We may desire to follow Jesus but doing so is a daily choice as we compete with the siren call of our culture. Jesus has called each of us to daily follow Him and He expressed it this way.
23 Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. 24 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. Luke 9:23–24 (NKJV)
We need to do a little excavating of the context and text to understand this passage (see also Matthew 16 and Mark 8). Jesus presented this challenge just after the 12 recognized Jesus as the Messiah and He predicted His pending death and resurrection. The larger context is that while the 12 and the crowd were familiar with crucifixion, they didn’t understand at the time that Jesus was to be crucified so Jesus wasn’t calling them, or by extension us, to crucifixion. He was calling us to follow Him.
Matthew, Mark and Luke were all pointing to something and all wrote on this side of the cross, while Jesus spoke these words on the other side of the cross. He told us that we needed to deny ourselves and take up our cross in order to follow Him. Bear in mind, many of His hearers had already sacrificed a great deal to follow Him. What was put before them here was the need to maintain this heart attitude of daily choosing to follow.
Jesus’ cross was His purpose. We see this as He begins His final journey to Jerusalem.
51 Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem, Luke 9:51 (NKJV)
At this point nothing was going to deter Jesus from His purpose. He was headed to Jerusalem where He knew crucifixion and death awaited, followed by a resurrection. Our following Him doesn’t mean literal death, though in some cases it may. It means laying down our agenda and taking up His. This is where the denying part comes in. For some of us in our day it may mean openly sharing our faith at work when we think it safer to remain silent. For some of us denying ourselves will mean remaining silent when we want to speak up. For others it may mean standing against oppression or tyranny.
The cross may be different for each of us. Where it is the same is in our need to lay down our agenda and take up His. It is counting the cost and setting our face to follow Jesus. I close this post with a brief illustration. Many years ago, my friend Evelyn (who is now with the Lord) shared an encounter she had. She was in the spirit realm and Jesus appeared to her. She said He never said anything, He simply looked at her then turned around and started walking. She said she knew what it meant; He was calling her to follow Him so she did. I won’t share all the details but she lived her life denying herself and following Him and the fruit was very evident to all who knew her. I pray we each make that same daily choice.
Next week I will go more into some practical details around how to follow. However, today we are between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, so listen to Forever by Kari Jobe as she captures the significance of both events.
2 thoughts on “Following Part 1”
As Tozer points out, your cross is not simply your burdens to bear in this life, it is, as you say Randy, dying to self and laying down your agenda for his.
Yes, I have long believed it is about whose agenda we are focused on.