Take Up Your Cross and Follow Me
There were great crowds that followed Jesus. Everyone loved the miracles, healing, and free food. Jesus was the talk of the town and the latest fad. But He knew their hearts. He knew they desired the benefits of what He did rather than an understanding of who He really is. They loved His gifts, more than the life He was calling them to. They were enthralled with the idea that He would set up His Kingdom and free them from the oppressive rule of the Romans. As He began to explain His mission that He was to die at the hands of the Jewish leaders and their Gentile overlords, His popularity waned and many “followers” began to desert Him.
He, knowing their quandary, began to teach them what it takes to be one of His followers:
20 Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ. 21 From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.22 Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee. 23 But he turned, and 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. 24 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. 25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. 26 For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?
(See also Mark 7:34 and Luke 9:23)
“Take up your cross and follow Me” means to make Him not only Savior but LORD. It means you are willing to die to self and unconditionally live for Him in absolute surrender. Following Jesus is easy when life runs smoothly; our true commitment to Him is revealed during trials. Jesus assured us that trials will come to His followers (John 16:33). Discipleship demands sacrifice, and Jesus never hid that cost.
In Luke 9:57-62, three people seemed willing to follow Jesus. When Jesus questioned them further, their commitment was half-hearted at best. They failed to count the cost of following Him. None was willing to take up his cross and crucify upon it his own interests.
Therefore, Jesus appeared to dissuade them. How different from today’s typical Gospel presentation! How many people would respond to an altar call that went, “Come follow Jesus, and you may face the loss of friends, family, reputation, career, and possibly even your life”? The number of false converts would likely decrease! Such a call is what Jesus meant when He said, “Take up your cross and follow Me.”
If you wonder if you are ready to take up your cross, consider these questions:
• Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means losing some of your closest friends?
• Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means alienation from your family?
• Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means the loss of your reputation?
• Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means losing your job?
• Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means losing your life?
Many people approach Christianity as a vacation from a bad life. They love the idea of eternal life, escaping hell, and having Jesus at their beck and call. But they are not willing to leave the life they now live and strive for the life to come. Their desires, lifestyle, and sinful habits are too precious to them. Their lives may exhibit a token change. They start by attending church or giving up a major sin, but they want to retain ownership of everything else. Jesus is speaking in Luke 14 to those with that mindset.
We cannot earn salvation by lifestyle change, behavior modification or any other good deed (Ephesians 2:8-9). But when we choose to follow Christ, we are releasing control of our lives. When Jesus is in control, pure living results (1 John 3:4-10;2 Corinthians 5:17). In Jesus’ parable of the sower, it was only the soil that allowed the seed to put down roots and bear fruit that was called “good.” (By the by, the soil here is your heart and the seed is the Word of God. NOT a ministry and NOT money or any other material thing) If we are going to be disciples of Christ, we must first count the cost of following Him willingly.