“Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
– Matthew 10:37-39
In Matthew 10:37-39, Jesus gives the disciples three conditions that are necessary if one desires to live a life consumed for Jesus Christ. Last week we considered the first condition: you must love Jesus more than anyone or anything else. This goes back the first commandment found in Exodus 20:1-3, And God spoke all these words: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.” The Bible makes it very clear that Jesus is God in the flesh. Thus, he is to have top priority in our lives and hearts. He is our Lord! We must never lose sight of this truth. Now let’s consider the second condition we all need if we desire to live for Christ.
We must be willing to die to self. Look at verse 38 again: “Anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” What does Jesus mean when he says, “take up your cross?” Consider what happens on a cross? There is an execution! Your cross implies your death.
John MacArthur in his commentary on Matthew says, “No one in the Roman Empire in New Testament times…could have missed Jesus’ point…The cross symbolized the extremes of both excruciating pain and heartless cruelty; but above all it symbolized death. Only a few years before Jesus spoke these words, a zealot named Judas had gathered together a band of rebels to fight the Roman occupation forces. The insurrection was easily quelled, and in order to teach the Jews a lesson, the Roman general Varus ordered the crucifixion of over 2,000 Jews. Their crosses lined the roads of Galilee from one end to the other. The twelve knew immediately that to take their cross and follow after [Jesus] meant to abandon themselves without reservation to Jesus’ lordship, with no consideration of cost—even of life itself.”[i]
During Jesus’ day the cross symbolized death and today it still symbolizes death. Jesus tells us that we are not worthy of him if we are not willing to take up our cross. Are you willing? What does it mean to take up your cross? What exactly is your cross? Well, let me tell you what it is not. It is not the hardships and tragedies that befall Christians. It is not sickness, heartache, loss of a job or any kind of physical ailment. It is not any other kind of difficulty that you can imagine. Yes, these are difficult things that life throws at us, but these are not the kind of crosses Jesus has in mind. So, exactly what is the cross of a believer? MacArthur defines this cross better than I can. “The cross of a believer is the willing sacrifice of everything one has, including life, for the sake of Christ.”[ii] It means to live for Jesus in spite of any rejection you might receive from the world.
To take up your cross might mean:
– Simply bowing your head in a restaurant and saying the blessing
– Sharing your faith with a friend, risking that friendship
– Giving to someone in need and denying yourself something you want
– Standing up for the truth knowing few will agree
– Going to some distant country to share the gospel with those who might not want to hear it
– Refusing to watch something, refusing to partake of something, refusing to do something even when all those around you are saying, “Oh, come on! Everyone else is doing it!”
– Refusing to follow the crowd
– Being less popular; being a little lonely
To take up your cross means to enter through the narrow gate and walk down the narrow road. It means seeking the applause of God rather than the applause of men. It means to live a self-sacrificing life rather than an indulgent one. To take up your cross means to live for God and others, rather than yourself. Are you willing to take up your cross and follow Jesus? Jesus says you must if you truly want to follow Him.