“And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” (Mark 8:34)
“Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.” (Luke 18:22)
These two verses have one thing, especially, in common. One states it; the other implies it. What is it? Jesus is saying in Mark 8:34, “Take up thy cross.” He is saying the same thing in Luke 18:22 by implication.
In Luke 18:22, Jesus was not telling the young ruler that he needed to sell all he had and give to the poor, in order to follow Him. He is not telling us that we need to sell everything we have and give to the poor in order to follow Him. He was telling the young ruler that his “things” were his gods. That too, is the message to us today. To follow Jesus, the young ruler needed to put Jesus first in his life, above and beyond everything else. Now it may be, that we need to sell some “things” and give to the poor. If God has called upon us to pray about another’s need, perhaps He is also calling upon us as a fulfillment, or at least a partial fulfillment, to that prayer.
Then Jesus said, “For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” (Luke 18:25) Think this out. Is it not true, generally speaking, that the more we have, the harder it is to let go of it? Let me give another scenario. If one person has a job earning $100,000 per year, and another person has a job earning $10,000 per year, which will have a harder time if they both lose their jobs? Which will it be harder on if they both are unable to find another job for an extended period of time? The answer is obvious.
We need to consider the possibility that there may be “things” in our lives that keep us from following Jesus. We cannot take up our cross and follow Him, if we already have a full load of “things” in our lives … those “things” that have become our gods.
There are numerous verses where Jesus either says plainly or implies for us to take up our cross and follow Him. Bless yourselves by reading the Gospels and looking for these instances. There are many.
So we see that taking up our cross is not allowing anything to come before Jesus in our lives. The pecking order should be something like this; God first, family second, others third, ourselves last. Notice that there is no mention of “things”.
Believe it or not, I have noticed over the years more pastors than you might realize not giving of themselves to their families as they should. They think they are putting God first by giving everyone else their time, not realizing that they are not putting God first when they deprive their own families.
What does it mean though to “take up thy cross”? From what I have heard over the years, many people think (giving two examples) that if they are afflicted with illness, or have family problems, then this is “taking up thy cross”. It is not. Everyone has been, is, or will be afflicted with some kind of illness. Everyone has been, is, or will have family problems. We all suffer the same maladies in this life, on this earth, but that is not “taking up thy cross”.
My heart goes out to anyone suffering sin’s affects upon this world. That is not to say that they are suffering because of their sin(s), absolutely not. It is simply saying that this fallen world has placed its curse upon us all, and it was caused by original sin. But these problems are just that, problems caused by a fallen world. They are not our “taking up thy cross”.
“Take up thy cross” simply means that we die to self, as our Savior died for us upon the cross, and live wholly for Him. Jesus died upon the cross, was buried, and rose the third day. (See 1 Corinthians 15:3-4) Here we have the cross, the grave, and the empty tomb. For us, we die to self, we are buried in Him, and we live for Him. We can die to self because He died for us. We are buried in Him, because we rest all hope in Him with complete trust. We live for Him, because He lives in us. That is what it means to “take up thy cross”.
I would like to add that Jesus also spoke of a yoke. He said, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
When two oxen are yoked together, one is always the lead ox. Jesus takes our load upon Himself and leads us in the way we should go. In James He says that He will give us more grace to combat evil desires. “But he gives us even more grace to stand against such evil desires. As the Scriptures say, “God opposes the proud but favors the humble.” (James 4:6 NLT) Would it not also be true that He gives us more grace for any circumstance if we need it? Of course it would.
When we take up our cross for Him, we soon discover that the burden is light. Sometimes we are afraid to step out for Him, but once we do, we find that He gives us more grace. He makes the yoke easy and the burden light.
I hope this has inspired many to get out of the easy chair, so to speak, and “take up thy cross”. This is where the Lord wants us. This is where we need to be.