February 13th in the Year of Our Lord, 2021

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. (Matthew 16:24)

Discipleship is costly. It is difficult to understand how costly discipleship was for others when in the U.S.A., a Christian does not face the possibility of being put to death for being a follower of Jesus Christ. The situation that we have in the U.S.A. is an anomaly in Christian history. However, there is more to taking up the cross than the possibility of physical death. 

Carrying the horizontal crossbeam en route to crucifixion (where the upright stake already stood awaiting the condemned person) meant enduring mockery and scorn on a path leading to death as a condemned criminal. Crucifixion was the worst form of criminal death, the supreme Roman penalty, inflicted only on the lower classes and slaves; even talk of it could evoke horror. (Mt. 16:24, IVP BBC NT)

To deny oneself does not mean self abasement. There are many in church history who did this, monasteries came to be because of misunderstanding what it means to deny oneself. According 1 John 3:4, sin is lawlessness. Lawlessness is everyone doing what they want to do with no regard for authority. To deny oneself means that I am not the one who is in charge. To deny oneself means that I am under the headship, the lordship of another; the Christian is under the lordship of Jesus Christ. Whatever the Lord Jesus Christ has commanded in his word, that we shall do, even if it means enduring mockery, scorn, and death.

To take up the cross means a willingness to endure shame and death. The Christian is to die to everything in this world for the sake of the gospel. The Christian is to die to sin, self, and the world. To follow Jesus means to learn to observe all that Jesus commanded, to live as Jesus lived. This does not mean that we should dress like a first century itinerant rabbi and walk the countryside preaching and teaching. However, it does mean to live as Jesus in our historical-cultural context.