Take Up Your Cross
Open Your Bible
Luke 9:1-27, Acts 13:44-52, Romans 10:1-15
In the quiet following the large-scale, miraculous feeding of the five thousand, Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do the crowds say that I am?… Who do you say that I am?” (Luke 9:20).
Everyone had their own version of who Jesus was. Many, like Herod, were curious but perplexed. Others believed Him to be Elijah, a prophet of old, or a resurrected John the Baptist. And I can’t blame them, because even with all the prophecy and typology in the Old Testament, no one had ever seen the Messiah. Jesus as Messiah was a completely new kind of being.
But good old Peter jumps right in with the correct Sunday-school answer: “God’s Messiah.” Bam! Atta boy, Peter. But even Peter’s confession was revealed to him, not by flesh and blood, but by the heavenly Father (Matthew 16:17). Even Peter needed help sorting out the right answer.
And who is God’s Messiah? What does this designation mean? The true Messiah would be the One who would suffer and die for the sins of God’s people, and after three days rise again, though not even Peter had understood that much. The Messiah was not merely one of the prophets, or Elijah, or John. He was the One for whom John prepared the way in the wilderness. We have the advantage of history on our side, knowing that Jesus did suffer, die, and rise again. And we can use that advantage to answer with Peter, “You are God’s Messiah.”
What should we do with this information? Right away Jesus follows Peter’s confession with: “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23). Since I don’t have a physical, wooden cross handy, I can’t help but wonder, What does it means to “take up your cross”? Jesus laid aside His glory to bear the cross to Calvary; this was His greatest act of self-denial and obedience to the Father. It is self-denial for the glory of God.
In the same way, He calls us to set aside our own wills and be fully devoted to the Father’s will. Here’s the sticking point: This is the hardest thing on earth to do. I love doing my own will. It’s my favorite thing. And Jesus specifies that taking up one’s cross is a daily action. With the apostle Paul, our response to the risen Messiah is to die to ourselves daily (1 Corinthians 15:31). So every day, we are called to do the absolute hardest thing in the world—die to ourselves and set aside what we want.
We’re all like Peter; we can blurt out Sunday-school answers, but the very next minute, we need someone to say to us: “Get behind me Satan!” (Matthew 16:23). We aren’t able to set aside our own will so easily. So how do we take up our cross? We simply take up Christ. We fall at the beautiful feet of the One who has brought us the good news of the gospel (Romans 10:15). We cling to Him, leaning on His perfect righteousness, day after day.