Peter has just confessed that Jesus is “The Christ of God” (20). Jesus “commanded them to tell this to no none” (21). This may sound odd, but it was because the crowds wanted the Christ to be a political freedom fighter. Jesus knew that the Christ “must suffer many things…be killed, and on the third day be raised” (22). Jesus said this to His disciples to prepare them for the suffering He would soon endure in order to fulfill God’s plan of salvation. In our passage this morning, Jesus explains to us what it means to follow Him.
A Christ Follower
If you consider yourself a Christian then you are identifying yourself as a follower of Jesus Christ. How does one follow Christ? Many people have many answers but this morning we will discuss how Jesus answers this question. Jesus says, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (23).
Jesus says that a follower of Christ must do the following: 1) recognize the need to come after, 2) deny himself, 3) take up his cross daily and 4) actively follow. These can be best summarized by the word submission.
Submission: Recognize the need
It all starts with recognition of the need to come after. A person recognizes who Jesus is (The Christ of God), who they are (sinner in rebellion), and they see their need for Him. This is all part of the Father drawing that person to Jesus (John 6:44).
Submission: Denying yourself
Jesus says that a denial of self is needed. This denial of self is a refusal to engage in the self-centeredness that is so prevalent in this age. It is a refusal to submit to selfishness, self-interest and self-fulfillment. Denying yourself is best understood as a refusal to allow yourself to be the center of everything.
Submission: Take up your cross daily
Jesus says that one must take up his cross daily. For us the cross is a well-known symbol of Christianity and hope. But remember that for a 1st century Jew, the cross was an instrument of death. Taking up your cross daily means that you are daily crucifying the sinful passion and lusts that war against your soul. It is putting your selfishness and ego on the cross and daily killing it as you submit your life to Christ. It is the intentional rejection of self-interest and self-fulfillment.
Submission: Actively follow
Jesus is saying that a follower of Christ is actively following. They are known by those around them as ones who submit to Christ and have a deep love for Christ. They are recognized by those around them as ones who do everything in the context of 1 Corinthians 10:31: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
Can I follow and not submit?
In verses 24-26, Jesus answers common objections people raise against submitting to Him.
Objection #1: I want to save my life
Jesus says, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” Jesus knows that His followers are not eager to die, but assures them that submission to Him will result in salvation. If one seeks to save his life by refusing to submit to Jesus, he will find that He will lose it.
Objection #2: Can’t I love the world and you?
Jesus says, “For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself” (25). The world promises happiness and fulfillment. The world beckons us to submit to its rules and you can have the perfect life. We know that the world does not provide true happiness but what if it did? What if you did find true happiness and fulfillment in the world but discovered that the cost was your very soul? Jesus tells His followers not to follow the world. John writes of the foolishness of loving the world:
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and the pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:15-17)
Objection #3: What if I am Ashamed?
Jesus says, “For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when He comes in His glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels” (26). There is a price to pay for refusing to submit to Jesus. He promises that if we are ashamed of Him and refuse to submit to Him, He will be ashamed of us.
Jesus says that true followers are ones who submit themselves to Him. A true follower loves Christ more than the world and demonstrates this in their thoughts, words and actions. Are you a follower of Jesus? If not, come to Him in repentance and faith. If you are, continue following Him as you love God and love others.
Questions for Reflection
- What does Jesus say about someone who follows Him?
- What does Jesus mean when He says, “Let him deny himself”?
- What does Jesus mean when He says, “Take up his cross daily”?
- What does Jesus say about someone who attempts to gain the whole world?
- What does Jesus say about someone who loses his life “for My sake”?