Summary: Being a disciple of Jesus is a matter of giving up that which is of little value in order to gain that which is of great value
In the movie, “A Knight’s Tale”, the main character, a commoner named William Thatcher, travels to Paris to a cathedral to attempt to prove his love for a noblewoman named Jocelyn. But Jocelyn turns the tables on him by asking William to do something to prove his love for her that goes against everything in his nature as we see in this clip.
[Show clip from “A Knight’s Tale]
In case you missed her words, let me remind you of what Jocelyn said to William in the cathedral:
“Losing is a much keener test of your love. Losing would contradict your self-love and losing would show your obedience to your lover and not to yourself!”
I think those words of Jocelyn pretty well sum up the message that Jesus spoke to His followers in the passage that we’ll look at this morning:
But what exactly is it that Jesus wants us to lose? To answer that question, we’ll need to examine the fourth of the hard sayings of Jesus that we’re covering in our current sermon series. We find that saying in Luke chapter 9:
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 ESV)
It’s interesting to see how various people view this idea of carrying one’s cross. Perhaps, like me, you’ve heard people, even some very well-meaning Christians describe their cross to bear as:
• Some illness or physical limitation
• An unbelieving spouse
• Rebellious children
• A difficult boss at work
• A domineering mother-in-law
I’ve also seen some who claim that taking up one’s cross is some mystical level of a “deeper spiritual life” that only the religious elite can achieve. Like we talked about last week, they think that there is a distinction between salvation and discipleship. They wrongly, in my opinion, conclude that discipleship is an option for the super committed, but not mandatory for all Christians.
But the cross Jesus speaks of here is not something that is placed on us. It is something we take up by choice. I’m pretty sure that Jesus isn’t telling His disciples to go intentionally get an incurable disease or marry an unbeliever or find a job with the worst possible boss they could find. And, as I think we’ve seen consistently over the past several weeks, Jesus is certainly not in any way telling His followers that if they want to be His disciples, they have to achieve some kind of “super spirituality” through their own efforts.
So here is how I would summarize what Jesus is saying here:
Being a disciple of Jesus is a matter of
giving up that which is of little value
in order to gain that which is of great value
Once again, in order to get an accurate meaning of this hard saying of Jesus, we need to look at it in its larger context. Turn to Luke 9 and follow along as I read beginning in verse 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. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? 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.
(Luke 9:23-26 ESV)
The overall idea here is quite consistent with what we’ve seen over the past few weeks. Once again, Jesus is pointing out that there is a cost associated with becoming His disciple and that before one decides to take that path in life he or she needs to carefully consider that cost on the front end.
So since we’ve focused a lot on that message over the past several weeks, I’m not going to spend a lot of time this morning examining this passage word by word and explaining the meaning of every individual word. Instead, I’m going to ask us to take a look at the bigger picture here.
Jesus uses a really interesting approach here. He points out the paradox that is involved in living as His disciple. This certainly isn’t the only time that Jesus does that. In fact, the Scriptures, both Old and Testament, point out that living God’s way often involves a number of paradoxes. This familiar Proverb summarizes the nature of these paradoxes:
There is a way that seems right to a man,
but its end is the way to death.
(Proverbs 14:12 ESV)
There are two ways of living: man’s way, which seems right to him, but leads to death, and God’s way, which often seems to make little sense to us, but which leads to life.