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Three gospels, Mark, Matthew and Luke, are called the synoptic gospels because they seem to “see” the story of Jesus in the same way. They were written some years apart. Scholars say Mark is the earliest, written around the year 70 AD. Matthew perhaps around the year 80 AD, and Luke between 80 and 90 AD.
All three recall the same story, but each introduces changes and additions of their own to teach the communities they’re writing for. We may hardly notice the differences, but they’re there.
For example, today’s gospel from Luke recalls an important incident that’s found in all three gospels. After ministering and teaching in Galilee for a time, Jesus announces he is going up to Jerusalem to suffer, die and rise again.
In all three gospels, Jesus asks his disciples “Who do people say I am?” Their answers are pretty much the same: ‘John the Baptist’ others ‘Elijah’ still others, ‘One of the ancient prophets has arisen.’”
Jesus then asks his disciples, “Who do you say I am?” All three gospels report Peter’s response: “You are the Messiah.”
Then, Jesus announces he is going up to Jerusalem and he tells his disciples to follow him. The three synoptic gospels agree on the basics of this crucial incident in the story of Jesus.
But notice in Luke’s gospel two interesting variations in Jesus’ call to follow him. “Jesus then said to all, ‘If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. “”
Jesus speaks to “all,” not just to a few disciples, Luke says. He invites all, not just the chosen twelve, or the Jewish people, or Jewish-Christians to follow him. Luke’s gospel insists that Jesus reaches out to everyone. All are invited to follow him and all, not a designated few, have to take of their cross.
Notice, too, the subtle change Luke makes in Jesus’ call to take up our cross. It’s a “daily” cross we are to take up. “If you want to come after me, you must deny yourself and take up your cross daily and follow me.” It’s an everyday cross, not the cross of wood that Jesus bore; it’s not nails in our hands and feet or scourges on our back that we’re asked to bear.
What’s an everyday cross, we may ask? Open your arms wide and what do you see? We’re formed like a cross. That’s what we carry everyday–ourselves. Maybe it’s sickness or disappointment or weariness or worry about something or someone. Maybe it’s putting up with a world that wont change or dreams that wont come true.
The cross we take up is there, everyday, in ourselves and the world we live in, and our patience wears out bearing it.
“Take up your cross daily and follow me,” Jesus says in Luke’s gospel. By adding one word, the evangelist makes clearer what Jesus would say.