What does it mean to “take up your cross and follow Me”?
“Take up your cross and follow Me!” These are Jesus’ words from Mark 8:34. In the preceding verses (v. 31-33), Peter had just objected to the idea that Jesus would die. We are told that Peter rebuked Christ (v. 32). Jesus in turn rebuked Peter for objecting.
Then Jesus tells us what must happen if a man or woman wants to follow Him.
And He summoned the multitude with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” (NASB) Mark 8:34
When Jesus says, “come after,” the Greek words mean “to come to a point of being with” Him. Jesus is saying that anyone who wants to follow Him, must take up His cross. Let us examine what that means in practical terms.
Let Him Deny Himself . . .
Christ says the starting point is to “deny” ourselves. The Greek word for “deny” is aparneomai. It is a strong word meaning that a person must refuse to be thinking about oneself. This is a strong statement. It is a picture of complete denial of one’s desires and wishes.
Take Up His Cross . . .
Then Jesus said the person must take up their cross. In Christ’s time everyone understood the meaning of the word cross. Flavius Josephus tells us the Roman soldiers literally crucified two thousand people on crosses on one occasion. To carry your cross meant that you were dragging it along and eventually you reached the place where the soldiers would crucify you. Therefore, Jesus’ point is that you must be so committed to denying yourself that you are willing to die for Christ.
And Follow Me!
Then Jesus added what must happen after a believer, or Christian, takes up their cross. If a believer is truly willing to die for Christ, he or she will follow Christ. An important illustration of following Christ occurred in Luke 5:1-11. On this occasion the disciples had already been asked to follow Jesus on two previous times. What happened on this occasion was so incredible that the disciples “left everything and followed Him.”
When they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed Him. Luke 5:11 (NASB)
Notice that they left everything and followed Him. This is an excellent example of Jesus’ command to “let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” For a full explanation of this very important event, please see “The Third Call of The Disciples.”
No one will truly follow Christ who continues to be more interested in himself or herself than in Christ. Jesus does not give us the option of calling Him our Savior and Lord while continuing to satisfy our own desires and wishes. We must deny ourself to the point of death in our following Him. This is the character of a true follower of Christ.
Then Jesus said losers are the spiritual winners.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? Luke 5:11 (NASB)
Are you a spiritual loser but a winner in this life?
1. Josephus. Antiquities of the Jews. 17.295-296.
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