But He warned them and instructed them not to tell this to anyone, saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed and be raised up on the third day.” And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” (Luke 9:21-26 NASB)
Luke makes some modifications to his account here. In Matthew and Mark, Peter rebukes Jesus for saying He will be killed by the religious leaders; then Jesus rebukes him right back. Luke leaves that out. Then Luke adds in the “daily” element to Jesus’ challenge to pick up a cross and follow Him. In Matthew and Mark this is missing, the challenge is to follow Jesus literally to His crucifixion. All three have the familiar saying that the one saving his life loses it, and the one giving up his life for Jesus saves it.
None of the Gospels have any of the disciples following Jesus into death. They all, but John, are executed afterwards at some point (John was too tough, he survived his execution). It’s possible that Luke adds the “daily” element because of this. Buy why leave out Peter’s rebuke? Luke doesn’t leave a memo about that. But regardless of whether Peter’s and Jesus’ rebuke-fest is in there or not, the challenge to follow Jesus with a cross is real enough.
What constitutes a “cross” is a constant debate. What is really clear though is Jesus’ negative, unbalanced comment about Jesus being ashamed of those ashamed of Him. So if we’re ashamed of Jesus here, He’ll be ashamed of us in heaven. Think about that. That concerns me deeply. Why don’t I tell everyone about Jesus all the time? Am I ashamed? Because if that’s why, then I don’t have to wonder about what Jesus thinks, it’s pretty clearly spelled out here. I think it’s very interesting that we debate the “cross” we’re to carry, but few debate what it means to live ashamed of Jesus here. I’m really hoping the Christian-themed tee-shirts I wear count toward being unashamed. Otherwise I’m possibly in real trouble.
I believe that our preoccupation with what Jesus means by “cross” here and the absence of what it means to be unashamed here are symptoms of our self-focused culture. One is about us (what is my cross to bear?), and the other is about Jesus (what does Jesus think?). The view through my knothole is that Jesus considers the cross to be the same as being unashamed. It’s the attitude absent of shame that brings the ire of the world down upon us. They hate and try to kill us when we’re obviously for Jesus. Jesus is counter to every culture, so in every culture, being unashamed of Jesus brings dangerous attention. It’s one of the ways we know we’re on the right track (but not the only or best way). But it’s always the most uncomfortable way, so clearly not the American way.
Today, I will seek to be uncomfortably obvious in my devotion to Jesus. I hope I don’t get fired. What’s your view through the knothole?