FOR AUDIO VERSION CLICK HERE.Jesus declares the second prerequisite to be one of His disciples-the requirement of perseverance. The requirement of perseverance is to continue to follow Jesus no matter what happens to you. Your relationship with Jesus is your highest priority and you will not be deterred in following Him and shaping your life after Him by anything. You will hang in there no matter what.
Here's how Jesus states this requirement: "The man who will not carry his cross and follow in my footsteps cannot be my disciple." (Luke 14:27) Jesus' disciple must carry the cross just as Jesus did-following in the footsteps of Jesus. If you are unwilling to do this, then you cannot be His disciple.
So, what does it mean to carry the cross? The cross of Jesus was the greatest expression of sacrificial love ever. Here is God's Messiah-the Son of the living God and the most powerful person ever born-and his ultimate act was a demonstration of love, not power. The Roman Empire's symbol was the cross-an emblem of domination and power, because of their method of discipline-crucifixion. Jesus literally turned the cross upside down and inside out to turn this scary symbol of domination and power into the ultimate symbol of sacrificial love.
The disciples were looking for God's Messiah to overthrow the Roman domination and power. They believed that would be the appropriate game plan for the Messiah, so they were expecting some powerful moves by Jesus on their behalf against the Romans. This is why they just didn't hear it or didn't want to believe it, when Jesus announced His Messianic plan. His plan was to demonstrate the love of God to the world by allowing Himself to die on that Roman cross-transforming the terrifying symbol of the cross into a symbol of hope, peace and grace. Now that's the greatest example of sacrificial love ever and triggered the Jesus movement that has transformed more lives and cultures than any other movement in all of history.
So, what does it mean FOR YOU to carry the cross? I think it has to do with identifying your mission in life so much with Jesus that you actually incarnate Him-or flesh Him out. Carrying the cross is to be a sacrificial lover-to be Jesus in all you say and do.
Normally, when Jesus talks about the cross and discipleship, he uses the word to "take up" the cross. Luke uses a different word here. He uses the word that means to carry or bear the cross as opposed to take up or pick up your cross. The term Luke uses is not something you carry, but something that is attached to you. It's the same term Luke uses when he talks about Paul's mission was to bear the name of Jesus to the Gentiles, their kings and to the house of Israel. Note that Jesus says here: "I will show him how much he must suffer for my name." (Acts 9:15-16) When you bear the name of Jesus, you will also suffer the shame of the cross.
Paul also used this term when he wrote to the followers of Jesus in Galatia, when he says: "From now on, let no one make trouble for me; for I carry the marks of Jesus branded on my body." Paul was so identified with Jesus by the scars and marks he had received while following Him. He carried this identification with him wherever he went. He didn't have to pick it up; he was already attached to Him.
When you carry the cross, you are actually so identified with Jesus that you are to be Jesus to the world around you. It's to be proactive with the love of Jesus rather than reactive against whatever or whoever assaults you.
There is a cost factor in carrying your cross. Following Jesus as your highest priority and fleshing Him out in your life will stir up lots of controversy for you. When you take the path of Jesus versus the normal ways of religious living, you will suffer the consequences. One of these consequences is that you will be excommunicated from your religious society and community. Being like Jesus, choosing the sacrificial love approach will most certainly separate you from most religious people, because you are like Jesus, a contrarian-going against the grain.
Note as the Church of Jesus became organized, the cross took on that same idea of domination and power within the Church itself. The organized Church of Christendom took on the power of being the only channel for salvation and communication with God. From the Roman Empire to Jesus to organized Christianity, the symbol of the cross went full circle. To carry the cross of Jesus in His footsteps is to resist this domination and power motif and to reverse the momentum back to Jesus. You will find great resistance as you take this on as a lifestyle.
Another consequence of carrying your cross is that you must endure everything that is thrown at you-trials, troubles, stresses, injustices and all kinds of things that will require you to give of yourself in a sacrificial way. When you think you can't take it any longer, you still hang on. It's the requirement of perseverance-hanging in there with Jesus no matter what!