Opening Prayer Thoughts.
Praise God for the privilege of worshiping him privately as a family and with others in public worship. Praise God that his work in our lives is real. Praise God for the hunger and desire he gives us to be with him and his people.
Acknowledge and confess the sin of not fully comprehending the blessing that worship is. Pray and ask God to own that privilege and blessing with joy.
Please read Luke 9:23-27
Ask God the Holy Spirit to help you in your understanding of his Word.
Jesus' conversation about his death had taken place with just the Apostles – v18 tells us that he had been praying alone, and the Twelve were with him when he asked them the 'Who do you think I am' questions. Now we are back to Jesus speaking with the 'crowds' and, even though he doesn't give them anything of what he has just been talking about, the theme of what he now says to the multitude flows out of what he has just said.
Jesus' thesis is a simple one; if anyone is going to follow him, they have to be prepared to do two things. First, make hard personal choices, and second, be willing to put themselves in a place where they will experience suffering.
V23. Coming after Jesus.
The thought of ‘coming after me’ means to attach oneself to Jesus. So, Jesus is not talking here about the casual follower, about the person who is just turning up occasionally to see what the latest news on the Jesus front is. Although they are hearing them, these words are not being directed at those who like the authoritative teaching of Jesus because it is different from that of the rabbis, and who are entertained by his miracles. Jesus is addressing those who have, by the grace of God, made a conscious decision to attach themselves to Jesus.
This deliberate intentional attaching will first require the person to deny themselves. The word 'deny' used here means in the original, one commentator writes, "to turn someone off, to refuse association and companionship with him, to disown. And the one who is here to be disowned and denied is SELF, and that means self altogether, not merely some portion, some special habit or desire, some outward practice." This is a radical call. The decisions and actions of SELF have governed every age. Wars resulting in millions of deaths have been started when a man has asserted his SELF and convinced others around him that their SELF-interests would be best served if they joined with him, and together, they pursued their joint SELF-interest as far as it would take them. Day in and day out, there are crimes being prosecuted at every level of society, and every single one of them has its origin in the SELF-interest of an individual. We are living in a society where the 'right' of SELF-determination is king. Everything and everyone must be subservient to it. Whether in relation to the rights of women concerning the unborn, gender 'definition', substance use/abuse, … the list is endless and growing longer by the day. Here I digress for a moment; this right to self-determination, of course, is a misnomer; it is not real. Ever since western nations established their 'human rights acts/bills', writing into statute what 'rights' they think the populace should have, they ended the centuries-old practice of the populace being born free in a state which then had the sole responsibility of establishing laws to protect the weak and vulnerable, and to punish evil. The freedom in western civilizations today is not 'free' freedom, in other words, we are not free to live our lives as we wish, as long as we do not harm others or their property as defined in God's Law, but it is a human rights' defined freedom which is an entirely different thing. Digression over.
Those who attach themselves to Christ are required by Christ to disown their SELF. All and perceived rights we may think we have, have to be brought to an end. It involves a recognition, and then acceptance, of the fact that we are blood-bought slaves. Christ has redeemed us by his broken body and shed blood, meaning that we are now his. We have no rights; we have no SELF to promote, protect, stand in support of. The only right we have as followers, attached ones to Christ, is the right not to have the right to SELF. As I said above, this is a truly radical and wonderfully liberating truth. Because the SELF we are relinquishing, by the grace of God, is our bondage to sin, and its passion to destroy us.
V23. Taking up the Cross.
Jesus has just told the Apostles about the cross, although he had not used the word. The 'cross' was the preferred choice of Roman execution. Although they had not invented it, they had perfected it as a weapon of war to terrorize rebelling citizens throughout their empire. When Jesus uses the word 'cross' here, and it is Luke's first recording of the word, everyone listening knows what he is speaking about, and it's not pleasant. Let's be clear that Jesus is not speaking here about human suffering; the wicked have many sorrows (Psalm 32:10), but they bear no cross. When Jesus uses the word 'cross' here, he is speaking solely of those who would attach themselves to him by God's grace. The 'cross', that the follower of Jesus must daily pick up, is the consequence that will directly impact their life as a result of making a decision to obey him. But it cannot be any other way. There can be no following without daily obedience. And there can be no daily obedience without suffering. That reality has to be faced and met head-on by the one who would be attached to Christ.
V24. Self-denying and cross-bearing – why do it?
Why is this denying SELF and taking up the 'cross' worth doing? Because the alternative is DEATH. Those who live their lives for SELF, those who have no desire to obey Christ, those who give themselves to the pleasures of sin for a season. They will get what they espouse and give themselves wholeheartedly to – namely separation from God, in a place of just, terrible, and eternal punishment. It is a simple and straight line to draw. The positive reason for denying SELF and taking up the 'cross' is the gift of eternal LIFE.
V25. Self-denying and cross-bearing – why it is worth it.
The balancing scales just don't make sense for the seekers of SELF and the disobeyers of Christ. If such a person could attain to everything in the world: all the world's wealth, power, pleasure, achievements, glory, enjoyments – absolutely everything in the world that the human heart could want for and desire, what benefit would it be for the soul? The answer is none. In fact, it is worse than none. For the losing of the soul means being in a state of perpetual, eternal horrific punishment.
V26. Christ will judge.
What does it mean to be ashamed of Jesus and his words? Note, he and his words are one, for his words are how Jesus comes to us in person. When we hear his words, we hear his voice, and when we hear his voice, we hear Jesus. Simply put, it means to deny Jesus and prefer the life of SELF and the world. The consequences of doing so are eternal. Come the day of Judgement, the Son of Man, he who is both man and God, the Christ, will deny them. The one act produces the other; herein is full and complete justice. What is sown will be reaped. The holiness and justness of the character of Christ demand it. He will do nothing else because he cannot act beyond his character. That is why the thought of "I will wait and see what happens," is without any warrant.
V27. What does this verse mean?
What does this verse mean? Well, what it doesn't mean is that Jesus is saying that the end of the world will come before some of his hearers die. That clearly cannot be the case. So, what does it mean? To be honest, I don't know, and the commentaries give all sorts of answers without really giving an answer, so I am just going to leave it at that, unsatisfactory as it may be.
A Psalm to Sing.
Psalm 145B. Link to the words. Link to it being sung. Sing with joy in your heart to God.
It is a privilege to lay into our hearts and minds the light and truth of God's Word.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ"
Truth for the Mind and Heart.
Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 66 - What is the reason attached to the fifth commandment?
Answer - The reason attached to the fifth commandment is a promise of long life and prosperity (so far as it shall serve for God's glory and their own good) to all those who keep this commandment.
This is taken from https://matt2819.com/wsc where you will find proof texts.
Thank God that, by the work of his amazing grace, we have the privilege and blessing of denying SELF and living in obedience to Christ. Pray and ask God to help you understand this truth.
Take care in Christ,
Rev. Dr. Andrew Quigley