Whoever wants to come after me should deny himself, lift up his cross and follow me.
I was reading this verse yesterday and as I was praying over it, this came to my mind.
I looked at the context on which this was spoken. Jesus had just fed four thousand men and talked to his disciples about the yeast of the Pharisees. The yeast (for me) is the unbelief of the Pharisees because of their preconceived ideas. After this, Jesus then asked his disciples who he was and Peter made the great profession of faith - "You are the Christ". Jesus then proceeded to tell his disciples that he had to die and on the third day be raised from the dead.
At this point, Peter rebuked Jesus saying that this shall not happen. Jesus then turned and rebuked Peter. It was at this point that Jesus said this verse.
Looking at the context of this, we see that denying oneself here means to surrender everything to the Lord - to free ourselves from the yeast of the Pharisees - unbelief due to preconceived ideas. Taking control thinking that we have the power to control everything.
This next part is something new to me and I was surprised of what I saw. Very often, we hear people say, hat is your cross - take it joyfully - referring to problems we have. But yesterday, this phrase, take up his cross - took on a different twist. What is a Christians cross. Do we each have our own crosses? Looking carefully into scripture, we see that there is only one cross of salvation - the cross of Jesus from which we were saved. If we lift up a cross other than Jesus then we are not being true to our faith. You take up your cross and be crucified in it. Will that save you? No matter how many times we die on the cross, we die in vain because we cannot save ourselves from our sins. So for children of God - there is no other cross except the cross of Christ. And this is what we have to lift up.
To be able to follow Jesus therefore, we have to:
- Deny ourselves - treat ourselves as nothing before the eyes of God. Get rid of our preconcieved ideas of how to do things. Stand naked before the Lord.
- Lift up the cross of Christ. In doing so, we exalt Christ - put him as head of our lives. Lift him up - exalt and glorify his name. Recognize that he is YOUR Saviour and that he alone can save you.
It is only then that we can truly follow him.
Whatever is your difficulty right now - this is NOT your cross. Stop doing what you used to do. Surrender these to the Lord. Deny yourself - get rid of your preconceived ideas. Exalt the name of the Lord. Put him above all these difficulties. Acknowledge that he alone can save you. Lift up the cross of Jesus and you will be able to follow Jesus - the way he wants you to.