“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24).
Jesus uttered these words to His disciples after he predicts His own suffering, death, and resurrection. Most Christians have probably heard this phrase hundreds and hundreds of times. However, after reading this passage in my quiet time, I wanted to look into the things Jesus tells His disciples must happen in order for someone to follow Him.
So, Jesus says, “If anyone would come after me, let him…”
- “Deny himself”- If we are going to be followers of Jesus, then we must be willing to humble ourselves under the Lordship of Jesus, abandoning all self-will, pride, and personal preference. This is quite the battle. Most of the time, it is very difficult to give up the things we want; however, God desires that our hearts want the things His heart wants.
- “Take up his cross”- As followers of Jesus, we must be willing to put to death anything that will hinder us from faithfully following Jesus. The commentary in my Bible says that we must “embrace God’s will, no matter the cost.” It is possible that following Jesus could cost you your life, as a matter of fact, there are hundreds of stories out there about those who have. Following Jesus means that we must be willing to sacrifice anything and everything for His name’s sake.
- “Follow me”- We have to live a life committed to the obedience and unwavering allegiance to the leadership of Jesus. Jesus once said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). If we are going to claim with our mouths that we are followers of Jesus, those who love Him, then we must practically do so. One of the most encouraging things about following Jesus is that it means that we are never alone. If we are following someone, then we are not isolated or without assistance. What great news! Daily denying ourselves and potentially risking our lives for the One who has called us to follow Him is going to be challenging, but we can have peace, boldness, strength, and hope knowing that He still is Imannuel, God with us!
The two verses that follow vs. 24 explain why denying ourselves, taking up our cross, and following Jesus is so worth it. The next two verses say, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” True, purposeful, and (most importantly) eternal life is only found in Jesus. Having everything you want in this world grants you no eternal benefit–only a life that is willing to die to self, take up the cross, and follow Jesus.