The context seems to indicate that Jesus brought only the Twelve with him when he went up to Caesarea Philippi (Luke 9:18; cf. John 6:66-68). It seems the disciples still needed some R&R due to their preaching mission (Luke 9:1-2), which they didn’t receive when the crowds followed them into the wilderness area near Bethsaida. Furthermore, since Caesarea Philippi could be considered pagan territory, it wasn’t likely that anyone would follow Jesus there but the Twelve.
The next thing Jesus did was he told his disciples that, if anyone wished to follow him, he needed to deny himself and take up his cross (usual translation) daily and follow Jesus (Luke 9:23). To deny oneself means to not consider ‘self’ at all. This same Greek word (G533) is used for Peter denying he ever knew Jesus (Matthew 26:34-35, 75; Mark 14:30-31, 72; Luke 22:34, 61). It doesn’t mean to simply deny oneself a meal or a car for the sake of Christ (although such a thing has its value). Rather, it means to deny one’s whole life and live for Jesus instead of self. It may mean a change of vocation, or environment, if those things cannot be used to benefit the cause of Christ in the plan the Lord has for that person (cf. Ephesians 2:10). Paul counted all things in his former life as dung for the cause of Christ (Philippians 3:7-11).
The last phrase in Luke 9:23, take up one’s cross daily and follow me, has been greatly misunderstood in Christian circles, as far as I am able to see. One may search the entire Bible, but I have never see anyone point to a Scripture, other than this one (and its Synoptic equivalents), that shows anyone but Jesus has a cross to bear. Jesus bore my cross, and died the death I should have died. Bearing a cross and dying on one is a Jesus thing, not a disciple thing.
Living for Jesus is not a burden or a cross that I must bear, and following him doesn’t mean I devote myself to a life of self-denial. Yet, believing that believers must devote themselves to a life of self denial and carrying crosses hides the joy in Christ that folks could see in those who have chosen to believe in Jesus. For example, it became necessary when receiving Christ as my Savior that I let go of a young woman I loved, whom I planned to marry. I may have denied myself the love of that young woman, but God blessed me another, who has been the love of my life for over forty-six years. Does this sound like living a life of self-denial or bearing my cross for Christ? No! I denied myself the love of one woman for the sake of following Christ. I picked up my stake in that life and moved to a place where God wanted me, and there I found the young woman who would never leave my side or forsake me for something I couldn’t give her. How could such a thing be understood as self-denial? Rather, I was blessed beyond measure in following Christ.
If one would literally translate the word cross (stauros – G4716) in Luke 9:23 it would be stake. One used a stake (stauros – G4716) to tie down a tent, and they were often used during the Feast of Tabernacles to put up temporary dwellings to simulate Israel’s living in the wilderness, before they entered the Promised Land. Pulling up stakes (stauros – G4716) pertained to being ready at anytime to leave where one dwelt in order to move elsewhere. In the wilderness the children of Israel stayed in one place, until the Cloud showed they needed to move on. Jesus meant it to mean that his disciples needed to be ready to pull up their stakes in the place they were and move on, whenever Jesus was ready for his disciple to do so.
This being so, then when Jesus referred to a stake (stauros – G4716), it was in the context of celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles, which represented the commencement of the third year of his public ministry. I intend to show the surety of Jesus’ third year in due time, when I come to his celebration of the next Passover (third of four). Concerning the present, Jesus often chose to use the environment to accentuate a point in his teaching. So when Jesus said his followers needed to take up his stake (stauros – G4716) daily and follow him, Jesus was pointing to what was happening all around him and the Apostles. Folks were celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles, putting up temporary dwellings, and he pointed to the historical meaning of that practice that characterized their celebration of the feast.
According to John 7:1-10 (cf. Luke 9:23) Jesus and the Twelve celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles at Jerusalem, and this was about six months after the death of John the Baptist, who died just before the Passover of that year (John 6:4-13; cf. Matthew 14:12-21). Since Jesus brought the Twelve alone to Caesarea Philippi for their rest, then what occurred at the Feast of Tabernacles that year came about five months afterward Luke 9:18-22.