Verse of the Day Devotion: Mark 8:34
“And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, if anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” – Mark 8:34
Jesus here is speaking to the disciples and the crowd that was there with them about what was going to take place. “And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.” Mark 8:31. He told them the Jewish leadership would get Him killed, however He would rise from the grave in three days. After He clearly states this, Peter pulls Him aside and literally rebukes Him. What is interesting is that, knowing who He was, he felt it necessary to rebuke the Son of God. “But turning around and seeing His disciples, He rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind Me, Satan; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.” Mark 8:33. The reason for this rebuke is that Peter was minimizing the will of the God and usurping it with his own will. This shows Peter still did not fully understand Jesus’ purpose here.
So, in our focus verse, Jesus summoned them all together and told them what He required from His followers. “And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” Mark 8:34. Now, these words of Jesus were similar to the principal qualities required of a proselyte to Judaism.
The first principal being that proselytes must embrace the Jewish religion voluntarily, and that neither force or influence has anything to do with this decision (if anyone wishes to come after me).
Second, they must completely renounce and separate themselves from their former religion and its beliefs and ways (he must deny himself). He must deny his former life and be reborn. “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17.
Third, he must submit to the yoke of the Jewish law (he must take up his cross). However, instead of the yolk of the law. Jesus speaks of the yoke of His teachings. “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:29-30. His teachings are less burdensome and onerous then the Jewish yoke of the Law of Moses.
And lastly, he must solemnly and honestly engage to continue in the Jewish faith (and follow me). This condition Christ also requires; and it is comprised in this word, ‘let him Follow me’. In following Him, they agree to adopt the teachings and ways of Christ.
One other idea within this verse is that they are putting their lives on the line by following Him. Note here the phrase, ‘he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.’ No matter any danger that may come as a result of them following Christ, they must continue with Him. He must put Christ ahead of himself and if required, take up the cross and sacrifice himself. Following Jesus requires continuing and non-stop determination to stick to the chosen path.
To follow Christ can be a difficult task, but it is following the truth. In the first century it was a dangerous decision due to the Jewish leadership and the Roman government. And we are beginning to see similar situations in our world today. There is definitely movement to seriously restrict Christians in their beliefs and even in their speech. So, as Jesus spoke to the crown around Him, so He speaks to us today. “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? For what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” Mark 8:35-38.
William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries.