I have always heard the verse but I have never fully understood it. Jesus died on the cross, He paid the price for my sins – why would I pick up a cross I desire to know God and be a follower of Christ – but what His words meant was beyond me.
Christ certainly had to deny His flesh in order to take our sins upon Himself. Some men might die for their families, but not too many men who would die for their enemies, except maybe our military men and women. Christ’s friends were saying, “Don’t do it.” Christ knew what was coming but He chose to deny Himself. He knew what allowing Himself that pleasure would do to the world He came to save – He loved us too much.
So as Christ stood before His accusers, He denied Himself so that He could pay the penalty for all sin. Then He said, “Take up your cross.” Something that my pastor said made this truth click. Jesus was the High Priest but He was also the sacrificial Lamb. He not only offered the sacrifice as the High Priest – he was the sacrifice as the Lamb of God. When Christ took up the cross, He acted as both—Priest and sacrificial lamb.
So often we say, “Oh I will sacrifice …. for Christ” but when push comes to shove, it is Christ that gets set aside. We think the sacrifice costs too much. We won’t put action behind our words. Christ wants us to follow Him – He died – just as He wants us to die to self. He rose again, and He promised to give us a new life for the life we gave up. We die so we can live in Him. He died so we could live with Him. So deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Him. Deny yourself, sacrifice yourself, and die to self and you will be able to live in Christ.