Carry One’s Own Cross

This coming Sunday is the 23rd Sunday and we are considering the reading from Luke 14. In yesterday’s post we considered the ominous passage: If any one comes to me without hating his father and mother…”  It is an expression, while shocking in English, when used hyperbolically in first-century Israel was a means of teaching by making the choices stark and clear. Today we will look more deeply at other instances when one mettle will be tested and choices made.

Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” The expression carry his own cross is a metaphor of discipleship. In terms of dedication, one is to live as already condemned to death, “oblivious to the pursuit of noble status, find no interest in securing one’s future via future obligations from others or by stockpiling possessions, free to identify with Jesus in his dishonorable suffering” [Green, 566].

Culpepper (293) presents a corrective to an interpretation of this phrase.

The language of cross bearing has been corrupted by overuse. Bearing a cross has nothing to do with chronic illness, painful physical conditions, or trying family relationships. It is instead what we do voluntarily as a consequence of our commitment to Jesus Christ. Cross bearing requires deliberate sacrifice and exposure to risk and ridicule in order to follow Jesus. This commitment is not just a way of life, however. It is a commitment to a person. A disciple follows another person and learns a new way of life.

This is followed by a section that has two parables and has been called “Fools at Work and at War.”  These two parables are unique to Luke and are without parallel. Jesus draws attention to a simple observation: a prudent person would not begin a project until being sure it can be finished – neither a builder nor a king. In the first parable Jesus says, “Sit down and consider whether you can afford to follow me.” In the second he says, “Sit down and surmise whether you can afford to refuse my demands.”  In the same way, God has not entered a redemptive process without being prepared to complete it. Jesus did not set his face to Jerusalem (9:51) knowing and being prepared for his own Passion.

AgnusDay-Luke 14

The two parables move from the lesser to the greater. In the first, the threat is that of embarrassment before one’s peers and neighbors. In the second, the consequence is the defeat at the hands of an enemy. In continuing the movement to the even greater, the implication is that such assets as one’s network of family or simply membership in a religious tradition is inadequate to assure one’s status before God. What is required is fidelity to God’s only Son.


Alan Culpepper, Luke in The New Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. IX (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1995) pp. 291-4

Joel B. Green, The Gospel of Luke (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1997) pp. 563-8


Image: Apologia Studios CC-BY-SA

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