troublesome phrase of taking up our cross. For Jesus, the cross meant sacrifice. For him it was the ultimate sacrifice of giving his life for us. Though as Jesus’s disciple, we should be willing to die for him, few of us will be called to do that. Yet we must be prepared that it could happen.
A more applicable understanding is that the cross implies making less lethal sacrifices as we live a life a following Jesus in service to him. Yet if we love Jesus, these sacrifices need not be burdensome. Instead, these are things we willingly give up to serve him and to be a part of team Jesus.
What’s critical here is to comprehend that we don’t need to make sacrifices to get Jesus’s attention, earn our salvation, or merit his favor. Jesus loves us regardless of the things we do or don’t do.
When we make sacrifices for him, we do it in response to the ultimate sacrifice he made for us. It’s how we show our love to him since he already showed his love for us.
Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.
Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.