And He was saying to all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.”
There are four things mentioned here.
First, Jesus says If anyone wishes to come after Me and limits the group to which the next statements apply. If I do not wish to come after Him, then I can stop listening.
Second, Jesus speaks of what I must lay down — he must deny himself. I must turn away from myself and the selfishness that is promoted in the culture in which I live. I must place my focus elsewhere.
Third, Jesus tells me what I should pick up in place of what was laid down — take up his cross daily. I notice that He does not tell me that my cross is something I take up once and I will always carry it, but rather that I must take it up daily. Every day, I will be called to crucify myself anew. Every day, I will need to make the walk to the place where my self dies. Every. Day.
Fourth, Jesus tells me what I am to do once I have shouldered my cross — follow Me. This is the same instruction given as the calling of the apostles. This is the same challenge issued to the rich young ruler. The ruler was told to sell all that he had — to deny himself and take up his cross — and to follow Christ. The calling never changes. It is always a call to follow Christ. Sometimes, He is walking up the hill to be crucified. Sometimes He is walking on the water. The point is not where he is walking, but that I am to follow.
This morning, let me deny myself, take up my cross, and follow behind Jesus. These may look different every day, but I need to repeat them every day.