Let us begin with Mark 8:34: And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.
Imagine you received an invitation with these words, asking you to join this new club or association. Would you join them? Other groups will tell you how great it will be, how happy you will be, how rich you will become, until one falls and realizes the futility and lies surrounding the ideologies of their “clubs”. The Scriptures are thoroughly sincere and factual in presenting us the truth with print that everyone can read. Scriptures’ fonts are so large you cannot miss the message.
I don’t think that most of us here will ever be brought to the extreme conditions, like the physical death aspect of taking up the cross, but if these are the demands of biblical faith, how do we rate our own? Yeshua calls everyone, the crowd and His disciples, the wheat and the tares, because both exist in the kingdom. It was at that time that many began to leave Him. The Bible tells us that many followed Him because He fed them, or because they were so impressed by His miracles. It is not enough, for new life in Yeshua requires a new identity.
Follow God With a Willing Heart
See how v.34 spells out four steps for us. First Yeshua calls the one who wills or wants to serve. Jesus never forces anyone to do something or to produce. The person has to be willing to do it. Like salvation, He never forces the decision. It has to come from the heart. Just as it was when the Lord began the construction of the Tabernacle in the wilderness. He called Moses and said:
Take from among you a contribution to the LORD; whoever is of a willing heart. Exodus 35:5 So, the people brought many items, and many offered their services. It all began with a willing heart. The word willing also means ready, which implies the preparation and maintenance of a clean heart. It is the same word for those who are noble and generous. Many begin with the last command first, that is to follow Yeshua without going through the necessary preparations. They tire very quickly because they did not realize how hard the work of the Lord can be.
The second step speaks of denying oneself. Many would see this as a negative commandment because many preach self-realization or the love of self as being of prime importance. But the full realization of the self is only found in God. It is to be like Bezalel (Exodus 31, 36-39), who worked in the shadow of God, following Him. The word for after in v.34 is the same as the word behind in the rebuke of Peter in v.33. We can experience self-realization when we follow God, for He will bring out the best in us and guide us into that full realization of who we are in Him and all that He has equipped us to do. It is a message Yeshua will enhance in the next verses when He deals with the Transfiguration.
Carrying our Cross
Third, we ought to carry our own cross, our own tav. Are we willing to do that? In the Roman world it was a powerful statement. All knew the cross was a symbol of suffering, rejection, shame, and death. Who carried their cross? It was the one who was condemned to death by the Romans. And by the time they carried their cross to the place of the crucifixion, they were weak, beaten up, and bloodied.
It was done after they had undergone a Roman scourging, a most severe and cruel treatment. That is the image here. The marks of the believer should be the ones on their shoulders in how he or she carries their cross of rejection and suffering, always uplifting the name of Yeshua. Fourth and lastly, is when the person is ready to follow the Messiah as we see in the last words of v.34
The word follow here is fuller, meaning to behave in accordance or in agreement with. It comes from the word road, keleuthos, as one who is following a straight path. It is used 89 times in the New Testament and is always translated as follow, in the sense of a well-trained soldier or a faithful servant. It also describes the stars, as even today they follow paths in celestial places. It describes a faithful believer who never wavers in His beliefs.
Living for the Kingdom of God
Then Yeshua gives a conclusion, even a warning in vv.35-38. “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? “For what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”
These words bring us to see the difference, the stark contrast between the parallel worlds we are living in: this world and the Kingdom of God. The evil one suggests that our future is secured in the riches of the world. Satan will make you believe that earthly riches last forever. It is this kind of very limited way of thinking that puts the person in a very susceptible position and prone to great deception and depression. Yeshua however, tells us that we need to die to these worldly things and be born again into the new world called the Kingdom of God. And so He asks, “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?
No amount of gold or silver can save the soul of a man. Only Yeshua who came from heaven and ascended into heaven. No one else could or did.
Knowing Scripture Trumps Shame
Finally, let’s look at v.38: “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”
What does it mean to be ashamed of Jesus? It means to be embarrassed about our faith. Many hide it. They never speak about it nor demonstrate it because they are ashamed. They allow their faith to be bullied by the pressures of society which is increasingly turning away from the precepts of God. But we have all that we need to subdue this shame. Usually shame occurs when there is lack of knowledge of who Jesus is. If we really grasp all that He did for us, you can be sure, you will not be ashamed.
We are given very good advice in 2 Timothy 2:15: “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.”
Notice that the remedy against shame is knowledge of His Word. The Scriptures will enlighten you so that you may understand who you are in Him and how much you are loved by Him.