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The first requirement to be a disciple or follower of Jesus is to make him your highest priority of life. Jesus now declares the second prerequisite to be one of his disciples-the requirement of perseverance. The requirement of perseverance is to continue to follow Jesus no matter what happens to you. Your relationship with Jesus is your highest priority and you must not be deterred in following him and shaping your life after him by anything. You will hang in there no matter what.
Here’s how Jesus states this requirement: “The man who will not carry his cross and follow in my footsteps cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:27) Jesus’ disciple must carry the cross just as Jesus did-following in the footsteps of Jesus. If you are unwilling to do this, then you cannot be his disciple. SECRET #28: The follower of Jesus continues to follow the Master no matter what.
So, what does it mean to carry the cross? The cross of Jesus was the greatest expression of sacrificial love ever. Here is God’s Messiah-the Son of the living God and the most powerful person ever born-and his ultimate act was a demonstration of love, not power. The Roman Empire’s symbol was the cross-an emblem of domination and power, because of their method of discipline-crucifixion. Jesus literally turned the cross upside down and inside out to turn this scary symbol of domination and power into the ultimate symbol of sacrificial love.
The disciples were looking for God’s Messiah to overthrow the Roman domination and power. They believed that would be the appropriate game plan for the Messiah, so they were expecting some powerful moves by Jesus on their behalf against the Romans. This is why they just didn’t hear it or didn’t want to believe it, when Jesus announced his Messianic plan. His plan was to demonstrate the love of God to the world by allowing himself to die on that Roman cross-transforming the terrifying symbol of the cross into a symbol of hope, peace and grace. Now that’s the greatest example of sacrificial love ever and triggered the Jesus movement that has transformed more lives and cultures than any other movement in all of history.
So, what does it mean FOR YOU to carry the cross? I think it has to do with identifying your mission in life so much with Jesus that you actually incarnate him-or flesh him out. Carrying the cross is to be a sacrificial lover-to be Jesus in all you say and do. Normally, when Jesus talks about the cross and discipleship, he uses the word to “take up” or “pick up” the cross. Tomorrow we’ll examine the difference!