There is a profundity in Jesus’ exhortation to His disciples in Matthew 16:24 to “take up our cross”. But, this is the call for all who have come to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. Upon being born-again, it is our nature to pursue the Word of God. “As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the Word that you may grow thereby.” I Peter 2:2 And being a follower of Jesus, it is the heart’s desire to be a disciple of Jesus. At some level in our spiritual growth we will become young men and have a better understanding of the calling to “take up our cross”.
Look at the description of young men in I John 2:14. John writes to his disciples; “I have written to you young men because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the wicked one!” It’s interesting that when Jesus initially called Simon Peter and Andrew, his brother, Jesus did not mention the cross.
“…He said to them, ‘Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men.’” Matthew 4:18 The disciples did not comprehend at that time what it fully meant to follow Him. They were in training. But, as Jesus nears the time for His crucifixion, He tells His disciples in Acts 16:24; “…If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me.” The follow Me now takes on a new understanding.
George McDonald (1824-1905), a Scottish preacher, writer and public figure, writes about a young vicar, Walton, in the introduction to his fictional story, A Quiet Neighbor. “I was thirty when I was made a vicar – an age at which man might be expected to grow wise – but even then I had much to learn. For then I only felt that a man had to take up his cross, whereas now I know that a man has to follow Him, and that makes an unspeakable difference.”
Christ died for us that He might impart to us His life so that He will make an unspeakable difference in us. The metaphor of taking up our cross is our willingness to live for Christ no matter what we may face. We are all in His perfect plan as to how He will use us. I believe this particular text gives us a picture of cross walking. “But what things were gain to me, these I counted loss for Christ. Yet, indeed, I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord for whom I have suffered loss of all things and count them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death…” Philippians 3:7-10
Before we can be equipped for this taking up of our cross, there must be a preparative work in the heart to deny one’s self. “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself…” Matthew 16:24 According to Watchman Nee; “Attempting to follow Him without dying to self is the root of all failure.”
Are there crosses in your life that are bearing down upon your shoulders? We have all experienced them. If we are to rise above these crosses, we must follow Him. Cast your care upon Jesus. The cross is a place to follow Jesus. Experience His grace, His love, His fellowship in suffering. Bear your cross by following Jesus. It may be painful, but it is a place where He will conform you to His image. Romans 8:29 Truly, we will understand what an unspeakable difference He’s working in us having experienced “taking up our cross and following Him”. Matthew 16:24