Then Jesus told His disciples, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. Matthew 16:24
to forget one’s self
lose sight of one’s self and one’s own interests
Jesus’ words strike a hard cord in me. I am called to follow Jesus because I have chosen His way over mine, yet I still want to do things my way, guide the direction of my own life, take my own chances. Then I hit a wall and it hurts. I run on empty, unable to go anywhere in life except down by the pull of gravity. In order to follow the Lord, I am to deny myself, releasing my desires and hopes for His, His alone. When I am in step with Jesus, all that He desires for me are those things I need. An interesting piece of God’s puzzle for my life is His desires for me are often just what I desire for myself. I’m not losing after all. The relationship with Christ is far more important so that I walk rightly with the Lord.
place on oneself
My burdens can be worries, anxieties, physical pain, other people’s lives and their concerns, hurting people of this world, and so much more. All can weigh heavily upon my heart. The Word tells me not to be anxious, not to worry. He is faithful and is with me. He feeds and clothes the birds; He will do the same for His children. So I lift those weights and take them to Jesus.
a stake or post (as set upright), i.e. (specially), a pole or cross (as an instrument of capital punishment)
figuratively, exposure to death, i.e. self-denial
by implication, the atonement of Christ:—cross.
The cross is what Jesus was placed upon for His crucifixion. It is a horribly cruel punishment and eventual death. Scourging comes first. The one being crucified must carry his own cross. Jesus did this part of the way until Simon was compelled to carry it the remainder of the way. Jesus would hang upon the Cross until death.
And as they led him away, they seized one Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and laid on him the cross, to carry it behind Jesus. Luke 23:26
The cross is that which will kill this earthly life.
I carry a cross, laden with burdens. I place it there at the feet of Jesus. He died for my sins. Why do I continue weighing myself down? Jesus has taken it all to the Cross. Part of the definition of cross, in Greek, is self -denial. I deny myself, being exposed to death, reproach, suffering, trials, punishment. I am no longer mine, but His.
I am learning as I do that which Jesus asks of me: denying things of the self, lifting up that which weighs me down, carrying the cross to Jesus Who has already taken my burdens upon Himself. It is in the doing, the actions of denying, lifting, and carrying to Jesus that I begin to find a clearer, deeper meaning to all that He is asking of me.
to be or become the disciple of another as to faith and practice
to follow his teaching
Following Jesus is key to my walk in this Christian life. When I am His, I desire to be near and to know the path upon which He leads me. I release all burdens, knowing that He is caring for me.
“Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 ESV)
As Your child, LORD, I depend upon You. When I feel alone, or struggling with concerns, You are right here. You are yoked with me. You know my physical pain, the concerns that touch my heart regarding others, my anxiousness over provision for this earthly life. Your grace is truly sufficient, Sweet Jesus. Sometimes I feel wrung out and worn out. The Word says in Matthew 27, verse 39-40: And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, ‘You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.’ But You hung on that Cross, LORD, and paid the ultimate price for me, releasing me to walk with You always. You have given me eternal life. How much more could I ask? What else is there to ask? Forgive me when I am selfish. Often, when I deny myself, I must turn around and deny myself again, LORD, because I am selfish. I just am, but am also very sorry. I carry my cross to You so that I may follow You. “And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” (Matthew 10:38 ESV) I do not want to be called “unworthy,” LORD. Thank You for walking with me on this journey even when I fail You. Your forgiveness, Your love, Your gentle nature give me the hope in this life that my physical eyes cannot see, yet the eyes of my heart know hope for You are the Hope. I love You, Jesus. I pray gently in Your Name. Amen.
Graphic: by American/Dutch web designer Catherine Reijans, founder of KATINK web design; https://thinkingmuseum.com/2013/10/30/thinking-museum-on-think-katink/ (but the actual think-Katink web design site is no longer connected, but I want to give her credit where it is due)