What Does It Mean To Take Up Your Cross? (Luke 9:23 Meaning)

Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23

Let’s be honest… this is probably one of those things most of us wish Jesus didn’t say. We like the grace and forgiveness that he talked about. But denying ourselves, not so much. But the Luke 9:23 meaning has some POWERFUL truth for us today. 

So, what does it mean to take up your cross daily? We are going to dive into this verse and see what Jesus is teaching us, and how we can apply it to our lives today. 

The Context Of Luke 9:23 

Before we can look at the meaning of Luke 9:23 we first need to look at this verse in context.

Immediately before this command to take up your cross daily Jesus is teaching the disciples. They have been following him for awhile, and Peter has even confessed Jesus as Lord (Luke 9:20). 

In Luke 9:22 Jesus reveals to his disciples what will happen to him. He came to suffer and die. This is his purpose, what he came to do. But it’s not what the religious leaders, or even the disciples, expect from the Messiah. 

They think he’s coming to rescue the nation of Israel from opposition from the Romans, to fix their earthly problems. They think once the Messiah comes it will be smooth sailing for them. They wouldn’t have to worry or face hardships anymore. 

But Jesus is trying to show them their errors. That his kingdom is different. They think they got it made in the shade, but Jesus throws a curveball by saying, “pick up your cross and follow me daily.” 

Let’s dive into the Luke 9:23 meaning to see what Jesus is saying today. 

The Luke 9:23 Meaning 

To help us better understand the meaning of Luke 9:23 we are going to break down this verse into four parts. 

Whoever Wants To Be My Disciple… 

Remember, the disciples (and everyone else) had one idea of who the Messiah would be and Jesus had another. The disciples were dreaming of the day that Jesus would be king and they would be his nobles. 

They thought they would rule alongside him gaining great honor for themselves. Their biggest worry was which of them would sit at the place of honor. 

Jesus is about to correct their thinking. He looks at them and says if you want to be my disciple then this is what you got to do. And he starts down the list.

Must Deny Themselves…. 

The first thing we must do is deny ourselves. Jesus is telling the disciples they must forsake their personal ambitions and desires in order to fulfill the will of God. 

In short, it means that we live for his sake and not our own. 

Of course this is easier said than done. The disciples will continue to struggle with living this out for the rest of the time Jesus is with them. And he will continually remind them to deny themselves. 

Denying ourselves is a requirement to follow Jesus. Why? Because you can’t serve two masters. You can be half in. It’s all or nothing. It’s what you want or what Jesus wants. 

If you want to follow Jesus, you must deny yourself. 

Take Up Your Cross Daily… 

Jesus builds upon denying ourselves. “Take up your cross daily.” 

But, what does it mean to take up your cross?

I regularly hear people quote this verse to point to some burden they must carry in their life. A demanding/thankless job, a disease, a broken relationship, or a challenging situation. They will say this is their cross to bear. 

But this is not what Jesus meant when he said “pick up your cross and follow me.” This is self-pity and pride. What Jesus is talking about is the level to which we are to deny ourselves. 

Mark Moore says in the Chronological Life Of Christ, “In the Roman culture, no one would ever be so crass as to turn a cross into a trinket to be worn around your neck or hung from the mirror of your car. It was an instrument of excruciating torture and death. Everyone who picked up a cross embarked on a one-way journey from which he would never return. We notice too, that crucifixion was the Roman mode of execution, not the Jewish mode (which would have been stoning). Thus Jesus’ words are prophetic and personal.”

Living for Christ means that we must pick up our cross daily and die to ourselves. It’s not always pleasant, it’s painful. But this is the way to the life that Jesus promised us. When we not only give up, but crucify, our own desires and our old self. 

It’s only after a Christian picks up their cross that they can find the fullness of life. 

And Follow Me… 

Once you’ve denied yourself and you pick up your cross, then you can follow Jesus. 

I know this doesn’t seem pleasant and maybe you are wondering why would I want to follow Jesus if that’s what it entails? 

But we cannot lose sight of the life that comes on the other side of that pain. The promise Jesus gives his followers who do this is the hope of a better future, not just here and now, but for all eternity. 

It’s like the birth of a child. It’s one of the most painful things a person can experience. But why do so many moms have multiple kids if the pain was so intense? Because the life on the other side of the pain was so worth the price. 

Similarly for a follower of Jesus it’s painful to die to ourselves. To pick up our cross daily. It can be extremely painful.


The life on the other side of that pain is so incredibly worth it. That’s the promise of Jesus we hold onto.

Yes, we are giving up much. But we gain infinitely more. 

What Does It Mean To Take Up Your Cross?

I want to end by looking at some practical ways you can actually take up your cross daily. Often we keep these kinds of passages so vague we don’t know how to actually live it out. 

So, what does it mean to take up your cross daily? Here’s 5 practical things you can do. 

1. Jesus Or Your Own Way?  

You have a choice to make. Jesus isn’t forcing you to pick up your cross and follow him. He’s inviting you. 

Do you want to follow Jesus or do you want to go your own way? Before you you do anything else you need to decide if you want to follow Jesus, if you want to pick up your cross. 

Jesus is inviting you into a life full of peace and joy. But it does have a cost. And you need to decide if you want to follow him or go your own way. 

2. Letting Go Of What You Want 

In order to grab ahold of what Jesus has for you, you first need to let go of your own desires. The problem with our desires is they keep us from what God has for us.  

And listen, it’s not that God wants to keep us from what we want. It’s that our desires are too weak. We long for something less that what God has for us. 

C.S. Lewis in the The Weight of Glory, and Other Addresses says, “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

God has something incredible for you. But you have to let go of what you want so that you can grab ahold of what he has for you. 

3. Dying To Your Old Self

The cross is an instrument of death. And not a pleasant one. It’s no mistake that this is the image that Jesus uses here. 

We must die to our old selves. Put it to death. It’s going to be ugly and painful at times. Crucifixion was an ugly and painful process. So will putting our old self to death. 

Dying to our old desires, sin, and way of living isn’t easy. Picking up your cross means that we engage in this painful process. That we take those old things about us and nail it to the cross. 

That way, that new life can grow where the old life died. 

4. A Daily Process 

Jesus makes clear, “take up your cross daily.” This isn’t a one time event. This is a daily process. Each day we must pick up our cross and follow Jesus. 

Each day we have to make this decision. There will be days where we want to do our own thing. Follow our own desires. Fall back into old habits and sin. And when we have those days we need to pick up our cross and follow Jesus. 

This is a daily sacrifice that we make. To live for what God says is best rather than what we are feeling. 

5. Step Into The Life Jesus Has For You

I know up to this point this sounds unpleasant to say the least. I mean, why would anyone willingly do this? Well, Jesus tells us in the next verse. 

“For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?” Luke 9:24-25

This is the way to the life that Jesus promised us. The only way to get a life that is full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, and goodness is to follow Jesus and pick up your cross daily.

I know it’s difficult. I know it’s painful. But the life on the other side of that pain is so incredibly worth it.

Thank you for reading this blog post about the Luke 9:23 meaning. I hope you were encouraged and challenged and that you take up your cross daily.

Jeffery Curtis Poor
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