The Disciples. 23 Then he said to all, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”
The five sayings on discipleship that follow the first passion prediction also serve as an answer to Herod’s question regarding Jesus’ identity. Lordship and discipleship are always vitally related. By defining what it means to follow Jesus, one defines the nature of Jesus’ lordship. Jesus first asked the disciples who the crowds said he was. Then he asked them who they said he was. Jesus’ response declaring the necessity of his death was directed to the disciples. The five discipleship sayings, however, are now addressed to “all”—both the disciples and the crowd—thereby extending the invitation to discipleship to all people.
His followers must follow in his steps, taking up the cross (the Lukan version adds “daily”). To deny one’s very self and to lose one’s life does not mean an ego-suppression that would be psychologically harmful; it means giving up control over one’s destiny and opening oneself to true self-knowledge by laying aside the image constructed from worldly illusions about the meaning of life. The stakes are high: one’s response now will determine the outcome of the great judgment (v. 26). William Barclay well says, “The Christian must realize that he is given life, not to keep it for himself, but to spend it for others; not to husband its flame, but to burn himself out for Christ and for men.”
Luke 9:23 deny himself: the verb arneomai has a wide range of meanings, all amounting to saying “no” to something, whether a truth (cf. 1 John 2:22) or a person (1 John 2:23). Compare Luke 8:45, 12:9, 22:57; Acts 3:13-14, 4:16 and 7:35
take up his cross: Ted Noffs (an Australian minister) comments in By What Authority?: “The tragedy of Christianity has been that Christians have left it all to Jesus. There have been a few exceptions, of course. In the main, however, Christians have never tired of seeing the spectacle of Christ Himself upon the Cross — in some mysterious way He is our stand-in or proxy representative in every age. We love to sing about the Cross, to pray about the Cross, to preach about the Cross. As long as we are so fascinated and mesmerized, humanity troops on to its doom. …The Cross of Christ becomes the most important event in the world only when it is the inspiration for a journey every Christian must make. In the sense that He was not spared, so we will not be spared. Thus it is a salutary reminder that the reward of Christian discipleship is not a peaceful mind, freedom from anxiety in personal living, but the very opposite.”
daily: this is a Lucan addition to a saying of Jesus, removing the saying from a context that envisioned the imminent suffering and death of the disciple of Jesus (as does the saying in Mark 8:34-35) to one that focuses on the demands of daily Christian existence by following the Messiah. The way of the disciple continues the path walked by the teacher: first suffering, then glory (19:10). Luke emphasizes this point from here on (9:44; 11:29-32; 12:50; 13:31-35; 17:25; 18:31-33; 20:9-18; 22:19-20, 28; 24:7, 46-47).
Luke 9:24 for my sake: heneken emou (“for my sake”) ensures that the focus is not the loss of life or self-denial, but rather, witness.
- Alan Culpepper, Luke in The New Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. IX (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1995) 198-205.
- Luke Timothy Johnson, The Gospel of Luke, vol. 3 of Sacra Pagina, ed. Daniel J. Harrington (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1991) 336-85.
- Jerome Kodell, “Luke” in The Collegeville Bible Commentary, eds. Dianne Bergant and Robert J. Karris, (Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 1989). 975-78.
- Eugene LaVerdiere, Luke, vol. 5 of the New Testament Message (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1990) 129-33
- Gerhard Kittel, Gerhard Friedrich and Geoffrey William Bromiley, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans, 1995)
- Scripture quotes from New American Bible by Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC. © 1991, 1986, 1970 available at http://www.usccb.org/bible/index.cfm