Jesus offers many good and wonderful promises. He gives us assurances to quiet our anxieties, to warm us with his love and grace. But the life of a disciple is not guaranteed to be trouble free. In fact, the call of Christ is often difficult and uncomfortable. It challenges us to rise above what is easy and to do hard things, whose reward is found more often in eternity and not in the material present. Here is one of those instances:
And he [Jesus] said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” ~ Luke 9:23
Come after me – This is an action – a pursuit. Christ’s call is not to meander but to go toward Him with intent and direction.
Deny himself – When I decide to follow Christ, I must give up my own rights. My life, my talents, my time, and my heart are no longer mine. I cannot only think of myself now. I must put him first. I must consider His desires, His thoughts, His heart, as I hold each choice in my day from the smallest to the biggest.
Take up his cross – Our culture sometimes softens our view of crosses. Crosses have not always been something delicate and beautiful, hung on a chain around a neck. Historically, the crosses in Jesus’ day were heavy, excruciatingly painful, and splintering. They were something to be carried and to endure – not in the shadows but in a very public manner. They were cruel, torturous and represented punishment and death.
Daily – In following Christ, this is not a one and done decision. Following him must be decided (firmly) each day. There is no vacation or “off” time. There are no excused absences. To be a Christian is a lifetime commitment.
Follow me – Christ left us an example. We can follow in His footsteps and know much of how we are to act and speak and do. But we must also remind ourselves that this is a call to go after Christ (and not before him). We are following Him and not the leaders here. We are poorly qualified to lead on this journey, whereas He has demonstrated not just His perfection but also His grace, empathy and mercy at each step.
Jesus quite bluntly, quite simply, asks us to suffer for His sake. He of all people knows intimately what it will take to carry a cross. But he also deals gently with our human frailties. He knows them well, perhaps even better than we do ourselves. And yet, he calls us still. The question is, will we take up our cross and follow Him?