Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. Matthew 16:24
We all leave a bit of ourselves behind when we move to a new place. But to become a long-term resident of Villas Las Estrellas, Antarctica, a cold and desolate place, leaving a piece of yourself behind is a literal thing. With the nearest hospital 625 miles away, a person will be in serious trouble if their appendix bursts. So every citizen must first undergo an appendectomy before moving there.
Drastic, right? But it’s not as drastic as becoming a resident of the kingdom of God. Because people want to follow Jesus on their own terms and not His (Matthew 16:25–27), He redefines what it means to be a disciple. He said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (v. 24). This includes being prepared to let go of anything that competes with Him and His kingdom. And as we take up our cross, we declare a willingness to undergo social and political oppression and even death for the sake of devotion to Christ. Along with letting go and taking up, we’re also to take on a willingness to truly follow Him. This is a moment-by-moment posture of following His lead as He guides us into service and sacrifice.
Following Jesus means so much more than leaving a little piece of our lives behind. As He helps us, it’s about submitting and surrendering our whole lives—including our bodies—to Him alone.
What does it mean for you to follow Jesus? How is He asking you to sacrifice your life for Him?
Dear Jesus, help me give up anything that competes with You and Your kingdom.
Matthew 16:21–28 records the first of three times Jesus predicted His coming suffering. The timing of this revelation is significant because it follows Peter’s great confession of Christ’s identity at Caesarea Philippi, which seems to have occurred about midway through His public ministry. As such, it seems that the first half of Jesus’ ministry was to reveal to His followers who He was (and is), and the second half of His ministry was to reveal why He came—to suffer, die, and rise again. The second prediction is found in Matthew 17:22–23. The third is found in Matthew 20:17–19 and is the only one to specifically mention crucifixion. All three, however, state that Jesus would be raised on the third day.