Matthew had already recorded Jesus’ solemn words, “And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me” (10:38). “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross, and follow Me” (16:24). Now he records the story of the first man who – albeit unwillingly – carried the cross of Christ, following in His steps. Though Jesus, as a carpenter, was surely strong enough to bear His own cross, this event reveals just how brutal were the beatings He had already endured, and what carrying the cross entails for His disciples. Indeed, Jesus and His apostles tell us clearly that to deny oneself, take up the cross, and follow Him means to: - Determine to suffer in the flesh as Jesus did, living no longer “for the lusts of men, but for the will of God” (1 Peter 4:1-2) - Be “persecuted for righteousness’ sake” (Matthew 5:10). Speaking out boldly against sin, refusing to participate in popular depravity, and taking abuse for it ( Matthew 10:1 Peter 4:3-4). - Rejoice when men “revile you and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake” (Matthew 5:11; 1 Peter 4:13, 16). - Bravely proclaim the Gospel of salvation through repentance from sin and faith in Christ alone, despite threats, pain, and even death (Matthew 10:7, 27, 32; Acts 3:11-26; 4:5-20, 23-31). - Risk the loss of the approval of family members in order to follow Christ faithfully (Matthew 10:21-22, 34-37; 23:29) - Give up wealth, houses, and financial security to imitate the one who, though rich, yet for our sakes became poor (Matthew 8:19-20; 19:23-29). - Put to death the evil deeds of the body by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Matthew 5:29-30; Romans 8:13; Galatians 5:24; 1 Peter 2:11). - Exercise self-discipline in all things in order to be useful to God (1 Corinthians 9:1-27). May God give us grace so to do!