“…and take up his cross and follow me” What did Jesus mean when He said this?

Jesus said:

*Matthew 16:24

24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

*Mark 8:34

34 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.

*Luke 9:23

23 And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.


Answer: Let’s begin with what Jesus didn’t mean. Many people interpret “cross” as some burden they must carry in their lives: a strained relationship, a thankless job, a physical illness. With self-pitying pride, they say, “That’s my cross I have to carry.” Such an interpretation is not what Jesus meant when He said, “Take up your cross and follow Me.”

When Jesus carried His cross up Golgotha to be crucified, no one was thinking of the cross as symbolic of a burden to carry. To a person in the first-century, the cross meant one thing and one thing only: death by the most painful and humiliating means human beings could develop.

Two thousand years later, Christians view the cross as a cherished symbol of atonement, forgiveness, grace, and love. But in Jesus’ day, the cross represented nothing but torturous death. Because the Romans forced convicted criminals to carry their own crosses to the place of crucifixion, bearing a cross meant carrying their own execution device while facing ridicule along the way to death.

Therefore, “Take up your cross and follow Me” means being willing to die in order to follow Jesus. This is called “dying to self.” It’s a call to absolute surrender. After each time Jesus commanded cross bearing, He said, “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?” (*Luke 9:24-25). Although the call is tough, the reward is matchless.

Wherever Jesus went, He drew crowds. Although these multitudes often followed Him as Messiah, their view of who the Messiah really was—and what He would do—was distorted. They thought the Christ would usher in the restored kingdom. They believed He would free them from the oppressive rule of their Roman occupiers. Even Christ’s own inner circle of disciples thought the kingdom was coming soon (*Luke 19:11). When Jesus began teaching that He was going to die at the hands of the Jewish leaders and their Gentile overlords (*Luke 9:22), His popularity sank. Many of the shocked followers rejected Him. Truly, they were not able to put to death their own ideas, plans, and desires, and exchange them for His.

Following Jesus is easy when life runs smoothly; our true commitment to Him is revealed during trials. Jesus assured us that trials will come to His followers (*John 16:33). Discipleship demands sacrifice, and Jesus never hid that cost.

In *Luke 9:57-62, three people seemed willing to follow Jesus. When Jesus questioned them further, their commitment was half-hearted at best. They failed to count the cost of following Him. None was willing to take up his cross and crucify upon it his own interests.

Therefore, Jesus appeared to dissuade them. How different from the typical Gospel presentation! How many people would respond to an altar call that went, “Come follow Jesus, and you may face the loss of friends, family, reputation, career, and possibly even your life”? The number of false converts would likely decrease! Such a call is what Jesus meant when He said, “Take up your cross and follow Me.”

If you wonder if you are ready to take up your cross, consider these questions:
• Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means losing some of your closest friends?
• Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means alienation from your family?
• Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means the loss of your reputation?
• Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means losing your job?
• Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means losing your life?

In some places of the world, these consequences are reality. But notice the questions are phrased, “Are you willing?” Following Jesus doesn’t necessarily mean all these things will happen to you, but are you willing to take up your cross? If there comes a point in your life where you are faced with a choice—Jesus or the comforts of this life—which will you choose?

Commitment to Christ means taking up your cross daily, giving up your hopes, dreams, possessions, even your very life if need be for the cause of Christ. Only if you willingly take up your cross may you be called His disciple( Luke 14:27). The reward is worth the price. Jesus followed His call of death to self (“Take up your cross and follow Me”) with the gift of life in Christ: “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it” (*Matthew 16:25-26).

~Amen ❤ ❤ ❤


19 thoughts on ““…and take up his cross and follow me” What did Jesus mean when He said this?

  1. God bless you, Beth! We have to remember Jesus’ words and meditate upon them and apply them to our daily life, family relationships, for example. I tend to think that if I can be likable and caring then this is a witness – but this isn’t necessarily so. It makes me a people pleaser. Thank you for posting this today – our priority is faithfulness to the Lord.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Amen, Sis! As I was studying on this I also felt like I fall into the “if I can be likable and caring then this is a witness” category, too! That is NOT good! ❤ ❤ ❤
      God just keeps blessing us with HIS TRUTH! \o/

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Good mornin Elizabeth. May I add my experience with this please?
    While it is definitely true that being a disciple of Jesus may cost us much. I personally am very careful as to how I present this message when it comes to my own testimony.
    What I mean is, I have had several family members walk away from me because of my zeal for Jesus. And I’ve confessed sins to people that I’ve sinned against that are extremely evil and humiliating, and some still won’t forgive me to this day. So yes…I have suffered effects from following Jesus.

    (Please please please ponder what I’m fixin to say. Please).

    I don’t put 0.00000000001% confidence in that stuff as evidence that I’m saved. Because anyone could do that. Yes, even people in cults who also name Christ as their Saviour could suffer for their alleged service to Christ.

    And the other danger of it is…if I’m looking at what it’s cost me…I become prideful. I was like this back when I was a big fan of John McArthur.
    And what I did was…make my efforts the standard for everyone else to measure up to. And I was always judging people’s testimony legitimacy by how dedicated they were.
    I’m not saying you do this at all Elizabeth, I’m saying that I did it, and it’s a lesson that I hope I never forget.
    It’s a slippery slope in one’s heart to transition to works justification.
    Be very very careful my friend.

    As I know that you already know, the only thing that’s required of anyone to be a saint of God is to believe on the Son. That’s all one has to do. (But sure, there may be some extreme cost that comes with it). Just don’t put any confidence in that.

    All confidence is in what Jesus did, not what we did.

    “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” Romans 4.5

    So, I hope that has been useful to you my friend. And God bless you, you righteous saint!😇

    Liked by 2 people

    1. One correction. I’ve had one family member turn their back on me from my zeal for Jesus…not several.

      The others who turned their back to me were for my sins against them. Not my zeal for Jesus.
      Please forgive me for my error.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Lee, and all the rest of you. I love you guys and gals. I’m an old man, you all have many years ahead of you. I hesitate getting into this particular discussion but I must. This post to me has beauty. Lee you quote Paul. So what he says is worthy of considering. He wanted us to know that works cannot save us, but there is a work of God’s Holy Spirit in our lives that makes us worthy to accomplish the works of faith. Here is Paul’s prayer concerning that.
    when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed—for our testimony to you was believed. To this end also we pray for you always, that our God will count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power,
    2 Thessalonians 1:10-11
    God has a calling for us. He paid a great price for us, redeeming us. We have desires. Those desires are to now be directed toward His purposes, they bring forth fruit through the power contained in our faith in Him. Paul prays here for us to be worthy of this calling to do the works of Him who called us. Through our works worthy or unworthy we will be judged. We hopefully have faith to desire that good works be performed through our love for Him and our faith in Him. If our faith ever transfers to ourselves or anything else it is unworthy of His calling.

    Liked by 2 people

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