April 21, 2019 • Life for Leaders
Then he said to them all: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”
Happy Resurrection Sunday! In this season we recognize that Jesus did indeed exist, and that he came to earth as the Son of God with the express purpose of bridging the divide between God and humanity. We also assent to the fact that he was crucified on a cross for the sins of the entire world. His blood was the payment for our transgressions. In this season, we acknowledge that three days after his death, Jesus rose again from the dead, just as he said we would. Finally, we find hope in his words to the disciples as he ascended that he would come back again. Essentially, today we celebrate the life, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ.
But what is the best way to celebrate Jesus’ life? How do we commemorate the reality that Jesus still lives today? I believe the answer lies in Luke 9:23, where Jesus encourages his disciples to “take up their cross daily and follow him.” Before we delve into this specific scripture, allow me to provide context for this moment.
Who was Jesus talking to?
At the beginning of Luke 9, Jesus is having an intimate moment with his twelve special disciples. Jesus had many disciples, and crowds often gathered around the Savior hoping to catch sight of a miracle or exploit. However, the Twelve were Jesus’ inner circle. This small band of leaders were the ones who had dropped everything that they had to follow Jesus when he offered to “make them fishers of men.” They spent the most time with him, and saw him when he was overlooked, celebrated, and despised. These were true followers of Christ.
Jesus had convened the Twelve because he was aware that he was about to die. Time was running short and it was imperative, as a leader, to leave his followers empowered and with a legacy. He understood that the work of reconciliation must be multiplied and continued long after he was gone. So Jesus gathered the Twelve and empowered them to “drive out demons, cure diseases, and declare the Kingdom of God” (Luke 9:1). He also told them to leave everything behind on their journey to proclaim the Kingdom. And Jesus meant everything. They were not to take any clothes (save what they had on their back), no money, no luggage or knapsack. This sounds ludicrous. He gave them power, and then told them that they must forsake all that they have and know in order to continue the work that he had begun.
Later in this same conversation, Jesus would say: “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head” (Luke 9:58). Jesus acknowledged that with all the power and authority that he possessed, he had no stable earthly residence he could call home. He was always on the go, fulfilling his calling to reconciliation. This was now the same demand he put upon his disciples. This was Jesus saying “take part in my journey, until it becomes your journey too.”
And we’re back…
So now in context, we can see that Jesus knowing that he would soon die decided to foretell his death to his disciples and prepare them for the work that they must carry on. He was equipping them to stay focused and strong amidst the nightmare that would unfold over the course of the days following. It was this moment that propelled him to tell them that all disciples must deny themselves, take up their cross daily, and follow him (Luke 9:23). There were no options here; Jesus was letting them know that they were being called away from spectatorship and into continuous action. They were to take up their cross every day, and follow Christ to Calvary. If they truly wanted his power, they would have to learn how to suffer with him. Sharing in his suffering would also open them up to sharing in his reign.
The best way to commemorate the sacrifice of Jesus Christ is to live how he lived every day. Jesus’ life was not comfortable, and sacrifice was the theme of his existence. Every action he did was on behalf of others. He was not building for himself, not trying to achieve success (after all, he was already successful), nor was he lording his status over anyone. At all points he was a servant, driven by his mission to reconcile humanity back to the Father. Those of us who are Christ followers must commemorate Christ’s life by living our lives totally for God, and not for ourselves. As disciples, let’s celebrate Christ correctly.
God, thank you for the gift of your Son Jesus Christ. Thank you that you had every intention to be reconciled to us when you sent Jesus to die. Help us to continue Christ’s work in the same manner and with the same spirit. Give us the courage to take up our cross daily and follow Jesus as ministers of reconciliation. In Jesus’ name we pray; Amen.