If the identity of the Christ is about suffering, being rejected, killed and resurrected, what would a follower of Jesus look like? I could tell everyone I’m a plumber. I could dress like a plumber. I could carry around the tools. None of that makes me qualified to be a plumber. Or I could pretend to be a surgeon. I could buy a nice white coat, some shoe booties, some you know, whatever I need to pull off the look. I may even familiarize myself with some of the lingo. Like I could say “scalpel” instead of “that really sharp thingy.” But no one wants me to pretend to be a doctor; no matter how much I think I could pull off the look and technical language. Yeah, anyone can say they’re a disciple of Christ.
There is a reason that Luke 9:23-27 follows directly after Jesus’ description of what it means to be the Christ; the Son of Man. Followers should follow. So, if you are going to be a follower of the Christ who was to suffer, be rejected by the religious leaders, killed and resurrected, what exactly are you following? Jesus was saying to all of them, emphasizing that this message is for everyone. And what is this message? If you want to follow Christ you are called upon to deny yourself. What? Wait! I thought Jesus wanted me to be true to myself. Nah man. He wants you to disregard, refuse, deny yourself. But he doesn’t stop there. He also calls you to pick up your cross daily. Every one of his listeners understood what this meant. If you were sentenced to be crucified – if you were a non-Roman citizen and the worst of people – you had to carry the cross beam of the implement of your death to the place of your death. Picking up your cross meant only one thing. You are going to die son. Daily! That’s what it means to follow the Christ.
This is followed with three explanatory clauses which begin with the word “for.” For whoever longs to save or rescue their life will ruin it. And we have seen the truth of this played out before us haven’t we? The person who focuses all of their efforts on themselves is often a train wreck. But whoever loses or ruins their life for Jesus’ sake will save that life. It may seem too scary to pick up a cross and follow the suffering Christ, but the alternative is not really life. It seems likely that Jesus is saying that his followers should not only daily lay down their lives, but that they should be ready to be martyred. It is a call to make Jesus more important than your life; your self.
For in what way is a man successful if he is able to acquire the whole world, but in the process ruins or suffers the loss of himself? In the ledger of life is this really a success? On one of the news shows, they sometimes do a segment on “A Life Well Lived.” This is usually about a person who has used their ability, resources, to help others; to better their community. Even non-followers of Jesus know that having wealth cannot be the end all of your existence. Sure, it might be nice to throw money at all of your problems in life – such as purchasing a college education for your son or daughter who is more interested in partying than studying.
For whoever is ashamed of Jesus and his message, when the Son of Man comes in glory, he will be ashamed of that person. When the pressures of this life try to crush out the message of a suffering Christ, do you shudder and think more about yourself or do you take a stand in Christ? Do you rescue you by displaying shame for Christ? If you live your life rescuing you at the cost of Christ’s honor, should it be a surprise when Jesus is ashamed of you? Should Jesus honor you when you have refused to honor him? Many will see the phrase “come in glory” and leap to the end of time. But if this is a reference to Daniel 7, this is about when the kingdom is given to the Son of Man. Maybe that is why he tells them that some of them will still be alive when they see that kingdom. That kingdom is the glory of God and of the angels. And you really shouldn’t expect the Son of Man, to whom has been given dominion, glory and kingdom, to welcome you into that kingdom, if you have treated him and his message with contempt.
By all means, follow Jesus. But don’t just wear a title and learn the lingo. Don’t sit in the stands cheering on the Miracle Worker. Be a follower of the true Christ; the suffering servant who was rejected by the religious elite; the Christ who went to the cross. So, pick up your cross. Daily. I know. It means death. Pick it up and follow. Jesus doesn’t call you to a life of being true to yourself. He calls you to deny self. Paradoxically, if you spend all your effort – your self – trying to save yourself, you will lose. So, lose you as you follow. I know. It feels like death. It is. Die then, and live. Grace, Walter