Matthew 16:24-25, John 12:24-26
Throughout Jesus’ instruction to His disciples, He consistently foreshadows what He must endure to fulfill His ministry. In order for humanity to be saved from their sins and be reconciled to God, Jesus had to endure torture and death. His execution would be one of pain and humiliation. To be hung on a cross was to be made a public example; a living and dying warning sign. It was a death of dishonor. Prisoners were made to carry the cross they would be hung on up the hill to Calvary, where they would be nailed to it. When the cross was stood upright, they would die through suffocation or organ failure. It is in this context that Jesus declares that to be one of His followers, ‘let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.’
Jesus was giving the invitation to public humiliation and death. It was the invitation to Calvary. Jesus then explained that whoever sought to save his own life would lose it; in John he says whoever loves his life loses it. Whoever loses his life for Jesus’ sake will find it. Whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. The journey of following Jesus starts with a denial of self. It is a surrendering of our own life, our own reputation, to serve Jesus. Our own life is made to carry a cross, and to die, so that we might find new life in Him. Jesus asks the question, ‘What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul?’ The world strives after earthly riches and success. It desires the praise and honor of the crowd. None of these things can save the soul. It is only through choosing Jesus, and denying ourselves of these worldly pursuits, that we find eternal life. It is in this crucifixion of the carnal desires that we begin to serve Jesus. Through this death to self, we become more like Jesus, and begin to bear spiritual fruit in our lives. As we deny ourselves and serve Jesus, God the Father honors us. Today, may you follow Jesus to Calvary by denying yourself, serving Him, and may He use you to produce spiritual fruit, and in the end, attain eternal life!