During His earthly ministry, Jesus spoke these familiar words to those who would choose to follow Him: And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. Luke 9:23 (ESV)
We normally use the picture of taking up the cross here to illustrate the idea that we must die to self, which is consistent with the idea of denying oneself. That is certainly at least part of what Jesus is saying here. But it is likely that there is a further meaning to Jesus’ words. The word translated “cross” is the same word also used for a tent stake or peg. And if Jesus is using it in that sense, He is telling those who would follow Him not to get too entrenched where they are because they might need to pull up their tent stakes in order to follow Him.
That concept seems to be further supported by the words of Jesus at the end of that same chapter in Luke: As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:57-62 (ESV)
The consistent principle we find in each of the events here is that we can’t hang on too tightly to the things of this world if we want to follow Jesus. John confirmed that principle with these words from His first epistle: Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world - the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions - is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. 1 John 2:15-17 (ESV) If we love the things of this world more than we love Jesus, then we’ll have a real hard time following Him.
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