9 June 2021Luke 9:18-27
Then he said to them all, 'If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.’ (v. 23)
Luke’s Gospel emphasises that Jesus was a person of prayer, and this passage begins with Jesus at prayer with his disciples nearby (v. 18). Jesus then turns to his disciples and asks them who the crowds think he is. In response, the disciples suggest the alternatives that Herod had earlier considered (9:7-8); John the Baptist, Elijah, or an ancient prophet (v. 19). Such responses highlight that many Jews were expectant that God would send a deliverer in tune with his ancient promises (such as in Deuteronomy 18:15-18).
Turning to his disciples, Jesus asks them who they think he is, and Peter confesses that Jesus is the ‘Messiah of God’ (v. 20), the anointed one expected by many Jews at the time. While implicitly accepting the designation, Jesus warns his disciples not to tell anyone about it (v. 21). The reason is that the path Jesus would follow differed from what many expected of a Messiah, and Jesus describes to his disciples what to expect in the first of three passion predictions (see also Luke 9:43b-45; 18:31-34). The term ‘Son of Man’ is used elsewhere in the gospels for Jesus and may allude to the use of the title in Daniel 7:13-14, where the ‘Son of Man’ receives authority from God. Jesus explains that he will suffer, face rejection by the leaders of Israel, die, and rise again on the third day (v. 22).
Jesus explains that the disciples too are called to a cross-shaped life. Unlike the other gospel writers, Luke adds that the call was to ‘daily’ take up one’s cross (v. 23). This means self-denial, laying down one’s life for the sake of the other. Rather than involving the loss of life, such self-denial is the way to really find it. Jesus also warns his disciples against being ashamed of him, as those who are ashamed of Jesus and his words will be ‘shamed’ by the Father at the future judgement (v. 26). The final verse is perplexing, but perhaps the best interpretation is to see the ‘kingdom of God’ as unveiled in the Transfiguration, an event which follows this saying (9:28-36).
- How would you respond to Jesus’ question to the disciples, "Who do you say that I am?"
- Why do you think that Jesus’ teaching on his coming suffering and death were so difficult for his disciples to accept?
- How is God calling you to ‘take up your cross daily’?