Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. Luke 9:23-26
Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. Luke 23:34
Luke chapter 9, here was Jesus’ invitation. And again, when they heard these words, they could not possibly have understood exactly what he was talking about. That’s why Luke’s like, I’m telling you, the end of the story is what makes sense of the entire story. The end of the story is what makes everybody say, oh, so that’s why and that’s why and that’s what he meant and that’s what he was intending, because on one afternoon, again, as they’re listening and trying to figure this out, Jesus says, okay, let me put it out there for you this way.
“If any one of you desires to come after me,” literally, if any of you desire to line up behind me, be a part of my movement and move along with me. Yeah, that’s what we wanna do, Jesus. He said, okay, then here’s what you’re gonna have to do. “They’re going to have to deny themselves.” It’s required that you say no to you. It’s gonna require that you are not ruled by your appetite, you’re not ruled by your ambition, and you’re not ruled by the rules of the day. You will neither have the opportunity to act or react like everybody else around you. And then he said something that means almost nothing to us, but it meant everything to the people in his audience.
And to be specific, you’re gonna deny yourself and you’re gonna, “Take up a cross.” We’ll take up his cross. Now, in the first century, if you were carrying a cross, you know what that meant? It meant that your independence had come to an end. To take up a cross was to signify my independent life, my independence, me living life the way I wanna live and calling my own shots, it has come to an end. And then Jesus adds a very disturbing, but very important word to what he says. This is the challenge. This honestly is the differentiator. This is the difference between a believer and a follower. This is a difference between somebody who has internalized their Christianity, because they hope it will serve them well and someone who is following Jesus and wants to make a difference in the world, daily.
You can pray a sinner’s prayer, or a salvation prayer once, but this is different. And Luke would say, and I’m telling you, this is what makes the difference. And this is what made the difference. And this is why the message of Jesus survived the Empire and survived the temple, because his followers were difference makers and they actually did this stuff. And it caught on. This is a daily decision. This is every single morning. Thy kingdom come, not my kingdom. Every single morning, thy will be done, not my will be done.
This is every single morning in my life as it is in heaven, because you are not just my savior, not just the forgiver of my sins. You are my Lord and you are my king, and I submit all I am to all of you, my hands, my feet, my eyes, my ears, my thoughts, my resources. I am 100% yours. I am carrying a cross. I am abandoning my independence. And follow me, because that’s what it means. To follow Jesus, to get in line behind him, to move along with his movement means I say no to me and you say no to you, that I submit to him, that I literally follow.
So again, if you’re a Christian, if you’re a believer, do you do that? Do I do that? Is that what characterizes us? Or have we fallen into the average Christian experience of forgive me of my sin, bless my family, and thank you for the food, and if there’s a problem, I’ll let you know. Those aren’t the people that changed the world. Those aren’t the people that changed anything.