“And when he [Jesus] had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.”
That’s likely the best way to describe this section of Mark’s Gospel that I describe as the nature of the Kingdom section. It’s in this section that we—along with the disciples—learn what this Kingdom is all about. Jesus is pointing to the cross. The disciples are pointing to themselves. Through their actions we’re confronted with the reality that we have the same problem.
Jesus has lived a life of self-denial that ultimately leads to self-sacrifice.
This is why he came.
The disciples are consumed with their greatness. They long for that number one position. They want to be somebody. We can’t deny their self-interest. It’s glaring. We see it in their desire for position, their quest for power. Really, it reveals the posture of their hearts. They just don’t get it!
Think about it: Maybe there is no greater illustration as to why the cross was necessary. Jesus died to free us from ourselves; to free us from our self-interest—from the ugliness of the disease of self-centeredness. He went to the cross to free us from ourselves!
There is such a contrast.
It’s easy for us to identify with the disciples. We’ve all desired greatness. It doesn’t matter who you are, whatever your background, wherever you’ve been, or where you’re going—at some point in your life you’ve had that desire. It’s revealed in our selfishness, ambition, jealousy, scheming, and on, and on, and on. Ultimately, we seek the glory.
It’s easy to identify with them . . . Why?
This is the condition of all humanity. You could say it’s the essence of sin itself. We want our way; therefore, we measure ourselves with ourselves. It started all the way back in Eden and continues today.
It’s not so easy to identify with Jesus. His ways are so counter to our ways. It’s often been said that His Kingdom is upside down. Or, maybe we should say that He came to put things right-side up.
Think about it: He willingly became nothing, for people everywhere, from every race, from every background. It didn’t matter where they’d been or what they’d done. He gave all for all.
Here’s the truth: Jesus shows us the way to real life.
His ways are right, our ways our wrong.
The good news of the gospel is this: Jesus refuses to leave us where we are. He desires to move us into His Kingdom. He calls us out of ourselves and then equips us by His Spirit to be Kingdom people He longs for us to be. He frees us from the tyranny of self so we can truly be people who follow Him.
Jesus gives us the requirement in Mark 8:34. It’s here that Jesus gives a teaching for all who would follow. They must (not optional) deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow.
So, a follower that has denied themselves:
- refuses to be guided by their own self-interest
- renounces self-ownership, gives up their rights
- surrenders control of their destiny
- radically abandons all self-determination
We don’t have the time to exhaustively examine the deep meaning of denying oneself. But we do need to understand that this is not simply giving up chocolate or soap operas for 40 days. It’s not a denial of something to self. Rather, it’s replacing our self with God through Christ, through or by His Spirit as the object of our affections. Simply stated, we love Him so much we give all of ourselves to Him. So much so that we go farther . . .
We take up our cross:
- an instrument of death
- gives up his right to his own life
- answers the invitation to come and die
- gives all—truly, all—to follow Jesus
- save life? Lose it!
- Be first? Be last!
- Be somebody? Become servant to all
So, according to Jesus, if you’re going to follow Jesus—if I’m going to follow Jesus—these are the prerequisites.
So, are you truly following?
It’s the call to the Kingdom.
It’s the Kingdom Requirement.
How have you answered?
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