When Jesus said “take up your cross,” no one who heard Him utter those words thought about “difficulties and trials in life,” or “an attractive cross one wears around the neck.” In fact, they were shocked, stunned, and probably offended. Remember, Jesus had called the crowds to Himself to tell them about what discipleship looks like (Mark 8:34). He wanted any would-be disciples to know that to follow Him meant taking up your cross, and everyone knew what that meant. They had seen the lines of crosses on the roads, the most terrifying portent of Roman cruelty and power. Jesus was saying, in the most forceful imagery, “To follow Me, you must die.” It was the opposite of the health-wealth gospel, it was the opposite of feel-good Christianity, and it had nothing to do with Marx’s ideas. This was a call to find in Him your everything, your life, your meaning, your purpose—by dying to self and living as His servant, yes, His slave. Radical? Completely.

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