Those Who Reject Him
Is Jesus ashamed of anyone? After reflecting on many different stories demonstrating Christ’s staggering love, we might conclude that no one will escape his loving acceptance.
But this is false.
Jesus spoke to this issue clearly: “For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels” (Luke 9:26).
Whom does Jesus say he’ll be ashamed of? Those who are ashamed of him. The context around this verse sheds light on what it means. In the previous verses, Jesus explained his requirements for those who would follow him: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (9:23).
Jesus is simultaneously broad and narrow in his invitation. His invitation is inclusive: “If anyone would come after me.” None are excluded. It’s wide open. But then things tighten. There’s a wide who but a narrow how. Jesus lays out three particular conditions for discipleship: deny yourself, take up your cross (daily), and follow me.
To deny yourself requires you to relinquish self-authority and self-ambition. It means repudiating ourselves as the center of our universe and, instead, putting Christ in his proper place. Self-denial is more than depriving ourselves of certain things. It’s about orientating our entire lives around Christ.
First-century hearers would’ve clearly understood the words take up your cross. Under Roman rule, crosses were ubiquitous in the landscape. They communicated the authority of Caesar and the shame and weakness of those who died on them. When Jesus said you must take up your cross, he meant that any would-be follower must be willing to suffer the shame—even to the point of death—of following him. Jesus is looking for disciples who see him and say, “He’s worth it. I’d rather die than be unfaithful to him.”
Finally, Jesus said that a disciple must follow him. This means to line up behind him and continue with him. To follow Jesus is to receive him and his words. We must be convinced of his worth, the truthfulness of his words, and the sufficiency of his work. This translates into devotion, endurance, and faithfulness.
When Jesus said, “whoever is ashamed of me and my words” (Luke 9:26), he was referring to those who reject him. This is the opposite of following him. Refusing to follow Jesus is rejecting him. We might prefer a middle ground between following and rejecting, but Jesus doesn’t allow any. Either you follow him, or you repudiate him. There’s no gray area, no ambiguity. You’re either with him or against him. We can see this in the words that follow: “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?” (9:24–25). The fulcrum for these verses is what people do with Jesus. One may save his life (i.e., choose not to follow Jesus to avoid suffering), but in the end he will lose his life because he won’t have Christ. On the other hand, the one who loses his life for the sake of Christ saves his life. One’s soul is infinitely more valuable than any earthly treasures. And the only way anyone can have eternal blessing is through Christ.
We must be convinced of his worth, the truthfulness of his words, and the sufficiency of his work.
Whom is Jesus ashamed of? He’s ashamed of those who reject him. According to Jesus, the people who are ashamed of him are those who refuse to deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow him. They’ve considered Jesus unworthy of their devotion and obedience. They reject Christ and refuse to follow him by faith. On the day of judgment, Jesus will be ashamed of those who are ashamed of him in this life.
I can’t think of a more unsettling scene than standing before the Lord Jesus Christ on judgment day and hearing him say, “I never knew you; depart from me” (Matt. 7:23). Imagine Jesus the judge saying, “You were ashamed of me and my words in your life, and now, throughout all eternity, I am ashamed of you.”
These words should make us pause. We should reflect on our lives. Do we genuinely believe the gospel? Do we trust and treasure Jesus?
Consider Him Again
Consider again Christ’s sobering words on the last day: “For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels” (Luke 9:26). If you reject him now, he’ll reject you then. But it’s not too late. If you are reading these words, then the door of mercy is still flung open wide. Trust and treasure this glorious Savior!
Consider again his worth; instead of devaluing his glory, make much of it. Think on his authority; instead of rejecting his lordship, submit to it. Notice again his heart; instead of neglecting his salvation, receive it. He’s not ashamed of people like you and me. He’s willing to have you.
That is, if he’s not beneath you.
This article is adapted from He Is Not Ashamed: The Staggering Love of Christ for His People by Erik Raymond.
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