Take Up Your Cross

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in His Father’s glory with His angels, and then He will reward each person according to what they have done. (Matthew 16:24-27, NIV)


Take up.


When this posts, it will be Holy Thursday, the start of a climactic ending to Holy Week in Christian circles. Thursday commemorates the Last Supper Jesus had with His disciples before He was betrayed and arrested. They were gathered for the Passover meal. Afterward, Jesus and several disciples went into the Garden of Gethsemane to keep watch and pray.

Jesus knew what was coming. He had even spoken openly to His disciples about it. They couldn’t possibly grasp that He would actually be arrested and put to death. But Jesus knew the gravity of the moment as is evidenced in the following verses:

Going a little farther, He (Jesus) fell with His face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.(Matthew 26:39, NIV)


And being in anguish, He (Jesus) prayed more earnestly, and His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. (Luke 22:44)

Judas, one of his twelve closest disciples, arrives with armed guards and Jesus is taken away. I won’t go into every detail, because it is a story you need to read (more than once) to begin to understand. The bottom line is He is put through unimaginable torture and then condemned to death on a cross.

Good Friday honors that fateful time. Try and imagine Jesus beaten beyond all recognition, so badly wounded, His flesh torn off. Now He is ordered to carry His own cross up Calvary’s hill where He will be nailed to it.

The Bible speaks of how He falls multiple times during this arduous trek. In fact, the soldiers commandeer someone in the crowd to help Him carry it. All this time, many are spitting at Him, cursing Him. With each agonizing step, the soldiers are still whipping, kicking, and abusing Him.

He finally ascends the hill. But there is no relief. He is thrown upon the cross and nailed to it. Imagine nails piercing both his wrists and feet. They raise the cross; the pain continues.

Research what the human body goes through during crucifixion (only if you have a strong stomach). It is one of the most excruciating ways to die. It is slow and horrible. Once again, the mockers surround Him, jeering, spitting, taunting.

Yet in the midst of this unspeakable horror, Jesus says this:

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing. And they divided up His clothes by casting lots. (Luke 23:34, NIV)

Forgive them?

Even after all these years, that verse still gets me. Note the second part. He’s saying this as they’re gambling for the last remnants of His clothing!

Forgive them? Are you serious?


Take up.


For most of us, what we consider unbearable or the worst could never come close to what Jesus willingly endured to save us. Beyond the physical torture, He had to experience separation from God the Father for the first (and only) time in all eternity. As He hung on the cross, He represented the sins of humanity, our sins. God hates sin, so He had to turn away from His Only Son. Jesus was the final, perfect sacrifice, a ransom for many.

Are we willing to deny ourselves?

If you think about it, Jesus denied Himself when He agreed to take the weight of and punishment for our sins. He didn’t have to do it. But He loved us so much and wanted us to be reunited with God the Father above all else. Imagine someone commits a terrible crime and you go to jail on their behalf. Who does that?

I’m willing to admit I can be challenged with denying myself (and I don’t just mean not eating a snack because it’s too close to dinner). Denying yourself can mean putting aside what you want or what you believe you should have in preference to what the Lord wants. Spoiler alert: often what God wants is for you to prefer others and bless them. Sometimes the others are people who don’t treat you right. (I refer you back to the verse above where Jesus is asking God to forgive the very people who put Him on the cross!)

Believe it or not, there is something freeing and wonderful when we stop focusing on ourselves. If we’re constantly filtering life through the lens of what’s-in-it-for-me, we will never be satisfied. Have you noticed that? We can want something so much for so long. Then we get it, and we’re happy…for a while. There’s always another thing, whatever that thing may be.

What is your cross?

I’m sure I’ve written this before, but the walk of faith is not the easiest. The Bible speaks of it as a very narrow road. (Not giving you the verse here. Time for you to do some investigation.)

Everyone has their cross. I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “It’s my cross to bear.” If we go back to the first verse in this piece, Jesus says we are to “take up” the cross. I suggest it means we are to choose, just as we actively choose to deny ourselves. We choose to take up our cross. Is the cross your commitment to Him? Is the cross your dedication to living a faith-filled life, regardless of what anyone says or does or whatever temptation comes your way?

This verse may bring some insight:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30, NIV)

(For reference, a yoke is a crosspiece made of wood placed over the necks of two animals and attached to the cart or plow they’re pulling.) Jesus is saying when we give up our habits, our vain pursuits, and worldly ways, we’ll still have work to do, but the heaviness won’t be there. Does this apply to our cross as well?

He is our example. We are to consider how He handled situations and do likewise. We are to seek His wisdom and guidance. We must carry the weight of living for Him and not according to the world. It may make things uncomfortable, especially as the chasm between what God approves of and what the world accepts grows ever wider. Common ground cannot exist. You must decide which side you’re on.

Will you follow Him?

The road is narrow. The way seems difficult at times. We may lose people, positions, and prestige. I assure you, nothing we give up serving God will ever compare to what we lose if we don’t serve Him. As it states in the first verse quoted in this article, “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” Ouch. Imagine attaining all the success and reward this world can offer but losing your soul. Your soul is eternal. Your soul will live far beyond your physical body.

Temporary riches here mean nothing in the light of forever. There is no amount of money to buy your way into heaven. Jesus was the price paid. We celebrate His resurrection on Sunday. He died, was buried, went to hell, took the keys to hell, death, and the grave, and then He rose on the third day. He’s seated at the right hand of the Father forevermore. He’s not just sitting there; He’s constantly interceding on our behalf. One day He’s coming back.


Take up.


The choice is yours.

Until next time, stay happy, stay healthy, stay in the know.

Look forward to hearing from you.



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