Discipleship Reflections: Luke 9:23-27

This series of blogs, Discipleship Reflections, are a part of an independent study for my Doctor of Ministry studies. Read, enjoy, comment. Thanks for reading.

In chapter 9, we are given Luke’s account of several critical discipleship moments for the Apostles. In the first six verses, Jesus sent out the disciples with instructions to preach or proclaim the “kingdom of God” and to cure individuals of diseases and demonic possessions. While the Apostles were off on their first ministry experiences, we are given an account of Herod’s confusion over Jesus’ identity, just as in the other synoptic Gospels. When the Apostles returned, their debriefing with Jesus was interrupted by the crowds clamoring to be with Jesus and the feeding miracle was once again recounted. After this, Peter made his groundbreaking declaration about Jesus’ divine identity. The flow of the events is similar to the other synoptic Gospels. So, what I would like to point out in Luke 9 is what is recorded in verses 23 through 27:

23 Then he said to them all, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. 25 What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves? 26 Those who are ashamed of me and of my words, of them the Son of Man will be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. 27 But truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.”

Jesus gave a stern warning about the cost of discipleship. He let them know full well that the path of following him would not be easy. He compared this suffering to the cross. This is an interesting comparison. No doubt the Apostles were aware of the crucifixion practices of the Romans, but at this point in the Gospels, Jesus had not died on a cross, and the crucifixion for them, was not associated with Jesus. As we read these verses today, we have a difficult time reading these verses without thoughts of Jesus’ own crucifixion, but it would be assuming too much to think the disciples were imagining Jesus on the cross as he spoke these words. These words must have seemed especially peculiar to the Apostles who could not yet imagine carrying out Jesus’ ministry without him, much less him willingly dying to fulfill his ministry. Yet, journeying with Jesus was compared to carrying a cross. The Apostles, in the ministry that followed, both before the events of the Passion and after, would learn that being Jesus’ disciple was not an easy road.

We are quick in evangelical life to highlight the benefits of professing faith in and following Christ as his disciple. We are perhaps, not as quick to explain the costs of discipleship. We might do well to properly inform prospective disciples with a complete picture of the life we invite them into. Maybe then we will make deeper disciples.

What Jesus shared with his disciples was not all bad. He also informed them of the life-giving reward that his disciples would receive. His explanation of the reward was simple: “those who lose their life for my sake will save it.” A short and profound offer to receive true life through the giving up of one’s life. A life is not an easy thing to give up, but Jesus offered no small reward in return.

• What costs will disciples encounter today in the contexts where we minister?
• Are we preparing disciples to understand the cost of discipleship?

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6 Responses to Discipleship Reflections: Luke 9:23-27

  1. tonystopic says:

    Great point Todd. Most of us with post-crucifixion and resurrection eyes just deduct Jesus talking about the cross in verse 21, but the disciples do not know that. We do overfocus on the conversion experience and its benefits without a clear understanding of the cross. Discipleship begins with a recognition of costly love and grace, but requires a daily abiding in Christ to really experience the abundant life Christ offers us.

  2. David Durham says:

    As I read this, I kept thinking about the story of Nicodemus. Being willing to meet Jesus at night to hide this encounter, but later stepping up for Jesus in the midst of the Pharisees debate about what to do with this “lunatic teacher”. Then finally, spending a large sum of money on burial ointments to bury his Savior. It took a while, but Nicodemus gradually accepted the good and the bad that came with discipleship. And Jesus didn’t hold back – he told him both the good and the bad. Great devotion and excellent way to approach discipleship in the church – with honesty.

  3. Katrina says:

    Okay, the ad currently available for me to click is Free Range and Out of Control. Yes, I am giggling.

  4. Jerry Chiles says:

    Good insight Todd. I would pose some questions. Would I have had any more insight than the disciples if I had been present? How do we present the gospel in a way to show the full picture avoiding”cheap grace”? What are ways that we try to gain the whole world? What do I loose when I give up my life and what do I gain? How do I show I am ashamed of Jesus in everyday life? When I realize how I fall short, I am reminded of the lost son. Thank you God!

  5. Tony says:

    I like how you pointed out one reason the disciples may not have fully understood Jesus words were they could not imagine Jesus being crucified (and certainly not them for following Jesus). I imagine we and our congregants encounter the same confusion when we proclaim a sanitized version of true discipleship.
    For example, one cost of following Jesus is financial. I realize my context of Atlanta is full of the prosperity gospel, but I so often hear about the blessings ($) that come with following Jesus and I have a hard time holding that alongside scripture. I can not help but believe it is hard for someone to heed a truer understanding of Jesus’ words when the very person espousing them are lavishly living with no sense of want. I am quick to admit my judgmental spirit, why would their excess be any better or worse than my excess. I do have a hard time fully grasping that following Jesus is not a call to more, but a call to less. The path to sacrifice is hard and counter cultural. I can only lead from honesty and try to model a better way to the best of my ability. Occasionally feels like I am leading the congregation down a dark path with a dim flashlight.
    …Just my ramblings

  6. Laura says:

    You have posed some very interesting questions Todd. When looking at the “cost” that disciples will encounter today, I believe the greatest cost where I minster is willingly dying to self. We live in a world that encourages us to “have it our own way”. We must be willing to deny ourselves before we can think about taking up our cross.
    I would like to believe that the church is preparing disciples to understand the cost of discipleship but I often wonder.

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