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. Peter has objected to the idea that Jesus will die, Jesus has just rebuked him for objecting and then He paints a picture of a man or woman who wants to be with 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”, He means “to come to a point of being with” Him. Have you ever wished you could have been with Jesus, to have walked with Him, and to have spoken with Him? If you are a Christian, do you want a greater relationship? Jesus tells us how here with black and white colors.
The starting point is to “deny” ourselves. You want more of a spiritual relationship with Jesus? It starts just denying yourself. It starts by saying “NO” to yourself. The word Jesus uses for ‘deny” actually means “to say no.” This verse does not mean to deny ourselves something we want to eat, wear, or view. It means to say no to yourself! This is a complete denial of self in favor of Jesus. Peter had objected to Jesus dying. Jesus told Peter and His disciples simply that they must be willing to die to themselves in every way – including death. The early Christians did die to themselves – by torture, fire, and in the Roman Coliseum. Are you willing to suffer humiliation for witnessing for Jesus? Are you willing to deny yourself sexual pleasure, gossiping, pursuit of wealth for Jesus?
Take Your Cross
We are to take up our cross and try to leave it there. Jesus did not say to take His cross. We are to take up our crosses – our struggles. The cross symbolized pain and suffering. What a contrast! We are to say “NO” to ourselves and to be willing to suffer – He did! How are we doing with denying ourselves the pleasures of this world? Are you willing to suffer insult for Jesus? How regular is your attendance at church? Or, are there more enjoyable things to do? Are you willing to suffer? Even to die?
Following is not a separate activity. We are not following Jesus if we are not saying no to ourselves and being willing to suffer with Him. Jesus says it is not possible to really follow Him if you are not denying yourself.
That is how we come to Jesus. We must come denying ourselves and leaning on Jesus and not ourselves. We are not Christians if we did not give up on ourselves and give ourself to Him. That is how we started and that is the pattern Jesus says we must follow if we really want to be with Him.