Take Up Your Cross

In Matthew 16:24-28 we hear some hard words from Jesus that are often talked about but I don’t really believe that we fully grasp the truth that is found in His words.

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone wants to become my follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what does it benefit a person if he gains the whole world but forfeits his life? Or what can a person give in exchange for his life? For the Son of Man will come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done. I tell you the truth, there are some standing here who will not experience death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.’” NET

Jesus gives perhaps the clearest presentation of discipleship found in the Bible. In this passage Jesus shares with His disciples what we might call the thee laws of discipleship:

1> The Law of self-denial: “deny himself”

2> The Law of sacrifice: “take up his cross”

3> The Law of submission: “follow me”

But the Lord does not just leave them (and us) with these responsibilities. He qualifies them by pointing out the rewards that belong to those who are disciples:

1> PERMANENCE OF DISCIPLESHIP: “For whoever would save his life will lose it,” meaning that joy and fulfillment are found when we exchange our lives for the life of Christ.

2> PRICE OF DISCIPLESHIP: “What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” We all get only one chance to live by faith as believers. It is priceless and well worth the cost to us personally of following Jesus and fulfilling His commands.

3> PRIZE OF DISCIPLESHIP: “He will repay each person according to what he has done.”

The truths found in the Gospel according to Matthew are also found elsewhere in the New Testament.

Luke 17:33 (NET) states, “Remember Lotʼs wife! Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will preserve it.”

We also see a similar point being made in the Gospel according to John the apostle.

John 12:25 (NET) “The one who loves his life destroys it, and the one who hates his life in this world guards it for eternal life.”

And then in the history of the early Church in Acts 14:22 (NET) we read, “They strengthened the souls of the disciples and encouraged them to continue in the faith, saying, ‘We must enter the kingdom of God through many persecutions.’”

Obviously it is costly to be a true disciple of Jesus. And its cost is exceeded only by its reward. We gain life by losing it as we suffer much for the Gospel of the Kingdom (Matthew 24;14). But as we share the Gospel with others – and maybe suffer for our obedience to the Great Commission – we recognize that we are ushering in the return of Jesus. In His own words we read, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the whole inhabited earth as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14 NET).

So, as disciples we must be willing to lose our lives for the sake of this Gospel of the Kingdom as we look to the second coming of Jesus once the Gospel has been heard by every nation (people and language group). 

A reminder then of The Great Commission for which we are to invest (lose) our lives …

“Then Jesus came up and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20 NET).

Time to think about taking up our individual crosses, doing to self, and thus investing life in spreading and proclamation of the Gospel to the many who have yet to hear the Good News that Jesus saves.