24Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.”
Having set forth the change in His ministry from Israel to the church, Jesus now made clear the cost of following Him (16:24-27).
Then [link to previous section] Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me,
Jesus reminded those He called that there was a price in following Him. Peter’s denial was the opposite of what Jesus expected. To “come after” Christ is to be His disciple.
let him deny himself,
The Greek word “deny” means to utterly separate, to completely disown from something. This is the word Jesus used for Peter’s denial of Him (Mt 26:34). Believers are to deny themselves of selfish purposes. The self to which Jesus refers here is not the person but personal goals. The idea is that the disciple is to put himself on the line for the Lord.
and take up his cross,
Popular Jewish teaching of the day was that the Messiah would come and provide financial prosperity to Israel. Jesus’ message here is the opposite of that kind of hope. Following Jesus may mean leaving family and friends for a mission.
The words “take up” indicate that a person is willing to pay a price for the cross. The Greek tense indicates that he is to do this at once. The “cross” was an apparatus of execution in Jesus’ day. Jesus Himself carried His own cross down the Via Delarosa street to His execution. By taking up His cross, Jesus commenced His death walk with the cross on which He would die.
The disciple is ready to accept what the Lord consigns to him. He is willing to pay any price for Him.
and follow Me.
True discipleship follows Jesus. He has the right to direct our life. This was the opposite of Peter’s rash statement to Jesus (v. 22).
Denial of self is not the same as self-denial.
Denial of self has to do with yielding self-control to God completely. Self-denial can be an ascetic approach to life to gain God’s approbation. The latter is not biblical, but the former is. Taking up the cross refers to willingness to suffer shame or even martyrdom for Jesus. Jesus set the example of orienting His mission around the cross, so we are to orient our lives around our cross. There is a high cost to follow Jesus.
Self-denial strikes at the heart of self-centered preaching today. The message of getting is not the message of the Bible. We cannot find the ideas of health and wealth in the Word of God. We also cannot find the communication of self-esteem, high self-image or self-love in the Bible. The Christian has no divine right to wealth; the Bible indicates that he will suffer for his faith. There is no way that a Christian can make peace with a world hostile to the message of Jesus.