Summary: This is a discussion regarding pressing on toward the mark of the high calling inspite of the situations that may arise in our lives.
34 And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
It can be said without even asking that each of us has had to endure some difficult times. It is without question that there have been times when the tears had to fall, times when we knew not which way to turn, and times when it took all the strength we had within us just to make it through another day’s journey. But even in the darkest hour, even in the most painful moments know that God has already walked out your steps. Know that every pain has had purpose and that every tear has had divine reason. For it is in those moments that we learn to lean on the everlasting arms of Jesus. It is in our darkest hour that we learn that He is a lamp unto our feet. It is through our tears that we see his face more clearly. Truly, for those who are called by His name, these afflictions last but for a moment. Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. God has prepared your place in Glory.
Bare with me for a few minutes here because they tell us that we have to teach it before we can preach it. As we look at our text this morning here in the Gospel of Mark we find Jesus near the coast of Casaria Phillipi. The disciples had just moments ago taken the opportunity to move outside of the circle of the multitudes of people to steal away and have a little talk with Jesus. And now Jesus is here gathering the people and the disciples unto himself. As they gather He extends to them an invitation and that invitation is to come and to follow him. That invitation is to accept the title and position of joint heirs in the kingdom of God. But as that invitation is extended He cared enough to explain the perquisites for receiving that title. He lets them know that there are certain requirements of those who choose to be called by His name.
The first thing that He says is “Whosoever will”. See, here He is saying I am not going to force it on you. You’ve seen my works. You were witness to the miracle of feeding 5000 with two fish and five loaves of bread. You were privy to the conversations that I had with the religious folks of this time, you saw how they were bewildered. You were with me as I gave sight to the blind man. You know just what I am capable of. You know my works. It should be a hands down decision, but even still I give to you a choice and I say whosoever will. But know if you choose me it’s not going to be a cake walk, it is not all going to be easy. See, the first thing that you have got to do if you are going to follow me is Take up your cross.
Now I sat down and looked up this word cross. The first thing to note is that in the case of this text the cross being referred to is not physical – meaning it is not the cross of the image on the wall behind me. In fact according to some of the commentaries that I studied in preparation there are three different ways that the cross can be defined when looking at this text. The first definition referred to the cross being those daily struggles of life – the boss that acts crazy, the sicknesses of the body, the mountain of debts, the broken relationships, the wrong relationships, the betrayals by our friends, the nuisances of those who choose to claim the position of enemy – basically the stuff that we experience on a regular basis as we try to journey through this life. The second definition that was provided was that the cross represented our inability to live up to all that we should be – our yielding to temptations, our falling outside the will of God, the many ways that we sin by word, thought and deed. – basically our wars with flesh. And the final and third definition was the cross represents our obligation to serve God, the cross represents the assignment and purpose that God has placed in hearts the burden of fulfilling that thing that God has spoken into our spirit.