Filter by: Products Articles
Filter by:

Bible Questions with Michael Pearl
Episode 078: What does taking up your cross daily mean?

By Michael Pearl

This Weeks Bible Question:

What did Jesus mean in Luke 9:23 about taking up your cross daily?

Episode Transcription


Michael Pearl: Hi, I’m Mike Pearl of No Greater Joy Ministries, and Jared has interrupted my studies today and invited me down here into the studio to answer some of your Bible questions, and I’ve not seen them yet, so he’s going to ask them, questions that you’ve written in, and I’m going to see if I can come up with a Bible answer for them. So Jared, what’s the first question?

Jared: What did Jesus mean in Luke 9:23 about taking up your cross daily?

Michael: Luke 9:23. OK, let’s look at that. That’s a commonly misunderstood concept. Alright. Always consider the context. He says, “If any man come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.”

Now you’ve got to look at the context. Jesus is preparing his disciples for his crucifixion. He’s been telling them about how he’s going to die. He asked them, “Whom do people say that I am?”

He’s inquiring to get a feel for what the population was thinking about him. They gave various answers, and he said, verse 20, “‘But whom say ye that I am?’ Peter answering said, ‘The Christ of God.’ And he straightly charged them and commanded them to tell no man that thing, saying...”

This is Verse 22, the verse before the one in question. “The son of man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be slain and be raised the third day.” So, in the context of how he was playing with the public, he warned them that he himself was headed to the cross, to rejection and to death.

Then he follows that immediately and says, “And he said unto them, if any man will come after me…” OK let’s stop right there for a moment. Come after me, where? “Come after me suffering, rejected by the elders, the chief priest, and slain.” So, “If any man will come after me,” if he follows me, if he’s my disciple and goes where I go, “If any man will come after me let him deny himself…” So, stop there again. Deny himself in what way? Later, when Jesus announced that he was going to be crucified the next day, and that one of them was going to betray him, they all spoke up and said, “Lord, is it I?” Peter said, “I won’t do it.” He said, “I’ll die first but I won’t deny you.”

Well, within a few hours, Peter was denying Jesus Christ. So Peter didn’t follow Jesus to the cross. The Bible said he and the disciples “stood a great way off.” He is challenging them to follow him in his sufferings and in his death. In other words, instead of being three crosses on the hill, four with Peter, five with John, six with Andrew, and so forth.

“So if any man will come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily and follow me.” Now, when he said, “take up his cross,” we know what that is. As we look later on, Jesus is bearing the cross, he falls down, and they compel Simon, one of Cyrene, to bear the cross after him.

So Jesus is carrying one end of it, Simon is carrying the other end of it, and they’re carrying the cross. Any time that the city of Jerusalem saw a man carrying a cross through the city, outside to Golgotha where he would be crucified, they knew what he was doing. He was a dead man walking. He was heading to his death.

Jesus said, “If you’ll come after me, take up your cross daily.” In other words, you must be prepared at any moment to die, because it could happen at any time. So every single day as you follow me, be prepared to do what I do, which is die for this teaching that I have.

Then he goes on to say, “For who so ever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever will lose his life, for my sake, shall save it.” And so he’s saying if you depart from me, you deny me, you lose your life, but if you go ahead and follow me all the way you save it.

If we were to draw an application of that passage beyond the original context, what would it be? Well it’s obvious. There was recently a man, a Christian in Iran, who had the death sentence upon him. He was a pastor. He was preaching the gospel, and it’s illegal there to be a Christian. So they told him if he would recant, if he would deny Jesus Christ, and come back into the Muslim fold, then he would not be executed.

I was praying on this end, that he would take up his cross and follow Jesus, deny himself, for God’s sake, and for the gospel’s sake, and in so doing save his life. Otherwise, if he denied Christ he’d lose his life. So it’s this contrast, if you think, if I deny Christ I’ll save my life, I won’t die. He said, no, if you go ahead and confess me you may die, but you’ll save your life. He’s kind of got a turn on words and concepts there.

Now there’s quite a few other passages, maybe a dozen, maybe not that many, six of them, eight of them, in the New Testament where people have developed this doctrine of this daily dying to self, this self-introspection, this morbid putting away of self‑motivation, self‑aggrandizement, self‑pleasure, and sublimating your humanity to some sort of a morbid austere spiritualism.

I’ve known so many people like that. They’re all nauseous. It really came out of the Keswick movement in England. It’s the concept that we must, or God must, God or us or both, must do this work inside of us. Books like the Calvary Road, Roy Hession, Norman Grubb, Iron Thomas, Andrew Murray, wrote a lot about this concept of daily experiencing this inner crucifixion of self.

That’s not a biblical doctrine. It’s totally contrary to the Bible. It’s anti‑Christian, it’s anti‑Bible. It’s really a doctrine you’d find in Buddhism. Some of our missionaries come back and they say, “That’s the very doctrine.” In fact the doctrine originated a whole lot out of Eastern teaching, and it is an Eastern mysticism rather than a Christian doctrine. It’s amazing how it perpetuated in spite of the clear teaching of Scripture, but that’s the meaning of the passage.

Voiceover: If you would like to ask a Bible question email us at [email protected] or call at 931‑805‑4820.


Leave a Reply

8 comments on “What does taking up your cross daily mean?”

  1. I love this. Mr. Pearl, once again nailed the question! I have struggled with this passage for years, many Pastors where I live teach that one must die to themselves daily, so my walk has been this needing to put to death my sinful passions and desires daily, or perhaps my selfishness. It was "I gotta deny myself mentaility". It really STUNK! I am so thankful you clarified what this passage was saying. I have listened to your sin no more as well, and sinful nature and there has been so much fruit in my life since. I am so thankful. I also read holy sex and created to be a help meet, I wish I would have read it all before I was married. However, I am glad I was able to read them now and reap the fruit.

  2. Excellent response, Mr. Pearl. I appreciate how you put verses back into their proper context to allow the actual meaning to become clear. I am finding I have to readjust my thinking on certain familiar passages when studying the Bible now. My whole family appreciates your excellent teaching and ministry.

  3. What would have happend if all the disciples had followed Jesus to the cross? I assume that they would have gone to be with God when they died (on the cross). Who would have spread the gospel? Why didn't they lose their lives if they saved their lives by not going to the cross with Jesus?

    1. What would have happend if all the disciples had followed Jesus to the cross?
      My assumption is that your assumption is correct, they would have gone to be with God. My guess is they would have first descended to Abraham's Bosom where they would have been ministered to by Jesus, and then they would have been set free to heaven at his resurrection.
      Who would have spread the gospel?
      Jesus had many disciples, not just the twelve. If you recall, the spreading of the gospel did not really begin until after the resurrection and pentecost. The disciples were all in hiding, in fear of being killed. After Jesus returned, they were set free of their fear, assured of their eternal gifts, and then given boldness to share the message through the Holy Spirit. Even if the twelve had gone to the cross that day, there were still many that followed Jesus to whom he would have appeared and then sent out. Stephen was not even one of the twelve, and he is the first recorded to have been killed for the spreading of the gospel.
      Why didn’t they lose their lives if they saved their lives by not going to the cross with Jesus?
      God had further purpose for them on earth. He knew what they would choose. He knew Peter would deny. One fled naked through the woods. He also knew that upon the return of Jesus their understanding would come to fruition, their spirits would be renewed, and there was no way any of them would waiver in their faith and determination to complete the task that was to be set upon them. A careful examination of scripture, church history and traditions shows that they all picked up their cross at the time God had chosen for them. All but John were killed for their beliefs. John, however, was boiled in oil but miraculously survived.

  4. In Phil. 3:9 it says “...not having mine own righteousness, which is by the LAW”
    Then if you'll look at Heb. 9:13-17, you'll see that the second testament wasn't in force till the death of the testator. Until Jesus died on the cross all were under the first testament. The first testament was the law (blood of bulls and goats etc. Funny Matt. 5:23 talks about bringing gifts to the alter, Lk. 23:56 Jesus' friends rested on the sabbath after he had died.)
    Now if we look at Gal. 3:12, 14 we will see that the law and the Spirit are at polar opposites. The Spirit was given to Jesus without measure (Jn. 3:34), but had not yet been dispensed unto the likes of mankind (Jn. 7:39). The disciples would receive it a tad bit later AFTER Jesus rose again (Jn. 20:22).
    So that is why Jesus told them to take up the cross. They were still under the law and had to trust in their own righteousness. When Jesus died however, he traded his righteousness for our sins in 2 Cor. 5:21- justification. But Paul also says in Gal. 6:14 “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ (not his own cross), by whom the world is CRUCIFIED UNTO ME, and I UNTO THE WORLD.”

  5. P.S. I noticed up there that I had said that the law was the sacrificing of bulls and goats. Some people make a distinction between “the law” (Rom. 2:14) and “the Jewish law” (Heb. 7:5). Well the purpose of both is to damn the sinners, both Jew and Gentile (Rom. 3:9, 19). Interesting how the law is still alive. “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth (Rom. 10:4).”

Subscribe to our newsletter & stay updated