34 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.
Today’s two verses fall within the bigger theme of Jesus’ teaching on the meaning of discipleship (Mark 8:34-9:1). The main statement (Mark 8:34) is followed by four explanatory clauses (vv. 35–38) and a concluding assurance (9:1). This instruction was part of the disciples’ preparation for future ministry but it also encouraged Mark’s readers who were facing persecution in Rome.
In verse 34 Jesus summoned the crowd along with His disciples whereby he addressed them both. Such a summoning together with Jesus’ words, if anyone would come after Me indicates this command was not only for the 12 disciples but for anyone who hears the message, repents and believes in Jesus. Verse 34 also states two requirements which, like repent and believe, are bound together. They are ‘to deny oneself’ and ‘to take up his cross’.
The first requirement refers to a denial of “self,” turning away from the idolatry of self-centeredness and every attempt to orient one’s life by the commands of self-interest.
The second requirement is taking up his cross, decisively saying yes to God’s will and way. At the heart of the metaphor ‘taking up his cross’ lies obedience. In the same way that Jesus obeyed God by doing His will, so should we also obey God by following Jesus and his ways. Both these requirements should be done on a daily basis. The verb ‘follow’ is a present imperative, which means it is an ongoing action – you have to do it each day. It’s not a once-off command. Discipleship – to make Jesus the center of your life – is an ongoing, daily effort which is only possible with the help of the Holy Spirit.
Thoughts for the day
- What does this passage tell you about God or Jesus?
- What does this passage tell you about humanity?
- What do you feel God is telling you through this passage?
- How can you apply this message in an area of your life that needs transformation?
- Is there anyone you think should hear or will benefit from this message? Go and tell them.
Think of anyone you know who is an essential worker and spend time praying for their specific needs. You could even message them and ask if they would like prayer for anything in particular. Pray for energy and perseverance for essential workers as they continue to serve in their contexts.