Here is the verse: And He (Jesus) said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me”.
Jesus says this six times throughout Matthew, Mark and Luke. Six is the number of man. Also, I read the following statement on the internet about this verse and I believe this is the common Christian idea of this verse, “One’s cross is not a disposable item of Christian experience but a life long burden in this world”. WHAT?! This just puts emphasis back on man as something he has to do to be a “good” Christian. Here are my thoughts on this verse….
The first thing I want to explore is what did the cross mean to Jesus? Naturally, when most people think of the cross they automatically picture the bloody, bruised, crushed and marred figure of Jesus, the torture that took place there. By no means is that the central theme of the cross. Let’s not make light of or put secondary all the other things that happened there. The final Passover lamb was sacrificed and the angel of death no longer has any power over my life… “I have the keys of Death and Hades” Jesus says in Revelation 1:18. The New Covenant was cut in Jesus’ blood that day Luke 22:20. The ministry of much more glory and the ministry of much more righteousness was ushered in that day 2 Corinthians 3:7-10. The veil was torn Matthew 27:51 which had long kept God and man separated. At the cross, Jesus was forsaken so that God could tell me now “I will never leave you nor forsake you” Hebrews 13:5. At the cross, God showed no mercy and laid the punishment for the sins of the whole world on His very own innocent and spotless Son so that He can say to me now “..I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more” Hebrews 8:12. How did Jesus go about all this? I dare say with joy… who (Jesus) for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame… Hebrews 12:2 and Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God, and was going back to God, rose from supper…John 13:3-4 and “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again” Jesus says in John 10:17. And I have to mention Isaiah 53 which talks about how it pleased God to crush His Son and the chastisement that brought us peace.
Indeed a heavy and immeasurable price was paid at the cross and even more so that in no way can any man boast that it has been earned in any way. Jesus sinless blood that poured out that day cleansed my sin but when Jesus cried out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” He cried out loud for all to hear (medical science says this required great strength, people who were crucified usually suffocated to death and just breathing was quite difficult, much less shouting). Here is the highest price ever asked, Jesus was forsaken by His Father, the Father He had never been without. Jesus says “truly I say to you, the Son can do nothing of His own accord, but only what He sees the Father doing…For the Father loves the Son” John 5:19-20. The Father had to turn His back on His Beloved, The Son died alone.
So for freedom Christ has set us free Galations 5:1 and Jesus said in John 10 that He came so I may have life and have it abundantly and that He’s the good shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep. John 3:17 says God did not send His son into the world to condemn it but that through Him it might be saved. So I have to wonder with all this good news, where’s the catch right? Should I believe that this God of mine, this Jesus who laid down His very own life for mine now wants me to take up some sort of burden and carry it around every day? I should believe that my God who flung the universe into existence and provided every single thing from animals to diamonds and maintains it all and than created me into His finished work to exist for His glory, I have to take up a heavy weight and struggle to love as He loved or else I’m not doing it right? Seems complicated. Paul says in 2 Corinthians11:3 but I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. Over and over Jesus says He is the good shepherd. What kind of burden does a shepherd lay on his sheep? The shepherd loves His sheep, tends them, feeds them, leads them, waters them, names them and calls them by name. The sheep know His voice. What is the sheep’s responsibility? The sheep only has to let himself be loved and cared for, to follow his shepherd, to trust and know that his shepherd knows the way and will never leave him alone, to lay at the feet of His shepherd and rest, to be comforted by His voice through the dark nights knowing the wolves will be held at bay.
Now I return to the question… what does it mean to deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me? As humans we are naturally selfish and consider first how things will affect ‘me’. If you’ve been a Christian even a little while you learn that you find the most satisfaction in serving the Lord and others over yourself and when the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, He kept it simple… Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done…Matthew 6:10. When you fix your eyes on Jesus, your own free will starts to line up with His will for you and even though we stray from the path constantly, His shepherd’s crook gently guides us back. That takes care of the “deny yourself” part. Take up your cross! Take your New Covenant and ALL it’s promises! Take up your freedom! Take up your abundant life! Embrace the death of your natural sinful self and take up the new supernatural self that is wrapped in the pure white robes of the righteousness of God through Christ. Take upon you the yoke that is easy and the burden that is light! Take up your Spirit of adoption as sons and cry “Abba!”. Take upon you the privilege of having the Spirit of the Holy One Himself living inside you. Finally he says “follow me”. Where is Jesus now? Seated at the right hand of the Father! “It is finished” He said at the cross. All He came to do, He accomplished and now He waits for His enemies to be made a footstool.
What’s my part? “Don’t fear, only believe”. What a happy ending.
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