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Carry the Cross

January 22, 2015

jesus carrying cross

The command in Mark 8 to take up the cross and follow Jesus is one part of a carefully built climax to the first section of Mark’s gospel. Though Jesus declared the cost of discipleship earlier in His ministry, Mark does not include those earlier statements. In the scope of Mark’s letter he reserves any record of such a comment until the middle of the gospel. The sequence of instruction through Mark builds to this moment so all who read the gospel may properly understand the right response to the One who is God and Savior. So Mark 8 records Peter’s declaration that Jesus is the Messiah. Jesus responded to that declaration with a command to the disciples to tell no one and a course of teaching about His impending suffering, rejection, death and resurrection. When Peter rebuked Jesus for these words Jesus in turn rebuked Peter as an adversary who was not considering the things of God. Jesus warned Peter that his thinking was worldly, human thinking and was opposed to the will of God. Then in Mark 8:34 Jesus calls the crowds to Him and gives to them the full corrective to earthly, fleshly thinking.

Jesus decreed, “Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross.” Jesus’ command is astounding. It was astounding to the Jews who heard Him, since it was nothing like what they expected the promised Messiah to say. To their thinking, the Messiah was not going to carry a cross, He was going to wear a crown. The Messiah was to bring victory, freedom and prosperity to the Jews, not self denial and suffering. Jesus’ injunction is astounding to us today because it sounds nothing like the popular promises of what Jesus will do. Many claim Jesus is all about satisfying your desires and bringing you happiness, not about self denial and loss. Jesus declaration is astounding to all men everywhere because it is a command that demands more than the flesh is willing to give. No one wants to set himself aside as unimportant. No one wants to forsake dreams and ambitions. No one willingly takes up death and lives to die. This is a command that is completely foreign to every part of our nature.

Those who follow Jesus must reject the sinful desires of the flesh, must refuse to seek after personal increase and must live in this world as men already dead to the world. When life ends, it should not be an abrupt transition from this life to a brand new one. When life ends, it should be a stepping into that life for which you have lived all along. To carry the cross is to live dead to this world. This is a major, life changing command! This is not some money back offer inviting one to give Jesus a try for 30 days and see if He meets expectations. This is not pray to Jesus and He’ll make your life better. This is the command to turn your back on everything but Jesus. This is a command to forsake all to follow Him

The command to take up the cross is the command to die to self. Taking up the cross is being as moved by your own desires as a corpse is by the nice words said about it. It is the command to set aside your own desires, wants, ambitions, plans and wishes. Taking up the cross is a readiness to abandon everything for Jesus. Though not all will be called to leave home and hearth, forsake friends and family or suffer torment and death, yet all must be willing to do just that. To take up the cross is to live dead to all the things of this world, including you own life. To take up the cross is to shoulder the realization that I may be called to give it all up for Jesus. To take up the cross is to make your self ready to pay the ultimate price for Jesus.

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