By: Fr. Stephen Bithos – St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church (Oak Lawn, IL)
“If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” – Mark 8:34
What did Jesus mean when he made this statement? Many times, we hear people say when they have a problem that it is the cross they must bear. I do not believe this is what Jesus meant when others make this comment although it is not actually wrong to say we have a cross to bear. During the times in which Jesus preached, the cross was looked upon as a sign of suffering and death. We may have trials and jubilations that afflict us, and we may believe it is difficult for us to bear, even if the Lord gives us a helping hand.
I believe Jesus’ words had a much deeper meaning when He said, “If anyone wishes to come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” When Jesus spoke of the cross it was an object of pain and death. Jesus was saying that they had to put to death their own desires and plans of life, and to then give over their lives completely to Him and to do His will every day of their lives.
Our Lord Jesus does not just call us to believe that He existed or even to believe that He can save us. He calls upon each of us to commit our entire lives to Him. If we are to follow Him, we are to place our complete trust in Him. Following Jesus means that we as well are His disciples. The Lord said, “Anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” -Luke 14:27. Therefore, if we want to go after Jesus and if we want to follow Him our commitment means that we must look upon him as the master of our life.
Is Christ the master of your life? Have you put to death your own desires and plans of life? Remember, there is no greater joy in life than to follow Jesus Christ every day.