“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.’” Luke 9:23 English Standard Version
There is an old hymn written by Thomas Shepherd with the words: Must Jesus bear the cross alone, And all the world go free? No, there’s a cross for everyone, And there’s a cross for me.
Jesus sacrificed his life to save the lives of his friends. While we are not called to die on a literal cross, we are called to bear the burden of sacrificing our own comfort, desires, and agendas for the sake of others.
To come after Jesus, one must first “deny himself,” meaning not simply denying certain things but denying personal control of one’s life, and saying as Jesus declared to the Father, “Not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39). Secondly, the disciple must “take up his cross daily.” In other words, make an unwavering commitment of obedience to God. Think of those nails they used to affix Jesus to the cross; yet, it wasn’t the nails that kept Him there, it was His commitment to obey His Father. Lastly, Jesus said, “follow me.” Just as an apprentice must study under their mentor to gain the training and skills necessary to carry out their vocation with excellence, so too the disciple must follow the teachings of the Master so that “these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well” (Mark 16:17-18).
We take up our cross as an act of free will. We know that it’s a charge that is motivated by love (God’s love for us), and must be engaged upon by love (God’s love flowing through us). Jesus said, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
Yet we also are confident in this, no matter how heavy the burden we bear, every cross bore in the name of God will always lead to a resurrection! “By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also” (1 Corinthians 6:14). For “if we suffer, we shall also reign with him” (2 Timothy 2:12).
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