One day, as I was reading my Bible, I came across a scripture in Luke 9:23 that said, “And He said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” I did some more searching to see if there was anything else in the Bible pertaining to this subject. I found that the same thing was recorded in Matthew 16:24 and Mark 8:34.
Before I go any further, let’s see when Jesus said these things. In Luke, Chapter 9, it was after Peter confessed his faith. It was after Jesus asked His disciples “Whom say the people that I am?” After several responses, Jesus asked them, “But whom say ye that I am?” Peter then said, “The Christ of God.” It was right after this that Jesus spoke to them about the cost of discipleship, when He said, “…If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” In Mark chapter 8, it is recorded basically the same: after Peter confessed his faith.
In Matthew, Chapter 16, it is recorded slightly differently. After Jesus had asked His disciples whom they said He was, He was talking to them about His pending death on the cross. Peter began to rebuke the Lord saying, “Be it far from thee Lord: this shall not be done to thee.” Jesus said unto Peter, “Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.” Then said Jesus unto his disciples, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.”
As I pondered those verses, I wondered what did Jesus really mean when He said, “…take up your cross and follow me…” I also wondered why He used the word take instead of pick. On the surface they both seem to mean the same thing. However, after consulting my dictionary, I discovered that there is a big difference between these two words, take or pick.
The word “take” means to carry something: to carry or transport something or somebody from one place to another. On the other hand, the word “pick” simply means to choose something or somebody, from a larger number.
As I thought on the two definitions, I began to understand what He meant. Take is an action position whereas pick is just a decision position. To follow Him requires more than just a decision; it requires a definite action on our part. In Biblical days, when Jesus walked the earth, the common form of execution by the Romans was crucifixion. A person, who was to be crucified, was usually made to carry the cross beam of his cross as he went to his death. There was no appeal and no hope for a pardon. The end result was death.
However, in today’s world, this form of execution is not used. There are also many venues of appeal, pardon, etc. Since this is the case, then how do these words, “take up your cross and follow me” apply to us today? Today it has a symbolic meaning. Jesus Himself established the primary figurative interpretation of the cross as a call to complete surrender to God. He used it several times as a symbol of true discipleship. This means that we must give ourselves totally to God, to let go of our mortal selves with all of our likes, dislikes, faults and errors.
Okay, I can understand how that applies to me today. I can relate to that better than carrying a cross beam to my demise.
Next, I went back to the Bible and looked at the part that says, “let him deny himself”. I could think up all kinds of ways of interpreting this phrase. Rather than trying to come up with a definition myself, I did some research on the subject. In F.F. Bruce’s book, Hard Sayings of Jesus, it says, “Denying oneself is not a matter of giving up something, whether for Lent, or for the whole of life: it is decisive saying ‘No’ to oneself, to one’s hopes and plans and ambitions, to one’s likes and dislikes, to one’s nearest and dearest, for the sake of Christ. It was so for the first disciples and it is so for disciples today.”
Well, that sounds very restrictive. Suppose I want to live an easier life and do not want to “take up my cross”? The Bible is very clear on that subject too. In Matthew 10:38, it says, “And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me”. In Matthew 16:25, it says, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” And in Luke 14:27, it says, “And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.”
That does not sound too good; it sounds like we are being disobedient to Jesus and to God if we do not take up our cross and follow Him. If Jesus Christ was obedient to His Father, God, then we must do the same. In Philippians 2:8 it says, “…he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.“
In Annalee Skarin’s book, Secrets of Eternity, Chapter 17, she sums it up very nicely. She writes, “You hesitate and say that Christ’s path led to the crucifixion?
“Yes. That is true. But the crucifixion became a privileged experience of triumph and eternal blessing, not only to Christ, but to the whole world and to every individual upon it. The Way of Christ holds the power to turn every adversity into glory, every defeat into victory, every misfortune into power. It is the road of love, so perfect that only the Will of the Father is brought forth in Its triumphant glory as the little individual, mortal ‘self’ is crucified and the great inner soul of man is released from its tomb, to rule and reign in glory forever.
“This divine Way of Christ is the Way that fulfills all things, glorifies and exalts all things. ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If any man hear my voice and open that door, I will come in and feast with him, and he with me.’ And that individual will never hunger or thirst again. He will have eternal access to the hidden manna, the divine, spiritual ‘Bread of Life’. And Christ’s Light that is given to abide right within man IS that bread.
“ ‘To my beloved ones, …the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take of the waters of life freely,’ without price and without charge.”
Now that is what I want, how about you?
One last thought. In John 5:28-29 Jesus said, “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.”
Which group do you want to be in?
As anyone can tell by looking at the world situations today, we are truly living in the end times. Jesus will be returning soon. We need to be ready to meet Him!