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God’s Word for You

Luke 9:23-24 Your daily cross

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Friday, May 4, 2018

Take Up the Cross (Matthew 16:24-28; Mark 8:34—9:1)

23 He said to all of them, “If anyone wants to come after me, he must deny himself, pick up and carry his cross every day, and follow me.

This is the first of three references to a cross in Luke’s Gospel. Crosses were an ancient instrument of execution. At first, tyrants and despots impaled criminals or opponents on wooden stakes. This might possibly be the meaning of the “gallows” in Esther 5:14 and the chapters that follow. Later, the Romans made changes that increased the suffering of the condemned. On an I-shaped stake, they nailed or tied the man’s arms above his head, and death was inevitable after two or three days. On an X-shaped cross, they tied or nailed both arms and legs. It was the T-shaped instrument that they found caused the most suffering. A man nailed or tied in just the right position, even resting on a kind of awkward seat, could never be comfortable. He soon found that the fixed position of his arms made exhaling difficult. He was unable to discharge the fluid from his lungs, and crucifixion was often a race between death by heart failure and death by drowning. It was truly a machine of torture. The early Church Father Ignatius of Antioch, who undoubtedly witnessed Roman crucifixions, called the cross “the machine,” mechanes (μηχανῆς, Ign. to the Ephesians 9:1). He describes it as a “crane,” with the wood, a rope to lift it, and perhaps a winch of some kind (or brute strength)—all of which pulled us up (Ignatius said) to heaven through Christ.

The traditional Roman cross with another, upper, arm, was used when a sign or placard was attached with the charges against the condemned man. This was the sort of cross used for Jesus, since we are told that Pilate “had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews” (John 19:19).

When Jesus tells us to pick up our crosses every say and carry them, he isn’t telling us that we need to suffer to atone for our sins. We have nothing to add to his suffering and death. He explains exactly what he means with the next sentence:

24 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.

Jesus wants us to remain faithful to him even when people oppose us. There can be no doubt in anyone’s mind that the world is fast approaching a time when true Christian faith will be unacceptable in the eyes of most people. Perhaps we have already arrived. A faith that trusts in Christ is a faith that understands that we are saved by Christ alone. We are lifted up to heaven by the historical fact of Jesus’ death and resurrection. And so Jesus wants us to know that if we also lose our lives for his sake, because we have faith in him, we will certainly not lose our place with him in heaven.

We might not lose our lives on account of our faith, but we might lose our jobs, our liberty, our reputations; our property. We might lose the right to worship in public. We might lose the right to display Christian symbols. To suffer for the sake of our faith will test that faith, and we pray that God would increase our faith. But we have daily tests to take. Daily crosses. There might only be a little opposition, a snippy remark from a friend or an attitude of disdain from a family member. Remain true to Jesus. Don’t be ashamed of him.

Listen to the promise of our God: “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. All who rage against you will surely be ashamed and disgraced; those who oppose you will be as nothing and perish” (Isaiah 41:10-11).

Remember that on the last day, you and I and all who believe in Jesus will be raised up and welcomed into our eternal home him. God will announce the victory of our faith, and we will brought into heaven forever.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.

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