Considering how well Jesus has captured their attention, we might feel compelled to start asking questions like, “how do I become a follower” and “what must I do?”. As we reach the end of this passage, we learn that there is a cost to discipleship. We learn that not only does He suffer, but we do too. This is what we must expect if we are to truly understand what it means if we are to commit our lives in order to be his disciples.
In this passage, we see Jesus is extending his message to include everyone and not just the disciples. In this context, he is speaking collectively and not to a select few. This applies to everyone we need to take this seriously. He takes the conversation further to include those who wish to follow Him. We see that Jesus provides a series of actions we need to take if we are to follow Jesus. So what does he have today?
Let’s start in v34. We are told we need to “deny ourselves and to take up our cross”. It’s important to remember that at the time this was mentioned, the cross wasn’t a symbol or an item we saw around the home or something featured on a necklace. The cross was a brutal method of execution.
We are told from the passage to “deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me”. As a result, we must be prepared to do as instructed. To be clear, this isn’t an instruction to self-rejection or self-hatred of ourselves. Instead, it is an instruction for us to put aside our ways and our own schemes. We must seek Christ above all else. We must pursue Christ above our own ambitions. And, we must deny ourselves and sacrifice our ways of life.
Now, if you got this far in the passage you might be feeling that this seems a little too much. This idea of self-denial just feels so hard. Or, perhaps you might be thinking that I need more persuasive reasons to follow Him. Luckily, as we read verses 35-38. Jesus gives many reasons why denying ourselves and following Jesus is worthwhile.
In v35 Jesus tells us of the importance of our salvation secured in Him. v34 reads “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.”
Reading this, it sounds a little backwards. “Saving their own life will result in them losing it”. The reality is, that we are not the authors of our own salvation. Of course, it doesn’t make any sense. In an attempt of us trying in intervene by “saving their own life,” we are only causing more damage as we are not really saving it. You see we like to give ourselves the illusion that we are saving it and that we are in control.
Given the many distractions and paths that life has to offer, are we prepared to risk losing eternal life? In order to become a true followers, we need to let go of our own plans and our own will in order to gain.
In v36-37 we are reminded of the great comparison between the riches of this world and an individual soul.
“What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?”
We chase after so many different things in this world which provide no lasting value. A fancy job title, a nice car or maybe even a massive house. Don’t get me wrong. While it’s not wrong to have these things and ambitions in life, we must not let them from being distractions to take us off the path toward eternal life. You cannot take them with you. This is a reminder that the things of this world are temporary and do not last and that the riches of heaven are far greater. Far greater than what we could ever imagine
And finally, we see in v38 that we will eventually stand before him in judgement.
“If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels”
This is incredibly important. This far outweighs the judgement of man in this world for one day we will meet Him face to face. It’s tempting to orientate our lives in such a way that we please others so that they look favourably upon us but this verse reminds us of the exact opposite. We shouldn’t fear other people’s opinions of us but be reminded that the only judgement that is important is that of Christ.
As we reach the end of this passage, Jesus reminds us of the coming of His kingdom. Jesus is providing hope that His kingdom will come and that the victory is secured! This is the ultimate reason why we should live a life for him.
And this leaves us with a final question. Are you prepared to follow Him? Are you prepared to “take up your cross”? Are you prepared to put aside your own temptations? Compared to everything else that this world has to offer, living a life for Christ is truly worth it!