Holy Week | Monday
Week 6: What Can We Expect As Followers of Jesus?
Jesus Predicts His Death: Suffering & Shame
by Janet Nygren
Read: Luke 9: 18-27
19 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.”
20 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Peter answered, “God’s Messiah.”
21 Jesus strictly warned them not to tell this to anyone. 22 And he said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”
23 Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. 25 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? 26 Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.
27 “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.”
- The disciples were possibly expecting, as part of Jesus’ leadership team, to be part of ushering in the glory of God’s kingdom with power and privilege. What does Jesus affirm and what does he correct about their thinking?
- “Taking up your cross” is not a figure of speech in Jesus’ day. It meant accountability to the state for a severe crime, resulting in death. It meant rejection of life as you knew it. There was no going back. Although Jesus isn’t promising them literal crucifixion (like he himself would face), what are the high stakes he is describing?
- From what we’ve studied so far in Luke, what might shame of Jesus and his words look like for his disciples?
- What does “taking up your cross daily” look like for you today?
- Are there aspects of Jesus and his words that you are ashamed of? If so, what?
- This is a hard teaching. Jesus knew that, but wanted to be up front with his followers. It’s ok to struggle with this directly with God too. Take time to confess what is in your heart and ask God to equip you for whatever he calls you to.
- Have you experienced suffering or shame as a follower of Jesus? Or are you embarrassed if you haven’t? We invite your honesty in wrestling with others about this difficult topic.
One of the things that taking up our cross daily means is dying to ourselves over and over again. Paul says in Galatians, “I have been crucified with Christ and yet I live. Pleasing ourselves may feel good for a moment, but it leads to spiritual emptiness. Pleasing God leads to what Jesus calls the abundant life. Holy Spirit, we need You to live in this new way. While we certainly need things like food and drink, letting our flesh and feelings lead us through life leads to a self-centered life which brings no joy or peace.
I agree with Nick’s comment that this teaching is about dying to self every day. It is also recognizing that following Jesus is not some part-time thing we can do on weekends in one compartment of our lives. It is not just an interesting hobby; it’s a different way of life. And Jesus is also teaching that the values of his kingdom are completely contrary to the world’s values. A Jesus-follower’s life should look strikingly different. We should be pursuing different things in life. That means lots of hard choices that will seem crazy in the eyes of the world. But the result, Jesus promises, is that we will “save our life” and “gain our very self.” As I consider my own life, I think I am too content to blend in with the world and not take Jesus as seriously as I ought to.
I remember visiting Ellis Island and having the sense that the movie that depicted the life of the immigrant arriving in America was my grandmother's life being described, though technically she arrived in Jersey City, not Ellis Island in that same timeframe (1920's, post WW1 from Germany). That whole generation was very self-sacrificing, willing to put up with any suffering for the sake of their children having a chance at a better life. But as I reflect on each generation that followed, each trying to make life better for their children, it seems like we have gradually increased a sense of self-centeredness as well. Today's young people, and a lot of the issues that seem so controversial, seem set on pursuing their own desires rather than dying to self for the good of kingdom-oriented things. As a fellow participant in wanting to make my children's lives good, I struggle with how to answer this dilemma.
Janet, I think we are all very selfish, especially here in a nation that promotes individual rights over all else. It seems that the only way to fight this is to live in a countercultural manner, shunning the "me first" tendencies that we're celebrated for in America. Rugged individualism is the undoing of our society, but laying down one's life for the sake of community is so hard!