“And he said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.’” ~ Luke 9:23
As Jesus carried out his public ministry, he attracted a large group of followers. They had heard stories of the miracles he’d performed. Many of them had witnessed the wonders firsthand. So they knew that there was something special about this man from Nazareth.
The problem was that everyone came in with preconceived notions of what he was. The Pharisees and teachers of the law heard him talk about living a blameless life and thought he was one of them. The priests heard him preach in the synagogue and thought he was one of them. And the people on the street who felt the pressure of Roman rule thought he was one of them who had come to set them free.
Jesus turned to his disciples and asked who they thought he was. Peter answered correctly that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God. But when Jesus began to explain that this would mean death on a cross, they didn’t get it. It was then that Jesus said the famous words above, that his followers would need to deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow him.
If we’re honest with ourselves, we come to Jesus with our own preconceived notions about him. Maybe we’re in a situation that we feel like he can help us out of. Maybe we are looking to Jesus as a self help guru to help us navigate through life. Or maybe we’re looking for a genie to give us whatever we want.
It doesn’t really matter what attracts us to Jesus in the first place. It’s how we respond. Do we keep expecting him to be an extension of ourselves? Or do we deny ourselves? Do we gloss over our problems and put on a brave face? Or do we take up our cross? Finally, do we keep going our own way? Or do we follow Jesus?
Over the next few weeks, I’m doing a series of devotions called Take Up Your Cross. I’ll be looking at the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus in light of the verse above. In doing so, I hope to point to Jesus as the ultimate example of how to live our lives. Even more than that, he gives us hope for eternal life.