“If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” Matthew 16:24
When the believer takes up the cross, then he knows he cannot return, for the cross is always terminal. The cross ALWAYS ends the life of the one placed on it.
When Jesus set His face toward Jerusalem (Luke 9:51), His goal was the cross of Calvary (Luke 13:32-33). The cross was going to accomplish its awful work, for the cross always kills its victim. Jesus knew that His goal in life was His own death on the cross (John 17:4; 19:30). In eternity past, the Son of God was destined for the cross and there was nothing in heaven or on earth that could alter that destiny. So when Jesus set His face toward Jerusalem, He knew that there would be no turning aside and that He would not return. For the cross is always terminal. The cross always kills its victim. Once a person takes up his cross, he knows he will not return and that his destiny is sealed.
And thus we arrive at the sober reality of what Jesus is saying in Matthew 16:24 (Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23), for He is stating the absolute terms of what it means to follow Him. Let there be no mistaking what Jesus means when He says, “If anyone wishes to come after Me . . .” He is giving the only path to heaven. “If anyone wishes to call themselves a Christian . . .” “If anyone wishes to have a relationship with Me . . .” “If anyone wishes to be saved from hell . . .” “If anyone believes he is going to heaven . . .” “If anyone wants to be forgiven of their sins . . .” Jesus is saying that the ONLY way for ANYONE to get to heaven involves taking up a cross. You must take up the instrument of your own death if you would go to heaven. And once you take up the cross of Christ; once you take up the cross that He demands you to carry, there is no returning. This is an irreversible decision that will mean your death. (Consider Colossians 3:3) By following Jesus you are committing to take up the instrument of your own death. This is the cost of following Jesus. You give the Lord Jesus a blank check to the rest of your life and you sign the check with your own blood. Taking up your cross means saying, “I will actively follow You, obey You and testify of Your glory from now on, regardless of the path and regardless of the cost.” The cross is unconditional in its demands. There is no fine print. You can write in no hidden clauses in this contract. Jesus demands that you take up your cross and commit to His path, not knowing where it will lead or what it will cost, and knowing that from that path you will never return. “As You took up Your cross, Lord Jesus, so I now take up mine.” This is what it means to follow Jesus. Following any other path will end in destruction and eternal death.
SDG rmb 11/13/2015