Mark 8:34 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.
We want to make this "cross" some mysterious "thing," some burden that we stoop under as we trudge along after Jesus. We have a picture in our minds of Arthur Blessitt with his cross on his shoulder trekking around the world. (You can read about Blesitt's amazing journeys at www.blessitt.com!) Blessitt and others have done well to draw the attention of thousands of onlookers to the Gospel. But these words of Jesus go much deeper. They flow from the depths of Jesus' spirit (v. 12) as He disparages over the prideful disbelief of the Pharisees in verse 11. This cross is the central message of the Gospel here in Mark 8 and throughout the Bible. It is a total disowning of oneself. The cross is where our attachment to this world and the rights we think we deserve must be crucified. As we "take it up," our attachment to this world and our desire to satisfy self is released. We weigh anchor, as the Greek word "airo" in verse 34 implies when it says, "take up." The taking up of our cross doesn't weigh us down; it frees us to sail away with Jesus at the helm. It allows us to exchange our temporary selfish ambitions for eternal goals and security in the One who leads us into his glory (v. 38).
Then Jesus begins to connect the dots for his disciples in verse 29, when he asks them, "...whom say ye that I am?" He draws from them an acknowledgment of his true identity: the Christ, the Messiah, the anointed One promised by God through the prophets. Yet Jesus tells them to keep this amazing knowledge to themselves. He reveals to them that He will not be so readily recognized by those in power. He will suffer rejection and even be put to death. He would be the ultimate example of denying oneself. He would disown his own identity. He would lay down his life so that others could live.
Jesus marveled in verses 17-21, that his disciples could not understand his warning of the leaven of the Pharisees. He was clearly speaking of their hypocrisy (Luke 12:1) and their desire to entrap him. But the disciples could only think of the bread that they could touch and taste. This mindset of the temporal was something they would have to put behind them if they would be true followers of Jesus. They were embarking on a dangerous journey. The lack of bread would be a non-event compared to the experiences they would encounter in the coming weeks and months and years. Now was the time for them to weigh anchor and allow Jesus to guide them through the unknown waters to come, whether calm or stormy.
From the death of Jesus to the martyrdoms of the apostles to 2015, we have the same challenge. Luke 9:23 says that this self-denial is a daily task. That means it is personal and individual. Each day we lay down self. We take up the anchor of living for me. How foolish to stay bound to the shore to be battered and broken by the winds and rain when we can sail into the sea of self-denial and watch God provide our needs as we sail toward eternal glory! (V. 38)
Lord, help me today, as I embark into a new day of your mercies, to pull in that rusty anchor and allow self to be crucified so I can sail through this day with You living and loving through me. My destination is secure in Your hands. And please keep me from letting my heavy anchor hold those back who may be under my influence. Let me allow them to learn to be released from self into the waters of your grace as they embark on their own journeys with You.