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The Suffering of Christ

Luke 9:21-27

After Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Christ, Jesus begins to teach them more about his work as the Christ. He tells them: “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”

This has implications for discipleship. Jesus says: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” To follow Jesus is to follow the rejected and suffering one. If our Lord suffers then so too will his followers. But as we follow him into suffering so too will we follow him into his glory, the Father’s glory and the glory of the holy angels.

We often misunderstand Jesus’ call. For us, to deny oneself, means to forgo some urge or desire to indulge (e.g. chocolate ice cream). For Jesus’ hearers though, to deny oneself meant to set aside the relationships, whether family or friends, that made up one’s identity. No longer to act primarily under obligation to those relationships and concerns but rather a new identity as the people of God with a new set of relationships and obligations. The parallel in Luke 14 replaces ‘deny oneself’ with ‘hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters’ – not a literal directive but rather subordinating these relationships to new kingdom ones.

To take up one’s cross was not simply to tolerate some inconvenience, rather a person who took up a cross was going to a place of execution, that is, they were going to die. In other words, to take up one’s cross is to die to the affairs of this old world and to live in the new age of the kingdom of God. To die to the old age involves dying to its agendas and priorities. Thus, Jesus is calling for radical discipleship.