“Take Up Your Cross” (Luke 9:21-27)

“Take Up Your Cross” (Luke 9:21-27)

Take Up Your Cross

Brad Mills / General

Luke / Crucifixion; Discipleship / Luke 9:21–27


Luke continues his orderly account of the ministry of Jesus providing his readers with a certainty about the truth of the apostles’ teaching. This purpose heightens the need to be clear and honest about the challenges they would face living in a culture that was oftentimes hostile towards Christianity. Jesus never minimized the cost of discipleship in order to win more followers. He was honest with them. In fact, for many of them, this present life was about to become much more difficult because of their commitment to follow him.

In this passage, Jesus warns and exhorts his disciples to prepare them for significant trials that are ahead. But before he does that, he informs them about his death and resurrection. Jesus knows that they will need to see his own sacrifice in order to grasp the true cost of discipleship.

Because Jesus died for you, you ought to be willing to die to yourself and live for him.

Read Luke 9:21-27.

I. The Death of  Christ  (21-22)

Jesus continues his conversation with his disciples in Ceasarea Philippi. Peter’s Spirit-empowered confession that Jesus is “the Christ of God”, acknowledging Jesus to be the promised Messiah, is now followed by a warning not to tell anyone about this. Were the disciples to begin declaring that the Messiah was here, the Romans might have understood them to be stirring up another political revolt.

Jesus informs the disciples – for the first time – about his forthcoming death and resurrection.

• Suffer many things – As the only sinless human being, Jesus is the only one who could suffer on behalf of others. His suffering was vicarious. “He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. He was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed” (Isa 53:4-5). He suffered punishment for the sake of others. That suffering began at his birth. The humbling of himself in the form of an infant was the beginning of his humiliation and suffering.

• Rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes – There are the three groups of people who make up the Sanhedrin, the Jerusalem court. Jesus knew that he would be despised and rejected by the Jews (Is 53:3). Out of envy for the popularity and wisdom of Jesus (Mt 27:18), the religious leaders will go to every length to put an end to his ministry.

• Killed – The climax of his physical suffering and humiliation would come under the hands of the Romans who would spit upon him and torture him (Mt 26:67) before crucifying him. Later on Jesus will specifically mention the cross (23). He knew his death would be at the hands of the Romans by crucifixion. And this thought was completely unthinkable for the the disciples. The crucifixion was such a cruel form of punishment that the Romans were not allowed to be executed in that fashion. And for Jews it was considered a curse to be hanged on a tree (Gal. 3:13). None of this seems to have registered with them.

The physical torment alone is hard to imagine. People weren’t meant to survive the crucifixion. But that didn’t stop Patrice Tamao of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, from trying to survive a mock crucifixion in January 1973. He was trying to make a statement for world peace by allowing himself to be crucified. Of course, he avoided the scourging and beating that led up to Christ’s crucifixion and just went straight to being nailed to a cross by six-inch stainless-steel nails. He had planned to remain on the cross for 48 hours, but due to an infection in his foot he asked to be removed after 20 hours. The newspaper headline read “Crucifixion-for-peace falls short.”

Thankfully, out of love for his bride, Christ endured the pain and shame of the cross to the point of death!

• Raised on the third day – But Jesus doesn’t end with an explanation of his humiliation. He also tells them that he will be exalted in his resurrection.

Jesus expressed all this to the disciples by way of preparing them for persecution. He did not want them to be caught off guard. They needed to know that he was going to suffer and be killed, but he would rise from the dead. We know they did not really understand this because when these things do happen at the end, they all abandon him. They flee for their own lives. Then, after his death, they are distraught and confused. However, after the resurrection and Pentecost, these very same apostles (minus Judas) are emboldened and empowered to proclaim the truth in the face of death.

› It is only because of the death of Christ that we are willing to die to ourselves.

II. The Death of  Self  (23-27)

While they were still reeling from this shattering news, Jesus tells them that part of their responsibilities as disciples is to take up their own cross daily. Following Christ will not be easy. He gives three aspects of discipleship (23):

1. Deny himself – Christ’s followers are no longer to live for their own desires. Obedient followers of Jesus Christ understand the role of self denial. We must forsake anything that might replace him at the center of our lives. Everything that a man used to live for is worthless in comparison to knowing Christ (Php 3:7-11).

2. Take up his cross daily – If they persecuted Jesus they will also persecute his followers (Mt 5:10-12; Jn 15:20). In fact, many will be martyred for their Christian faith (Re 6:9-11). We ought to have the mind of Christ that was willing to empty himself of his heavenly privileges in order to come in the likeness of men, and then to live in obedience to the point of death on a cross (Php 2:5-8). Suffering of this kind is particularly Christian suffering.

3. Follow me – We are willing to follow Christ regardless of the suffering we might face because of his example.

A Walk with God: Luke 45. The Cross that is Made for Every Christian (Luke 9:23–27)

Unless we are willing to participate in the humiliation of Christ, we cannot participate in his exaltation.

To encourage them in this threefold endeavor Jesus provides three reasons for discipleship:

1. You will save your life (24): We should acknowledge that it’s certainly possible to deny yourself for all the wrong reasons. His command could easily be interpreted by the Pharisees in a hypocritical manner. They were the chief deniers of self. They were so good at it that they didn’t see any need for a Savior. They were perfectly sufficient to save themselves by their good works. They were just like their fathers, attempting to earn God’s favor through fasting and tithing to the nth degree (Isa 58:4; Lk 18:11-12). But that was all for nothing. They were receiving their reward on earth.

What Jesus is calling true disciples to is much different. Jesus is talking about true conversion, the kind of conversion that is always associated with a life that is transformed. Christ will not merely become an accessory on your otherwise self-serving life.

Whoever wants the most out of this life forfeits their interest in the life to come.

2. There is no profit outside of salvation (25): An eternity in hell is not worth obtaining everything this world has to offer. Can we not count the numerous examples of those, even in this life, who find no lasting satisfaction in the things of this world. No amount of money or fame will bring the peace that our soul longs for. Jesus was offered this very thing when Satan tempted him in the desert, but the cost of forsaking God and worshipping Satan was a losing transaction.

Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations 4408 Eternal Loss or Temporary Pleasure

A certain tribe in Africa elects a new king every seven years but it invariably kills its old king. For seven years the member of the tribe enjoying this high honor is provided with every luxury known to savage life. During these years his authority is absolute, even to the power of life and death. For seven years he rules, is honored and surfeited with possessions, but at the end he dies.
Every member of the tribe is aware of this, for it is a custom of long standing; but there is never lacking an applicant for the post. For seven years of luxury and power men are willing to sacrifice the remainder of life’s expectation.
Scores and hundreds and thousands are willing to be bankrupts through eternity if they may only win their millions here.

3. If we are ashamed of him, he will be ashamed of us “when he comes” (26): We might reveal our shame in an unwillingness to tell others that we identify with Christ and his Church. We might reveal our shame by keeping quiet when others promote sin and heresy. We might reveal our shame when we act one way when we’re around church friends, but then act in a contrary way when we are around others.

Jesus concludes this conversation with another foretelling. Some of his own disciples would not “taste death until they see the kingdom of God” (27). There may be a bit of confusion about this statement due to the fact that Jesus has already talked about the kingdom of God on multiple occasions as having already been ushered in. In that sense, his kingdom is wherever there are people submitting to the Lord’s sovereign reign. His ministry among his disciples has already proven that the kingdom of God has been inaugurated.

However, this is a future kingdom that Jesus has in mind. The last reason he gave above mentioned his coming (26). If the next phase in redemptive history (after his death and resurrection) is the return of Christ, it seems likely that this is what Jesus had in mind. He specifically mentions coming in glory.

In the very next passage, which occurs eight days after these conversations, the inner circle of disciples (Peter, James, and John) will all witness Christ in his glory at the transfiguration. They saw a foreshadowing of Jesus in his glorified state. Another occasion that might have been considered the fulfillment of this prophecy is when the disciples witnessed Jesus’ resurrection and ascension into heaven. The angels informed them that he would return in the same way that they just saw him ascend.

The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) Chapter 9

Since it will occur within the lifetime of many present but seems to envision a period longer than the eight days leading to the transfiguration, the fulfillment of this prophecy is probably the complex of Jesus’ resurrection, ascension, and bestowal of the Spirit on His church, all as a foretaste of the second coming.


Because Jesus died for you, you ought to be willing to die to yourself and live for him.

J.C. Ryle comments,

His death was the result of the eternal counsels of the blessed Trinity. He had undertaken to suffer for man’s sin, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God. He had engaged to bear our sins, as our Substitute and Surety, and He bore them willingly in His own person on the tree.

The suffering of Jesus on our behalf motivates us to endure suffering for him.

Philippians 3:10 ESV

that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,

Are you willing to know him in that way?