Thursday, June 8, 2017

Bear the cross and follow Him - what does it mean?

And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. 
(Luke 14:27, NKJV)

I always find the verse above hard to understand. What does the Lord mean when He said that? What is our cross? I tried to do some word studies. The words that make up the verse are simple words that are straight forward - no hidden meaning there. The only way to do this is by reading in context.

In the verses before Luke 14:25, the Lord was invited to the house of a ruler of the Pharisees. There the Lord taught them about taking the lower places and be exalted by the host, seeing that the guests were choosing the best seats to promote themselves. The Lord also shared a story of a man (probably referring to God) who prepared a supper and asked his servants to bring in the invited guests. However, the invited guests found excuses (need to see a field that has been purchased, need to try out oxen that has been purchased and need to go back to a wife) not to attend the supper.

From verse 25 onward the Lord has left the Pharisee's place and the common people were walking with him. That is when he shared a few things with them, one of which is carrying the cross to follow him. Read the verses below.

Luke 14 (NKJV)
25 Now great multitudes (a casual collection of people) went with Him. And He turned and said to them, 26 “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. 27 And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. 28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it 29 lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish’? 31 Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace. 33 So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.

To understand verse 27, we need to look at it in context of what the Lord was telling the multitudes (multitudes here mean a casual collection of common people, not rulers and not only the Jews but gentiles as well). If we look at the verses from 25 to 33, we see that the Lord gave 3 illustrations (I color coded each example in the verses above) followed by a summary to conclude His point. 

First illustration - 26 “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.
Second illustration - 27 And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.
Third illustration -  28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it 29 lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish’? 31 Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace. 
Summary point -  33 So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.

So from verse 33, we can see the Lord was making the point that to follow Him and be His disciples, we need to forsake what we have in this life and follow Him. That is the point He is making.

When the Lord was in the Pharisee's house, the guests (probably rulers and dignitaries) wanted to give honor to themselves by choosing the best seat. The Pharisees will not be able to follow the Lord because they could not forsake self glorification. In his story about the man (probably a reference to God during the marriage supper of the Lamb, Rev 19:9) who could not get his invited guests into His supper, the invited guests were held back by wealth (the field), occupation (the oxen, probably used to plow the field) and relationship (wife). The Lord called these 3 reasons excuses. They do not need to check on those things, but it is because of those things that held them back and caused them to avoid leaving to attend the supper. For why must a person go and see a field he has already purchased? He would have seen it when he was purchasing it. Similarly you would not have purchased oxen without testing them. The last person is the most honest - he has chosen not to join in the supper because of his wife. Because the guests could not forsake the cares of this world, they chose not to follow the Lord into His supper.

The 3 illustrations the Lord gave to the multitudes is for them to learn about what He was also trying to tell the Pharisees earlier. 
  • In the first illustration, the Lord is saying that we cannot place earthly relationship above Him. 
  • In the second illustration, a person carrying the cross is stripped of all earthly possessions and status. That's what happened to the Lord when He was carrying His cross to Calvary. The Lord is saying that His disciple need to be able to give up all his earthly possessions and status and follow Him.
  • In the third illustration, the Lord likened following him to be an enterprise that can bring about safety (tower) and victory (war against a king) but there is a cost in doing that. The third illustration is different from the first and the second, because the third is an analogy. The Lord uses analogy in both Old Testament as well as New Testament. He will first use an example to appeal to our own experience and what we will do. Then he will apply the same example to His context and help us see why He does what He does. Matthew 7 has an example of how the Lord uses analogy:
Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? 11 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! (Matthew 7, NKJV)
Verse 9 and 10 appeals to our everyday experience using the example of how a father will provide for a son. Verse 11 applies the same example to the context of God being the Father and men being His Sons.
In this illustration, the Lord uses the examples of how people will count the cost when they are building a tower or planning to go to war. Here, the examples are about defending and fighting to gain victory. The Lord by applying the same examples to His context as an analogy, not only saying that we should consider the cost of following him, but He is also alluding to the fact that following Him is really the way to winning the battles in our lives.
What the Pharisees and multitudes do not know is that someone who forsake all he has to pursue the Lord gains much more. Just a few chapters later in Luke 18, the Lord and Peter had this conversation.
28 Peter said, “Look, we have left everything, and followed you.”
29 He said to them, “Most certainly I tell you, there is no one who has left house, or wife, or brothers, or parents, or children, for God’s Kingdom’s sake, 30 who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the world to come, eternal life.” (Luke 18, NKJV)

The Lord has our well being in mind. He does not want the world to have us.But He wants us to have Him, because only Him is the sure foundation that cannot be shaken. 
Those who trust in the Lord
Are like Mount Zion,
Which cannot be moved, but abides forever.(Psalm 125:1)

Someone who does not have the Lord may seek comfort and security in his relationships, his wealth, his career, his fame. But those things can be shaken. Only Jesus is the sure foundation. Only in Christ can we be truly fruitful.
“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. (John 15, NKJV)
Apostle Paul, a very learned and successful man in the natural, says that he considers his achievements a loss and not a gain to him, if they do not help gain Christ. Paul is a man that really has the revelation in what the Lord said in Luke 14.
though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ (Philippians 3, NKJV)
Ok. So there you go. The mystery of Luke 14:27 unveiled. Something for you to think about. Be blessed and shalom :)

After thoughts:
This post was not meant to be doctrinal. It was an attempt to find meaning to the verse Luke 14:27. But it does lead to much thinking, doesn't it? :). It is like this: The Lord is asking us to lose in order to win. Say we are riding an old motorcycle. But the Lord has the best Harley Davidson in His storehouse. He wants us to get up from that old motorcycle and order to gain the new Harley Davidson. But He speaks to us, referring to letting go of the old motorcycle as a cost to us. However, it is really a gain for us! It is only a cost to someone with no revelation of the Lord. To a person with revelation of who Jesus is, he or she will know it is a gain, a great gain! In fact, the so-called "cost" are burdens to us in the pursuit of Christ, the "cost" are losses that we really need to lose in order to gain Christ. This is what the Apostle Paul spoke about in Philippians 3. Don't be afraid of the "costs". The Lord only has our well-being in mind.
24 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. (Luke 9, NKJV) 
 Shalom.

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