Luke 9:23

ESV And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
NIV Then he said to them all: 'Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.
NASB And He was saying to them all, 'If anyone wants to come after Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me.
CSB Then he said to them all, "If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.
NLT Then he said to the crowd, 'If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me.
KJV And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.

What does Luke 9:23 mean?

In this chapter, Luke describes how Jesus calls the disciples to be like Him, then watches them fail. Jesus empowered the disciples to cast out demons and heal the sick; they did so (Luke 9:1–6, 10). But then they had trouble believing they could use that same power to feed a crowd of hungry people (Luke 9:12–13).

Jesus begins another lesson by explaining He will go to Jerusalem, be betrayed by the religious leaders, die, and on the third day rise again (Luke 9:22). Luke does not record Peter's denial or Jesus' rebuke that Peter is speaking for Satan (Matthew 16:21–23). Instead, Luke goes straight to Jesus' call to the disciples to emulate Him: to be willing to face their own crosses, lose their lives, and not be ashamed of following Him (Luke 9:24–26).

Jesus gives three commands for discipleship. The verbs "deny oneself" and "take up" are in a Greek-language form called "aorist imperative." These imply actions which are accomplished once. That means when we deny ourselves and submit to Jesus, we do not return to rebellion for a time, then consider whether we will deny ourselves again. Jesus adds "daily" to picking up one's cross. Every day, we need to make a definitive decision and not back away. "Follow," however, is in the "present imperative" form. The lifestyle of following Christ is a once-and-forever decision, while the daily details of life are part of continually choosing to deny ourselves and "carry our cross."

Jesus' call to the disciples to "deny" themselves is set in the middle of the chapter where the disciples do the exact opposite. As Jesus sets His "face to go to Jerusalem" (Luke 9:51) to die on the cross (Luke 9:22), they still think the purpose of the Messiah (Luke 9:20) is to free the Jews from the Romans and give them their nation back. To that end, Peter rebukes Jesus when He warns of His coming death (Matthew 16:22), James and John threaten to destroy a Samaritan city that refuses to offer hospitality (Luke 9:51–55) instead of following Jesus' command to merely shake the dust from their feet (Luke 9:5), and the disciples get into a fight about who will be greatest when Jesus comes into His kingdom (Luke 9:46–48).

But what does "take up his cross daily" mean? This simple phrase has inspired several handfuls of interpretations. Some say it means to live under a particular burden, such as chronic illness or an unpleasant marriage. Others imply it means being unashamed to worship a God who died on a cross. Some interpret this to mean willingness to be martyred, as Peter was.

Others say it is a stronger call of submission: we need to consistently lay down our rights up to and including our own death. This last idea seems most consistent with the rest of the passage. We need to be completely devoted to Christ and His message to the point that nothing on earth can scare us away from Him. As with many of Jesus' teachings, it's a hard lesson to accept (John 6:60). But either Christ is our most important priority, above even our lives, or we're putting something above God in our hearts (Matthew 19:21–23).

Jesus goes on to say that only those who lose their lives for his sake will live (Luke 9:24). Paul says something similar in 1 Corinthians 15:30–32. He faced severe persecution regularly and possibly even died once (2 Corinthians 11:23–27; Acts 14:19–20). All that means nothing if he will not be resurrected.
What is the Gospel?
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