But he strictly warned and instructed them to tell this to no one, saying, “It is necessary that the Son of Man suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, be killed, and be raised the third day.” 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. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me will save it. For what does it benefit someone if he gains the whole world, and yet loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and that of the Father and the holy angels. Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.”
Luke 9:21-27 CSB
If we put ourselves in the place of Jesus’ Jewish followers, we can feel their confusion. It was their ancestors, after all, who walked through the Red Sea after God made it dry land!
They had heard related from their earliest memories the astounding acts of their miracle-working God. They also knew He had promised a Savior – Messiah. They were expecting someone to rescue them from Rome – a warrior like King David. Who would expect their all-powerful, 100% righteous Messiah to die?? Being punished on a cross with criminals?? No wonder they had a difficult time wrapping their minds around that!
But Jesus told them what to expect so their faith wouldn’t be destroyed, but rather would be bolstered when they could see He knew what was going to happen.
He also wanted them to know they could expect no better.
Are you a Christian who expects a life of ease because you have been told that is what you may expect when you follow Jesus?
The American dream sometimes stirs up such hopes, but that is different than what Jesus promised. We must be careful that we don’t allow the culture to creep into our doctrine, as it was with the disciples. Although America affords great opportunity, as Christians, we must hold loosely whatever comes to us.
Remember, there was at least one disciple who was a zealot – one who looked forward to and would fight for the overthrow of Rome. Imagine his consternation.
Was Judas Iscariot trying to begin the overthrow himself by having Jesus arrested? Did he really think Jesus would take up arms against Rome?
Peter was so taken aback when Jesus told him to put his sword away in the garden of Gethsemane that he ran. But then he showed up at Jesus’ trial and crucifixion, grieved and confused, but still following.
What about you and me? Are we revolted at the idea of willingly giving up whatever He asks – career, money, relationship? Indulgence (or overindulgence) in food and/or drink (illegal drugs included)? Any sexual behavior outside of marriage? Time spent not on ourselves, but with Him and in His service? The list would be quite long of ways we refuse to obey this command.
We need to read carefully His words. He doesn’t say what He doesn’t mean, and means everything He says.
Are we truly living for Jesus?
The message of the gospel is so simple a child may understand it. In a nutshell, it is this:
“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him. “There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son.
John 3:16-18 NLT