Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” – Matt. 16:24 KJV
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The scripture today is a follow-up statement made by Jesus Christ and was addressed to the disciples although it concerns all who plan to follow or are following Jesus Christ. Jesus had just informed his disciples about what he must go through. At this point the disciples needed to be aware of what was coming ahead so they will not be caught unawares. He told them of how he will suffer and get killed but will rise on the third day. It is most likely that even though every aspect of that statement may be hurting to the disciples, the most unacceptable will be the aspect that has to with his dying.
The Apostle Peter called him aside to register his disapproval of his saying such and he got a strong reaction from Jesus Christ. He warned him off in the strongest terms possible addressing the spirit in operation in Peter as the devil. This was the same Peter whom he had personally remarked was getting revelation from the Holy Spirit in the few verses earlier in this same chapter. He warned him against desiring material things more than the things of God.
Jesus had to say this because he knew he was destined by God to go through all that he had stated as that was the path that he will need to go through to fulfil destiny in life but it was the wish of men like Peter that such would not happen to him. That definitely cannot be what one will wish for an enemy but here was Jesus saying it about himself. It was after this response that Jesus made the statement that forms the foundation scripture for today.
In that statement, he had advised that whoever intended to follow him must deny themselves and carry their cross. It implies that following Jesus will not eliminate the possession of a cross and the responsibility of having to carry it. This was not the type of cross that he can help anyone with as he too had to carry his own cross. Christians need to understand that there is a destiny that has been made for them before they arrived this world just as there is a path that they have to go through to achieve that destiny. Each stage of that destiny journey has its positives and negatives with Jesus referring to those negatives as Cross. So, just as they are happy when going through the positive stages of life, they will need to persevere when going through the not so good patches of life, that is carry their cross with patience and perseverance.
The negative experiences in reference here are not those caused by man’s disobedience to basic rules of life or those caused by man’s wicked acts aimed at altering or affecting destiny. Both of these can still be avoided and where it has happened can be corrected. The Cross being referred to here by Jesus are those experiences that must happen to a man in view of his destined path in life. Jesus said that it has been appointed for him to die (Matt. 26:24) so as to fulfil his reason for coming to the world in the first place and so it must happen – Jn. 10:18. Jesus did not say that it would be the Pharisees and the elders that will be able to overcome him and change the course of his life even though they are the tools with which that destiny will be achieved.
This was what was not clear to Peter who was ready to fight anyone who dares attack his master and benefactor. As far as he was concerned, It will be a war that no one could determine its end which was probably why he carried along with him physical weapons of war like a sword – Jn. 18:10. These weapons including spiritual weapons, could be deployed to overcome destiny re-shaping acts of men but are powerless against destiny fulfilling acts as designed by God, like that, that Jesus was going to experience and it was only going to be wise for him to give in to destiny rather than trying to fight it.
Christians need to be able to determine the basis of those negative experiences that they may be going through so as to reduce wastage of physical and emotional resources. They must learn to accept destiny challenges and prepare themselves to go through it to fulfil the basis of that phase than wasting time and emotion fighting a battle that they may not win. Accepting Christ as your Lord and Saviour does not stop these type of Cross and no one can help one to carry it as it can only be borne by the person. Simon of Cyrene was able to help Jesus carry the physical cross (Matt. 27:32) but could not help him go through the pain on the Cross. That was his own cross along destiny path that he must carry on his own.
Likewise Christians can only seek emotional support, spiritual encouragement and divine assurances from their following Christ and nothing more when it comes to these type of Crosses in reference.
Take time to seek God’s revelation about the challenge that is currently going on in your life and if this is a destiny Cross, you will be better off following the advise of Jesus Christ to all Christians which is to;
Deny yourself of all the comforts that you may presently have and
Accept the challenge as necessary for your life.
Carry it with perseverance and
Continue to follow him because:
Attempting to avoid it is an attempt to save your life from such distress, it will be a failed attempt that may cost life – Matt. 16:25.
Wanting to avoid it especially because of earthly comfort and rewards will make one lose protection and the assurance of peace for his soul in the after life – Matt. 16:26.
If that challenge or that Cross is destiny related, you are better off just facing it while pleading with God through Jesus to help you through, so that you can receive the crown that follows, probably in this world but more assuredly in the after life.
May God grant you the wisdom and strength to carry that destiny related Cross successfully so as to be able to get that Crown destined for you in Jesus name. Amen.