Philip Bennett Power
"Whoever will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me." Mark 8:34
Once, after our Lord had spoken, it was said, "This is a hard saying; who can hear it?" But that was not the only saying of Jesus that was hard. He very often said what men did not like to hear, and so many would have nothing to do with Him; and at times those who followed Him for a season dropped off from Him, and refused to enter into full discipleship. And it is just so now-a-days. Many people would be Christians, if everything were made so easy for them, that all through life, they might feel that they were having everything just as they themselves would like.
And yet, where the matter is made easy—where men are told to believe on Jesus and have their sins forgiven—they will not accept God's way of life, just because it is so easy; and they want to do something, even though it be very hard, which they think will entitle them to heaven.
So perverse is man—so inclined every way to take things by the wrong end, and so far as he can to try and overthrow the way of God.
Why does it seem very hard to man that Jesus should say "Whoever will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me"? Simply because he is so full of "self-love;" not a wise self-love, but a bad and foolish self-love. Man likes everything his own way—everything rose-color and smooth—he would gratify his every desire—he would never have anything cross him.
Now, if this were for man's real good while on earth, God would order that it would be so; but He knows what is in man, and that a life thus led, would leave him with a character unfit for heaven, and so He calls him to many trials.
Jesus Himself, seeing that He became one of us in all things except sin, took part in human trials and sorrows and needs, and thus became a cross-bearer. He accepted the will of God for Himself, even though He did not need crosses to make Him fit for heaven. There was no self-love in Jesus, and whatever His Father ordained for Him as His daily walk, that was the best in His judgment. He thought, as well as His word, was this: "Even so, Father—for so it seemed good in Your sight."
This saying of Jesus, though it seems so hard, is yet really very good; for it tells us two important things for us to know:
(1) how our character is to be formed for heaven;
(2) how we are to have oneness with our Lord Himself.
If we are to come after Him—to follow Him on earth, and to heaven—we must be like Him; and we can be like Him only by following His example. We must not make our own ease—the great end of our life We must not refuse duties because they are disagreeable We may not have ever, as our first thought—how we shall please ourselves. This verse is a powerful one to get rid of selfishness, and whatever helps to get rid of that is very good; for the person who is given to selfishness cannot enter the kingdom of Heaven.
It also gives us oneness with Christ. As He was, so are we in the world. We are made like the Son of God. Jesus always calls His people to be like Himself; He will make them sharers with Himself hereafter, but first He will make them sharers with Himself now. As He went through the troubled waters, and came out victoriously on the other side, so will He have His people to do; and so, hereafter, their story, when it is told, will be found always to be more or less like His.
And, surely, after all, this is a very comforting saying, and it should be very helpful. When trials present themselves, how greatly will it encourage us if we can say to ourselves, "In taking up this cross—I am following Jesus' directions, I am following Himself; I am going on the same path which He trod. He is, so to speak, just gone on before me. As He was a cross-bearer, and bore many before He bore that last sad one to Calvary—He knows all about such things. He does not call me to anything concerning which He does not know everything. He was tried in all points like me, and He went first, I have only to follow."
The spirit which we must seek to have is one of readiness to take up any cross which God may present to us. We must not make or choose our own crosses. If we be willing to bear His cross, God will provide the proper one. There is no cross so unbearable as the one which we provide for ourselves. God will never lay upon any man, more than he is able to bear. "Not my will," then, "but may God's will" be the rule of my life for the coming year. With calm submission let me take up whatever You appoint as my trial—my cross in life. Let my eye be on Jesus, who, in manifold cross-bearings, went on before; and where He is now, there at last let me also, His follower, be.