18Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say I am?”19They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.”20“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “The Christ [a] of God.” 21Jesus strictly warned them not to tell this to anyone. 22And he said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”
23Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. 25What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? 26If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. 27I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.”
Earlier this week I heard a sermon by John MacArthur on this passage. He talked about how this passage demonstrates the theology that discipleship and salvation are the same thing. If you’d like, you can read his sermon on this here. Nonetheless, the passage got me thinking a bit. Verse 23 sticks out the most out of this whole passage. Even though this passage may seem cliche at worst, or over used (which can never happen in the Word of God), there is reason to remember this passage over and over again (as the passage itself indicates).
After Jesus strictly warns the disciples not to tell anyone who Jesus really is, he edifies his title with a description: namely that he will be rejected to death by chief priests, elders and teachers of the law, but that he will be raised to life three days later (Isn’t that good news!?!). That’s when he turns to “them all” and gives three things that a person must do if they are to follow him.
1. The first is self denial. In this specific context, the Greek means “to disregard your own interests”.* How many of us are willfully indulging in the flesh and forsaking the blessings of God? Remember: “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature[a]will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life (Gal. 6:7-8).
2. The second is bearing the cross. This may seem self explanatory, but there is at least one thing that can’t be skipped over: how often we are to bear the cross. Daily. Every day we are to take the cross and bear it as Christ did: “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:2-3).**
3. The third is follow. The word here means “to follow or go with someone”.* Simply put, we cannot affirm Christ as Savior and choose not to live as he did: “Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did” (1 John 2:6).
This is definitely a passage that can help us take stock:
1) What is controlling you and getting in the way of your relationship with Jesus? Renounce those interests and cling to him.
2) Are you reminding yourself of our daily task?
3) Are you setting time aside to study the life of Jesus so that you can “know what Jesus knows, so you live like Jesus lived, so you can be like Jesus?” (watch the Nooma video Dust by Rob Bell).
* To study Greek word definitions, visit GreekBibleStudy.org.
**The idea behind this was found in the long definition section for the word take up.