The cross may be seen as a symbol that points to guilt, shame, or even suffering. In the time of Jesus, it was an instrument of death used to punish criminals.
To followers of Jesus, the cross is not just an emblem of suffering and shame but a symbol of hope and victory. It offers comfort for daily life on the Christian pathway. It provides solace in times of despair and fear and it’s a constant reminder that Jesus rose on the third day and gave us access to eternal life.
“Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:” (Matthew 7 verses 13)
If we desire the things of this world then we will be led down a path that will bring regret in the end. On the other hand, if our desire is to follow Christ and obey His precepts our path will take us to righteousness. “…he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” Psalm 23:3
When we choose to follow Jesus, we can be more than confident that He will guide and direct us. Psalm 119:105 gives us the assurance that, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path”.
This article will explore what it means to take up the cross and follow Jesus with a deep dive Bible commentary of Luke 9:23.
Who wrote Luke 9:23 and when was it written?
The authorship of the gospel of Luke has been widely debated. Some scholars are of the belief that it was written by Luke the physician who was a companion of the apostle Paul.
Other scholars propose that Luke wasn’t a companion of Paul. They support this view using arguments from the three New Testament citing of the name Luke stating that one such reference is in a book not written by Paul himself. To be on the safe side, others are of the view that the author is unknown.
It is widely believed that Luke was authored by the same individual who wrote Acts and that these texts were divided into two when the New Testaments was compiled. In light of the view that Luke and Acts of the Apostles is a single text they are referred to as Luke-Acts by many Bible scholars.
Due to the fact that Luke presents thorough details in regards to historic events and there is no mention of the destruction of Jerusalem many assumed that this gospel predates this event and was written about 63 AD.
What is the context of Luke 9?
The backdrop of Luke chapter nine is focused on discipleship, humility, knowing Christ Jesus on a personal level, facing rejection, and following the son of man wholeheartedly.
A close look at Luke chapter nine verses one to six will reveal the theme of discipleship. In verses one to three, Jesus called His twelve disciples together, gave them power, sent them out, and instructed that they should take nothing with them.
“And he sent them to preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick.” (Luke 9 verse 2)
Humility and simplicity are important components of Christian faith and Jesus used these two principles to help His disciples understand that it is important to rely on the Lord for all that they need. In verse three, He told the disciples to take nothing for their journey.
In verse thirteen He told them to feed a multitude knowing that they didn’t have sufficient provisions. In verse sixteen He proved that dependence on Him and faith in His provision is more than sufficient.
Verses eighteen to twenty highlights the importance of knowing Jesus on a personal level. Repeating what others think and say about Jesus is not enough. It is very important to have a personal experience with the Savior.
In Luke 9:20 Jesus asked the disciples who they think He was, “He said unto them, But whom say ye that I am? Peter answering said, The Christ of God”. If Peter did not have a personal relationship with Christ, he may have thought Jesus was Elias or one of the old prophets who had risen.
Christ faced great opposition and rejection throughout His ministry and He wants His followers to understand and be prepared to deal with similar challenges. In verse twenty-two He told the disciples, “…The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day”.
He used His experience of rejection while on His way to Jerusalem to teach the disciples the way of the cross. Instead of responding with anger and punishment they should be compassionate, forgiving, and merciful to those who reject them.
The end of the chapter gives some scenarios about men who were asked to follow Jesus. They were not fully prepared and wanted to do other things before committing to follow Him wholeheartedly.
Jesus expects each individual who wishes to follow Him to do so with total commitment as they give up their own will. That is why the closing text of the chapter is a firm reminder of what it requires to be a true disciple of Jesus. It states, “And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God”.
What is the message of Luke 9:23?
Luke 9:23 has a very powerful message for each follower of Jesus who wishes to answer the call of discipleship. Let’s take a look at the text according to the message translation then break it down into sections.
Then he told them what they could expect for themselves: “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat – I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how.” MSG
Firstly, the text is addressing individuals who intend to follow Christ and gives a brief summary of what they should expect. The first thing they have to do is give up being in charge and allow Christ to lead.
The translation plainly states, you are not in the driver’s seat. This means you don’t decide when to pull over, change gears, give indications, make turns, rest, or anything else. Your decision to be a disciple means that you sit in the passenger seat, put aside your own interests, submit to the will of God, and allow Christ to take full control of your life.
The great thing about letting Christ sit in the driver’s seat is that you don’t have to worry about roadblocks and difficulties. You can be confident like the psalmist who declared, “But thou, O Lord, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head”. Psalms 3:3
“Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of them all.” (Psalms 34 verse 19)
Secondly, the life of a follower of Christ is a one-way journey that involves suffering. It is not in human nature to embrace suffering but this is exactly what answering Jesus’ call means. He has experienced temptation and suffering and if you are allowing Him to be your driver you will have the same experience.
“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” (1 Corinthians 10 verse 13)
The great thing is that God will never allow suffering to break you. He will never give you more trials than you can bear and He’ll always provide a way of escape.
The message of Luke 9:23 is a great sum of the Christian life as it advises what will happen to those who answer the call of discipleship. It requires obedience to the will of God, self-sacrifice as personal interest is put aside, and total submission to Christ’s leading.
And he said to them all meaning
This segment of the text identifies who was speaking and who were being spoken to. Jesus was speaking to His disciples right after asking them who He was.
After Peter responded saying that He is the Son of God, Jesus told them in verse twenty-one not to disclose His true identity to anyone. In the next verse He further mentioned that He will suffer and be rejected.
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:” (John 10 verse 27)
When Jesus speaks, those who know Him will not have any difficulty identifying His voice or discerning who He is. ‘He’, in this section, identifies the Son of God and Shepherd. ‘Them all’ refers to Jesus’ disciples and the sheep who follow Him and belongs to His fold.
“And there came a voice out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him.” (Luke 9 verse 35)
As the sheep of His fold and disciples of Christ our duty is to listen when He speaks. We should carefully follow His directives and pay keen attention to what He says and how He says it.
If any man will come after me meaning
If any man will come after me simply speaks to a desire to follow Jesus. This entails wanting to take the path that He took, being willing to go where He sends, and responding to the call of the gospel commission.
“Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” NKJV
The New King James Version uses the word desire in its translation of Luke 9:23. Without a desire to go after Jesus it is very difficult to do His will.
The story of the rich young ruler is an excellent explanation of what ‘if any man will come after me’ means. The rich young ruler knew Jesus, he kept the commandments, and he wanted to inherit eternal life. But this was not enough to gain everlasting life.
The rich young ruler was very disappointed when Jesus told him to sell what he had and give his treasures to the poor. Instead of parting with his earthly treasures and following Jesus, the young man went away grieved.
“The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men, ²⁹Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?” (John 4 verses 28 to 29)
We should be excited when we desire to follow Christ. When the woman at the well had her encounter with Jesus, she not only desired to follow His teachings but also called others to come and experience the love of God.
If any man will come after me means that we should be willing to follow the path that Jesus wants us to go on. Mark 1:17 shows that the disciples wanted to take the path with Jesus. “And Jesus said unto them, Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men.”
The disciples were fishermen before they decided to follow Christ. The fact that they left their boats and all the fish that they caught, was an indication that they desired to give up a lot of money and their own life.
“Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.” (Isaiah 6 verse 8)
The NIV translation of Luke 9:23 uses the phrase, “Whoever wants to be my disciple”. Wanting to be a disciple requires a willingness to go where the Lord sends us.
This also means a follower of Christ understands the role of fulfilling the great commission which was given in Matthew 28:19. There must be a yearning desire to, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost”.
“For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19 verse 10)
The Savior came into this world to save humanity and those who desire to follow Him and be His disciple must share the same mandate.
let him deny himself meaning
This phrase means that all those who choose to be followers of Christ must be willing to give up what they own and what they want. Nothing is wrong in giving up temporal things for spiritual ones. As earthly pleasures and rewards are exchanged for heavenly glory there is a need to depend on the Savior, and be confident that He is and will be enough.
“Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: ⁷But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: ⁸And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” (Philippians 2 verses 6 to 8)
Jesus gave up the splendor of heaven to be born in a stable. He put aside His divinity and took on humanity in order to redeem us. This is the same level of self-denial, sacrifice, and selflessness that is expected of us.
“Saying, The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day.” (Luke 9 verse 22)
The Son of man didn’t just sacrifice His home and divinity but also offered himself as the sacrificial lamb. Christ realized that sacrificing His life on the cross would bring great agony but He submitted to the will of God. Denying self signifies going through great difficulty while submitting to the will of God.
“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:” (Philippians 2 verse 5)
‘Let him deny himself’ means that we need to have the mind of Christ. We need to put aside our personal goals and our own desires for the things of this world. Jesus was willing to leave heaven and all of its glory behind. We have to be willing to give up all the things of this world for Him.
“For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away?” (Luke 9 verse 25)
Each of us has a choice between the world and what it has to offer or our eternal salvation. Jesus is saying to us: deny self, deny this world, and avoid being a castaway.
“For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it. ²⁶For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father’s, and of the holy angels.” (Luke 9 verses 24 to 26)
Self-denial takes place when a self-centered life is put aside and living wholly for the Savior and the eternal future He promises, is all that matters.
Instead of focusing on acquiring material things or providing basic needs like food, clothes, and shelter a true follower of Christ will be confident in the promise of Philippians 4:19 which states, “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus”.
“And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.” (Matthew 8 verse 20)
Jesus used these words in response to a man who decided to follow Him. Following the Lord means giving up what you currently have for a life of simplicity.
This text not only shows the simplicity of the Savior’s life but also points to the necessity of self-denial expected from each disciple of Jesus. It also points to the fact that as we surrender our lives to the Lord, we should depend on Him completely for provision, protection, and whatever else we need.
Take up his cross daily meaning
Agony and death are two things that come to mind when thinking about the cross. Adding to that, Jesus’ experience on the cross was a bitter one as He was spat upon, mocked, and pierced. It was a heavy burden to bear both physically and emotionally but there is a hopeful side to His sufferings.
The cross of Jesus Christ was the only way for the Savior to pay the price of sin, redeem humanity, and provide access to eternal life. When Jesus took up His cross, He knew He was about to accomplish something great.
“Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.” (Matthew 5 verse 11)
When Jesus hung on the cross of Calvary humanity received a blessing. Taking up your cross means embracing a blessing that will only be made possible through the Son of God. Yes, there will be trials, tribulations, and temptations but these will all be worth it in the end.
“And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; ⁴And patience, experience; and experience, hope: ⁵And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. ⁶For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” (Romans 5 verses 3 to 6)
The apostle knew that taking up a cross meant daily expecting to endure hardships but he didn’t stop there. He went on to mention that it is by taking up our own crosses and enduring our own sufferings that we gain hope and become strengthened by the Lord. Taking up your cross daily means seeking Christ to provide hope and strength each day.
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. ²⁹Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. ³⁰For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11 verses 28 to 30)
As a follower of Christ, you should commit each day to Him. As you accept His will and embrace His calling, be hopeful knowing that He will help you to bear your burdens. He will give you rest; He will make carrying your cross easy, and He will make your burdens light.
“And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” (Romans 12 verse 2)
Transformation and renewal are important aspects of discipleship. As followers of Christ the pathway of faith may wear us down and we may get complacent. This is why taking up the cross is not a ‘one time’ thing. It is the constant process of putting away the old self and embracing transformation and renewal as we seek to submit to the will of God.
Follow me meaning
As a child of the Lord, it makes sense to follow Him. Christ has left us an example of what it means to follow. When He said ‘follow me’, He was giving directions for us to model His example, be directed by His leading, and answer His call.
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,” (Luke 4 verse 18)
In Luke chapter four, Christ set the example that He wants His followers to model. He not only wants His disciples to attend worship services on Sabbaths but also expects them to preach, heal, deliver, recover, and liberate others in order to demonstrate that they are following Him wholeheartedly.
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. ¹³And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” (John 14 verse 12 to 13)
There is no doubt of what the role of a Christ follower entails. This text not only helps to explain what it means to follow Jesus but gives a clear example. Believers should do the work that Jesus did. This not only serves as a testimony that they follow Him but gives glory to the heavenly Father.
“Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14 verse 6)
When Adam and Eve sinned in the garden, they broke the perfect union that God had with His children. The entire earthly ministry of Christ was to restore the relationship between God and humanity. He leads His followers towards God and He expects that all who follow Him will also lead others into a saving relationship with the Lord.
“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (Romans 8 verse 1)
The entrance of sin into the world brought condemnation upon humanity. Following the leading of Jesus, accepting His atoning sacrifice, and abiding in Him will lift the curse of condemnation and ensure that our journey is not one that leads us to carnal desires but sets us on a spiritual pathway.
“And he sent them to preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick.” (Luke 9 verse 2)
‘Follow me’ means answering the call to discipleship and going where the Lord bids us. This includes sharing the good news of salvation with others and inviting them to be a part of God’s kingdom.
“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. ⁵I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.” (John 15 verses 4 to 5)
The most profound way for a disciple to demonstrate that he or she is following the Savior wholeheartedly is by abiding in Him. In John chapter fifteen, Christ uses the analogy of a vine and a branch to explain what it truly is to abide in Him.
It’s a relation that is built on dependence upon Christ and the heavenly Father instead of being independent and self-sufficient. There is also a benefit of having a close bond with Christ since He promises that with His assistance much fruit can be borne for the kingdom.
What is the difference in biblical translations Luke 9:23 (NKJV, KJV, NIV & ESV)?
Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” NKJV
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.” KJV
Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” NIV
And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” ESV
There isn’t any significant difference in the translations of Luke 9:23 in these four versions. The NKJV and the NIV used the word then to start the verse while the KJV and the ESV used the word and.
Instead of using the word man, the NKJV, NIV, and ESV used less gender specific words such as anyone and whoever.
The NKJV used the word desire in the second phase while the NIV utilized the word disciple. The difference in words used did not change the meaning of the verse but adds emphasis or clarity and gives the reader a clearer understanding of what Jesus was saying to His disciples.
How do I apply Luke 9:23 to my life?
Applying this text to your life means that if you have a genuine desire to follow Jesus, you should be willing to put personal interest aside and submit to His will. It also means that you will allow Him to guide, direct, strengthen, and provide for you as you take up your cross each day.
What is a Luke 9:23 prayer?
Compassionate heavenly Father,
We thank You for the gift of the cross and the sacrifice that Christ made at Calvary to save us. Lord, give us a genuine desire to commit to discipleship. Help us to put away our plans, aspirations, and dreams as we embrace the perfect plans that You have for our lives and wholly submit to Your will.
Let us not be afraid of taking up our cross daily as we look to You for strength. We claim the promise that Your yoke is easy and Your burden is light. May our walk with You bring glory to Your kingdom and afford us the reward of everlasting life. Forgive us of our shortcomings we humbly ask in Christ’s name. Amen.
Christ expects each individual on the Christian pathway to take up their cross and follow Him. This is something that has to be done wholeheartedly as total surrender and submission to His will is required for discipleship to be effective and fruitful.