Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.Mark 8:34 NIV
Jesus made his invitation to the crowd that followed him; as well as to his disciples. His invitation was to move away from being just hangers-on, just a part of the crowd, to disciples. From simple churchgoers to real live disciples. But along with the invitation came a warning. Discipleship is not an easy road to travel.
To be a disciple of Jesus requires two things. The first is self-denial. This doesn’t mean that I choose to watch a recorded football game so that I can attend a worship service. Or that I give a part of my disposable income to the church. What Jesus is talking about here is taking self off the throne of my life, and surrendering it to the lordship of Jesus. If he is not in charge, then I am not really his disciple.
The second thing Jesus requires of his disciples is to take up their cross. There was a period of time when, as a new Christian, I wore a crucifix. But that is not what Jesus is talking about here. Nor is he referring to the irritations and inconveniences that we sometimes encounter as believers. For Jesus, and those who heard him say this, the cross meant one thing. Death. Jesus is telling the crowd that if they want to be his disciple, they need to follow him to Golgotha. Is martyrdom in my future? I don’t know. But I am called to carry my cross and follow where he leads; even to suffering and death.
Being a disciple of Jesus is not cheap. Nor is it easy. But it is the only way to life eternal in the Father’s glory. Take up your cross and follow!