Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." (Matthew 16:24)
What does it actually mean to take up your cross? What was Jesus referring to here?
Some people think that it means that you just have to put up with some situation or some person in life that you don’t like or that brings pain. However, as you are ‘putting up’, you are often full of self pity, sometimes angry, other times resentful. No, carrying your cross, definitely is not about ‘putting up’ but much more about ‘giving up’….and doing so willingly. It’s a call to absolute surrender. It’s about dying to self.
Let’s look at this more closely at this.
In Gethsemane, the shadow of the cross fell upon Jesus as he faced his situation in prayer. The horror of what he was about to suffer physically, mentally and spiritually broke upon Him. His Father was asking for full surrender. It was not enough that Jesus would ‘put up’ with what His Father was asking of Him; He had to willingly choose the opposite of what Adam and Eve chose in Eden. He said
...yet not my will, but yours be done. (Luke 22:42)
Jesus cut right across what fallen human nature would have dictated and chose God’s way, not man’s.
Madam Guyon describes the cross as “the affliction that God allows for us”. These circumstances cause pain and suffering, but these reveal to us our self pity, resentment, fear, stubbornness, pride, selfishness and wanting our own way. These situations give us an opportunity to die to self. It’s all about giving up our perceived ‘rights’ and submitting to His will. It also cuts right across our human nature.
But the story most certainly doesn’t end there. We read in Hebrews 12:2, ‘because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross.’ We must always remember that the cross was for a purpose. It was not meaningless suffering. After the cross came the resurrection!! Through the cross Jesus brought ‘many souls to glory’ (Hebrews 2:10). Through the cross, you and I have been set free from the penalty of sin and can experience something of eternal life here, while we are on earth.
Was it worth it for Jesus? Of course it was!!! And so it will be for those of you who follow Christ’s example; for those who not only ‘take up’ the cross, but embrace it knowing that it is actually the chariot upon which you will ride into freedom and into a deeper intimacy with Christ.
Is it worth it? Of course it is… a million times over.
“I have now concentrated all my prayers into one, and that one prayer is this, that I may die to self and live wholly to Him” C H Spurgeon.
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