In this article, we will explore the meaning of Luke 9:23, when Jesus says to take up your cross daily. So, grab your Bible, and let’s dig in…
Most Christians know the instruction of Jesus to take up our cross daily, and it’s even become a proverb among many believers and unbelievers.
Whenever we struggle with something, we claim it’s just “my cross to bear.” Even none Christians use the term.
However, depending on the context we use it in, that isn’t always an accurate or Biblical use of the statement.
So, what did Jesus intend when He told us in Luke 9:23 to take up our cross daily, and how can we, as modern believers, implement that in our everyday lives?
As with everything, the Biblical context can tell us a lot. Let’s study this passage of scripture more closely and find out.
Take Up Your Cross Daily
Let’s start by looking at precisely what the verse says:
“And He said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.’” – Luke 9:23
The Verse In Context – Luke 9:23 Meaning
Context is always important when we study the Bible. It’s never a good idea to take just one verse and base your belief system on that; you must first look at the context within which it was said.
When we read Luke 9, we see this happened just after Jesus fed the 5,000.
Verse 18 says that, sometime after the miracle, Jesus prayed alone, but the disciples were with Him.
He asked the disciples who the crowds thought He was and then asked who the disciples thought He was, upon which Peter confessed that Jesus was “the Christ of God.”
Jesus followed this confession by foretelling His death – verse 22 says,
“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.”
He follows this statement by telling all the disciples to take up their cross daily and follow Him, then says,
“whoever would save his life, will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.”
The entire context is focused on Jesus’ death and resurrection. Jesus is basically telling the disciples that He expected the same sacrifice from them that He was willing to make Himself.
We can see that in the closing statement in verse 27, where He says that some of the disciples “would not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.”
The Symbol Of The Cross
Modern Christians see the cross as a religious symbol, a sign of Jesus’ victory. But, that’s not how the disciples would have seen it.
To them, carrying your cross meant one thing: condemnation.
Galatians 3:13 says that anyone who hangs on a tree is cursed, and a wooden cross certainly counts as that.
That’s what made these Roman executions even worse: Jewish criminals who were crucified knew that they were cursed.
So, the disciples (who did not know the details of Jesus’ death back then) saw the cross as a torture device of the Roman heathens, a sign of condemnation to death, and a curse. Ouch!
And that’s what Jesus told them to take up daily if they wanted to follow Him! This gives you a deeper look into what Jesus is requiring!
Putting It All Together
When we take all of this together, we can see that Jesus draws a parallel between Who He is, what He was going to go through, and the expectation that His disciples should be willing to do the same.
It started with the confession that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah. God Himself, walking on earth in a physical, human form.
Then He stated that He would suffer, be rejected, and die, with the promise of His resurrection afterward.
After this, He told the disciples that anyone who wants to follow Him should deny himself, take up His cross, and follow, with the promise that whoever loses his life for Jesus’ sake would save it (resurrection).
How Believers Should Take Up Their Cross
This verse shows the severity of the decision to become a Christian, while the church tends to make it so cheap or simple.
Our altar calls focus on God’s love, grace, and mercy, and that’s how we call believers to come to Him. And all of that is true, of course, but it’s like signing a contract without reading the fine print.
Our salvation is free, but it will cost us our lives. When we come to Jesus we make our Savior AND Lord.
This doesn’t necessarily mean dying physically, though it did mean literally that for many New Testament believers like the apostles, and it still means that for many modern believers as well as persecution is still happening around the world.
So yes, it means being willing to die physically if needed. But it goes far beyond that.
The key to understanding this is the phrase “deny himself.”
Taking up your cross means dying to yourself (John 3:3-7), denying yourself your desires, security, and flaws, and following Jesus in every sense of the word.
It should no longer be you that lives, but Christ that lives in you.
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. – Galatians 2:20
This is a decision that we must make every day.
When confronted by a situation where we can follow Christ or our own will, we must choose Christ’s way because we are dead.
We literally take up our cross by dying to ourselves and choosing Christ’s life, even if suffering, rejection, or death awaits us.
Practical Examples Of Taking Up Your Cross
I always like taking spiritual teachings truths and breaking them down to make them easier to digest and apply to your life.
Let’s start by looking at what taking up your cross doesn’t mean:
- It has nothing to do with putting up with sin.
Many believers struggle with sin in their lives that they can’t seem to beat. That is not your cross. You are not to surrender to that, believing God placed that on you to “keep you humble.”
Sin is not of God, and He wants you to flee from temptation in any way you can!
- It doesn’t mean putting up with the struggles of life.
Normal day-to-day struggles are part of our lives in a fallen world – we’re not in heaven yet. That has nothing to do with taking up your cross, and we are to work to make our lives as successful and fruitful as possible.
- It doesn’t mean being weak, joyless, and pathetic human beings.
Jesus was anything but that. He did what was right and what God expected of Him knowing full well what the result would be, and He did so with joy. That’s the opposite of weakness.
So, what does it mean?
Billy Graham stated it in a very graphical way. He said that Jesus knew He would die as a common criminal for saying and doing the right things, and He expects His disciples to do the same….
- We are to go into our homes, schools, workplaces, and communities, doing the will of God, even if that means we will be crucified for it.
- It means forgiving someone who wronged you without expecting an apology or restitution.
- It means sharing your faith with your friends even if they will reject you.
- It means being honest about the gospel with your family, even if it means they will shun you.
- It means laying your hands on the sick, as Jesus instructed, and praying for healing.
We should do all this without arrogance, but in perfect humility, with no regard for what it would mean for ourselves.
If God said it, we are to do it and trust Him to bring the perfect outcome, knowing He has great things planned for us – in this life and the next!
Being a believer doesn’t automatically make you a follower of Christ. Most of America says they are Christians yet they don’t follow Christ and His Word. They talk the talk but don’t walk the walk.
If you really want to follow Him, you must be willing to sacrifice yourself and give everything, allowing Christ to live through you. That’s what it means to deny yourself and take up your cross daily.
Don’t settle for anything that’s not of God – fight that with everything in you. But when you have to face the consequences of doing what God expects of you, face them with joy, knowing that your life is in God’s hands.
Well, I hope you have enjoyed this post on Luke 9:23 and what it means to take up your cross daily! Feel free to leave me a comment below. I would love to hear from my readers.
Melissa is a passionate minister, speaker and an ongoing learner of the Bible. She has been involved in church and vocational ministry for over 18 years. And is the founder of Think About Such Things. She has the heart to equip the saints by helping them get into the Word of God and fall more in love with Jesus. She also enjoys family, cooking, and reading.
She has spoken in churches in California, Oregon, Texas, and Mexico and has been featured in Guidepost Magazine and All Recipes Magazine. Read More…