The words He’s about to speak are not just for the Twelve Disciples , but for all who have a personal desire to call themselves Disciples of Christ. Jesus warns everyone the cost of being a follower of Jesus, as well as the high cost of continuing in one’s own way.
The chapter begins with Jesus still in Gentile territory.
“And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”
After He had spent these months away, there are no crowds that welcome Him back. Instead, the Pharisees had been awaiting Him, and they greeted Him with arguments and demands. Jesus condemns them and promptly leaves. As we pursue Jesus, we pursue life. Jesus talked about giving up by using the word “lose”. He said, if you are willing to “lose” or give up your life, you will actually find it.
Following Christ means
Our inner belief as human beings is that we know better than God. Not many people admit to this in those terms, but it’s what we all do. We often say in our hearts, “I will do what God has told me not to do, or I will say what God has told me not to say. Therefore, to deny ourselves is to deny this belief that we know better; to give up that mistaken notion.
Taking up one’s cross”; to take up a cross in the ancient world meant one thing; death.
Therefore, we should strive to live at peace. We’re told to expect animosity from the lost world for just seeking to live godly lives. The cross we must bear. The condemned hung on it beaten, broken and naked—a symbol to shame all who would oppose the power of Rome.
Shame is a real force, but Jesus warns in,
“For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels”
We must be willing to stand up and be counted with Jesus, the Jesus who is rejected by the world, knowing that we too will be rejected in many ways. That’s taking up one’s cross.
A true disciple loves the gospel and is willing to lose everything for it. St. Paul lost his position as a Pharisee for the sake of Christ, counting all the accomplishments of his former life as rubbish compared the worth of knowing Christ.