Taking up your cross has profound meaning to it. Everyone Jesus was talking to knew what He meant. They had seen how the Romans would force the condemned to literally carry their instrument of execution to it’s place. They would unwillingly exert effort towards their own demise.
It’s similar to what Christ is talking about. We are also to exert effort toward our own death. Not a physical death, but a death to the things if this world and a death to our earthly desires.
Notice, though, how this verse is not for everyone. Jesus said, “if anyone DESIRES TO FOLLOW ME…”
To understand this better, I like to substitute the cross for an electric chair. The cross was the common method of Roman execution. They used the cross to execute criminals everyday. But since the only idea we have about a cross is the cross of Jesus, thinking in terms of an electric chair will be easier:
Imagine toting around an electric chair. And not just any electric chair, but YOUR electric chair; the very chair that will soon charge you like a wet penny. You’d think that you would want to be as far away from that thing as possible! But, no, Christ says to go fetch it, carry it around with you, and then be ready for the day in which you will grace that throne.
Welcome to discipleship!
“Why would anyone want to live this way?,” you may ask. Because true life doesn’t begin until death comes first. Unless an acorn falls to the ground and is buried, it remains alone, but if it is buried in the dirt, dead, then life begins. Even so, we are baptized into death to our old life that new life can come.
Jesus said: If you try to keep your life for yourself, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for me, you will find true life. Mt 16:25 NLT
I have endeavored to follow this principal the best that I can. I can truthfully tell you that the more that I die to my own fleshly desires, the more I experience true joy. I’ve experienced what the world has to offer. It offers nothing that satisfies the soul. Everything is empty and disappointing. Sure, there is temporary excitement and pleasure, but it all waxes old. Only in Christ do we have the water that quenches our thirst so that we don’t thirst again.
whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life Jn 4:14
Look back into your life. Look at the things that you were sure would satisfy you. Did they? Or was there still a void there? Drugs, sex, relationships, thrills, partying, money, business, hobbies, or anything else that you try to do to make you happy will just leave you wanting.
True life only comes from denying yourself and living for His cause. Yes, and this is what He requires if you desire to follow Him. Don’t think that following Christ is going to be a cake walk, it’s not; it’s going to be a death row walk. Pain and death will accompany you for the rest of your life. But don’t be discouraged, because out of every death will spring forth buds of new life; life that is true and everlasting!
We’ve spoke about this subject symbolically, but what does it mean practically? It means that throughout your life you will be required to lay things down for the sake of the gospel. God may require you to permanently stop some hobby so you have more time to pray. He may have you quit a high paying job for a lesser paying job, one that would free you up to serve Him more. He may tell you to shut off the cable tv. He may tell you to be rid of video games. He may tell you to sacrifice bowling night so you can go to the nursing home to minister to the residents. He may require to travel away from your family more then you would like. He may require you and your family to move to a foreign country to preach the gospel; it maybe a place that is not as modern as America.; it may be a place that is a little dangerous.
But with all that will come joy unspeakable when you see people freed from depression and pain. The fruit that comes as a result in giving it all to God will be so glorious that any suffering on your part will pale in comparison. And then, when your final day on this earth is complete, you will enter into your reward. There will be no more death and no more pain. Your electric chair will not follow you.