Summary: Jesus' teaching on discipleship in Luke 9:23-27 shows us what is involved in being a disciple of Jesus.
We have come to what one commentator called “a turning point in Luke’s Gospel.” In the first part of his Gospel, Luke demonstrated the identity of Jesus. Then Peter, on behalf of the twelve disciples, confessed Jesus as the Christ (9:18-20). From this point on now Luke focused his attention on “the necessity of Jesus’ suffering, his vindication, and the resultant discipleship required of those who will follow him.”
So, immediately after Peter confessed Jesus as the Christ, Jesus foretold his death, and then taught all those who wanted to follow him what was involved in being one of his disciples.
Let’s read about Jesus’ call to discipleship in Luke 9:23-27:
23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. 25 For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? 26 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. 27 But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:23-27)
Jesus was born in Bethlehem. He grew up seventy miles north of Bethlehem in a village called Nazareth, in the region of Galilee. Just four miles north of Nazareth was a city called Sepphoris. Sepphoris served as the Roman capital of Galilee during Jesus’ time. Jesus probably knew it well and perhaps worked there as a carpenter during the building boom of his day. Excavations have revealed Sepphoris to be a cosmopolitan Roman city with beautiful buildings, temples, an amphitheater, and other marks of sophistication.
Commentator William Barclay describes an historical event that took place in Sepphoris during Jesus’ childhood:
When [Jesus] was a young boy of about eleven years of age, Judas the Galilean led a rebellion against Rome. He raided the royal armory at Sepphoris, which was only four miles from Nazareth. The Roman vengeance was swift and sudden. Sepphoris was burned to the ground; its inhabitants were sold into slavery; and 2,000 of the rebels were crucified on crosses which were set in lines along the roadside that they might be a dreadful warning to others tempted to rebel.
Jesus, like other Jews living under Roman oppression, knew what crucifixion meant. They routinely saw people publicly carrying crosses. Whenever they saw a person carrying a cross, they knew that only one fate awaited that person: death.
So, it is extremely instructive that Jesus chose crucifixion as the explanation for what is involved in discipleship.
Jesus’ teaching on discipleship in Luke 9:23-27 shows us what is involved in being a disciple of Jesus.
Let’s use the following outline:
1. The Terms of Discipleship (9:23)
2. The Tradeoff of Discipleship (9:24)
3. The Tragedy of Discipleship (9:25-27)
I. The Terms of Discipleship (9:23)
First, let’s look at the terms of discipleship.
It is important to understand the context of Jesus’ teaching on discipleship.
Peter had just made his dramatic confession that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Promised One sent by God to seek and to save the lost (9:18-20). Jesus affirmed that God the Father had revealed this truth to Peter (Matthew 16:17).
But knowing the true identity of Jesus was just the first step. Jesus’ disciples also needed to understand the work of Jesus. So Jesus explained that he would experience suffering, rejection, death, and resurrection (9:21-22). Jesus had to experience these things because he was the Christ, and that is what the Father sent him to accomplish in order to save lost sinners.
Frankly, Jesus’ explanation of suffering, rejection, death, and resurrection was difficult for the twelve disciples to understand. They thought that perhaps Jesus was going to overthrow the Roman government and set himself up as the King of the Jews. They thought that Jesus was going to free them from their political bondage. But, instead, Jesus had come to free them from their spiritual bondage to sin and to Satan.
But knowing who Jesus is and what he did is still not enough to be saved. Jesus went on to say the hardest thing of all: just as he would suffer and die, so would all of his disciples need to suffer and die as well. In these few verses, Jesus proclaimed the message of the gospel and applied it to daily life.
Commentator Philip Ryken explained it this way:
[In essence, Jesus] said, “Look, here is what is going to happen to me, and if you want to follow me, the same thing will happen to you too. You will have to follow me all the way to the cross, because that is where I am going.”