Luke 9: Take Up Your Cross Soberly

I was watching again the first of The Lord of the Rings movies recently (notable because I almost never watch the same movie twice), and I was struck by how Gandalf was both drawn to and terrified by the ring.  When Bilbo leaves it behind, does Gandalf want to take it up and wear it and even use it “for good” as he says later to Frodo?  Absolutely!  The ring is such that any being would want it.  Yet, Gandalf will never touch the ring.  He knows, no matter how good his intentions, the ring will corrupt him and, therefore, destroy him.

I see the same thing happening in this passage.  Not in Jesus.  He has it figured out.  But like Gandalf was teaching Frodo to fear the corrupting power of the ring, I see Jesus teaching his disciples that power can easily corrupt.

I see an earthly king, Herod the tetrarch, scared that he might lose his power to this new man everyone is talking about.  I see people who flock to Jesus for whatever his power can give them, whether healing, wholeness or food.  Who could blame them?  I see disciples given power to heal and exorcise, who are excited to tell Jesus what they have done (9:10, 36) but who want to press pause on ministry to tell glory-stories about themselves (9:12).  I see Peter marveling at the power and glory of Jesus on the Transfiguration and glad that he gets to be there to see it (9:33), as if the marvelous sight was the point itself.  And at the lowest point in the whole chapter, I see disciples arguing over which of them is the greatest, as if the point of the power they have been given in this chapter was for their own glory (9:46).  Then they are ready to use that power to call down destruction of people who reject Jesus (9:54).  They have drunk the heady draught of power and have become intoxicated.

In the midst of all of this is a teacher who forbids his followers to tell others what they have seen and learned (9:21), who tells them he is getting ready to die, not revolt against Rome (9:22, 44).  Here we have a Master who practically tries to dissuade people who want to follow him, saying the cost is very high (9:57-62).  And also in this chapter are these famous reminders that the way of Christ is about sacrifice, self-denial, and service not power and glory:

“If any of you want to come after me,” he said, “you must say no to yourselves, and pick up your cross every day, and follow me.  If you want to save your life, you’ll lose it; but if you lose your life because of me, you’ll save it.  What good will it do you if you win the entire world, but lose or forfeit your own self?” (9:23-25)

“Whoever is the least among you — that’s the one who is great.” (9:48b)

Power only ever belongs in the hands of those who can carry it for a while, for the benefit of others not themselves, and who honestly see the “cross” they carry for what it is: an instrument of possible destruction and a vehicle of potential grace.  We dare not take up the cross of ministry, with the power and glory it can bring, lightly.

What stood out to you in this chapter?

Categories: Luke | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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5 thoughts on “Luke 9: Take Up Your Cross Soberly

  1. Jason,

    As I being following your blog for quite some time.
    I realize some many of Christian commentator comment as the Bible is something new for them.

    A question- In church, Did they teach commentary of Bible?

  2. Good to hear from you again, Hifzan.

    There is among some of us (I would count myself in this group, as I agree with this thought) a desire to read the BIble like a good story, like literature. In this approach, it is considered a virtue to read the Bible with freshness, as if it were new, letting go of past conceptions. The same person can read the Bible in a different way too (i.e., more critically or historically), so this is just one approach of many. Maybe this is what you are picking up in some commentators (not that I deserve to be called one of those). Definitely that is the desire behind this blog.

    Do we teach commentary of the Bible? I am not sure exactly what you mean, so I will take a stab. Christians don’t have authoritative commentaries like the Hadith or Sunnah. The church traditions and canon law of the Catholics comes close, maybe. There are some churches that have catechism classes that are basically teaching church doctrines and traditions, all of which are based on the Bible but which also sprung up like commentary on the Bible. Most conservative evangelical churches (like the one I attend) only directly teach the Bible as if it has authority. However, any good preacher or Bible teacher is going to consult the writings of scholars as they prepare their sermons and lessons. We call the sets of books that university professors write that give helpful historical and linguistic background to the text of the Bible “commentaries.” Most preachers and Bible teachers have many of these in their libraries. These aren’t authoritative, but we take the education and knowledge of the scholars seriously. I think you said you had found some old commentaries on the Internet? Those would be examples.

    Hope that helps explain.

  3. Pat

    So often Jesus’s teaching is a paradox. Die (like a seed) to live (eternally.)

    To be great, be a servant or slave (instead of being served.) Easy yoke, light burden (and yet the cost is high.)

    There are many others; consider the teachings on the mountain side.

    A paradox really forces me to think about the teaching and what it really means to my life.

  4. These disciples are so interesting. One minute they get it, and a few paragraphs later they are befuddled and too ashamed to ask. Jesus tells them it is all about sacrifice and service, and they start jockeying for first place. Jesus tells them it is going to be hard to follow their calling, that it will take some serious self-denial. They just want to know who has the privileges of their group. Still, they were casting out demons and curing people. Such strong contrasts.

    But, really, how am I any different?

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