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Sermon : Sodom and Gomorrah

Discipleship: Luke 9:23-26

Although no mention to the mode of Jesus' death is made until Luke 18:31-32, where it is alluded to that He will be handed over to the Romans ('the Gentiles'), the cross was a universally understood symbol, looked upon with disgust by all. It has been noted that most ancient authors rarely mentioned crucifixion, for their educated, cultured readers viewed it with great repulsiveness.10 Only slaves and dangerous criminals were subject to this form of capital punishment - a Roman citizen was exempt except for treason and military desertion.11 When an Israelite was crucified it carried a heavier weight, as the crucified Israelite would be seen as not only accursed and expelled from the realm of the living, but also from the covenant with God.12 Crucifixion for the Jew was utter rejection, and being handed over to the punishment inflicted upon the heathen.13 When the Romans crucified a criminal, they not only hung the condemned to the cross. As a last terrible indignity, the condemned was forced to carry the crossbeam of the cross upon his back to the site of execution,14 escorted by a squad of four soldiers.15 The crucifixion itself was normally preceded by scourging, and then the condemned would be nailed or tied by rope to the cross by his wrists.16 A sign was often placed above their head to announce the criminal's crimes.17 After days of shock, thirst, and exposure, death came by asphyxiation as the muscles used for breathing failed.18

There is no doubt that Jesus would have witnessed such a dreadful spectacle as a boy, leading to His use of the imagery of the cross to describe all that is dreadful in life.19 That is, the cross is anything difficult to bear - anything that 'robs the steps of lightness and blots out the sunshine from the sky.'20 After this it is somewhat difficult to imagine why Jesus would choose to use such imagery to associate with discipleship, for indeed He says that 'If anyone would come after Me, he must . . . take up his cross and follow Me' (Matthew 16:24). The Way of the Cross is the way Jesus' followers must follow if they really desire to be His disciples.21 However, taking up the cross is not to be weakened by being applied to sickness, to trouble, business reversals, etc., for to Jesus the cross meant one thing: What God desired for Him as part of God's plan - and in this case, it was Jesus' death.22 Indeed, the cross is not the ordinary, human troubles and sorrows - not disappointments, disease, poverty, etc. - but the things that must be suffered, endured and lost in the service of Christ - such as persecution, self-sacrifice, and any form of suffering as a result of true faith in and obedience to God.23

Yet, still more is said, for Jesus declares that to pick up the cross one 'must deny himself' (Luke 9:23) - or perhaps, in picking up the cross one is in fact denying themselves. The Greek αρνησασθωarnasastho (ar-neh-sas-thoh).
Aorist Imperative Middle 3rd-person Singular from the Greek verb αρνεομαι, meaning 'I deny,' or 'I repudiate.'
, when used with εαυτονheauton (heh-ow-ton)
Accusative Masculine 3rd-Person Singular of the Greek reflexive pronoun εαυτου, meaning 'himself.'
can be defined as to say 'to deny oneself,' or perhaps to 'forget' or 'lose sight of one's self' - that is, 'to forget that one exists.'24 This denial of self is a radical denial, and functions as the opposite of 'confess,' which is an acknowledgment of a thing or a person.25 Hence, the disciple is to confess Christ - that is, acknowledge and identify with Him - while at the same time not setting his/her own desires and will against the right Christ has upon their lives.26 One must be careful here, however, for the denial of self is not the same as self-denial.27 Where self-denial is the foregoing of certain foods, pleasures and possessions, denial of self is the complete submission to the lordship of Christ, so that the self no longer has its own rights or authority at all.28 Jesus is not talking here about simply denying ourselves of certain pleasures, or having a weak, nonassertive personality: Jesus here is talking about a life lived wholly for Him.29 Indeed, this is a basic prerequisite of the Christian disciple, and becomes impossible when one is drawn by affections for one's children, one's wife, etc.30 This is not to say that one cannot have such affections, but only that our love for Christ must be greater than all other loves so that our other loves seem like hatred in comparison.31 Christianity is an extreme commitment to the person of Jesus, and the disciple must give Him first place in their lives.32 Nothing less than unconditional surrender could be an appropriate response to the crucifixion: An undying allegiance from the recognition that Jesus wants people prepared to follow the path of self-renunciation that He walked before them.33

  1. Rick Cornish, 5 Minute Theologian (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2004), p.193.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Barth, Dogmatics, p.117.
  4. Ibid.
  5. G. H. Morrison, Morrison on Luke (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 1978), p.85.
  6. Cornish, Theologian, p.192.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ibid.
  9. Ibid.
  10. Morrison, Morrison, p.85.
  11. Ibid.
  12. Norval Geldenhuys, Commentary on the Gospel of Luke (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1960), p.276.
  13. Summers, Universal Saviour, p.111.
  14. Geldenhuys, Commentary, p.276.
  15. Ivor Powell, Luke's Thrilling Gospel (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1984), p.225.
  16. Baker, New Testament, p.243.
  17. Ibid.
  18. William MacDonald, True Discipleship (Oak Park, IL: Midwest Christian Publishers, 1962), p.6.
  19. Ibid.
  20. Baker, New Testament, p.243.
  21. Ivo Lesbaupin, Blessed are the Persecuted: Christian Life in the Roman Empire, AD 64-313, transl. by Robert R. Barr (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1987), p.50.
  22. MacDonald, Discipleship, p.6.
  23. Ibid., p.5.
  24. Ibid.