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As we head towards Easter we are going to move through a series titled “The Centrality of the Cross.”

Today is part 5 The Cross and Discipleship.


Matthew 16:24-25 (ESV)

Take Up Your Cross and Follow Jesus

24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 

25 For whoever would save his life[a] will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Scripture Reading

Matthew 16:21-27 (ESV)


Father, your love has a characteristic that is often missing from our love.

Yours is a “Totally Giving” love.

While we were sinners, unable to give you anything of worth in return, you gave us your love in the person of your Son, Jesus.

So Christianity, from its inception and forever more, is an unselfish giving.

May we emulate your spirit of giving as we come to you today, expecting nothing In return except the joy of serving you.

In Jesus name we pray.



The word disciple is an appealing word to Christians because it brings to mind those twelve men who were chosen by the Lord for a unique task, that of being the first messengers of the good news He came to give the world.

Certainly the shepherds on the Judean hills and the wise men who came from afar were “heralds” of the Saviour, but they did not have an opportunity to know the very essence of His gospel.

The familiar word, discipleship, also carries a certain appeal, because we interpret it to be the ideal lifestyle of a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, a lifetime of following and learning from the Master.

Yet, inherent in the word disciple, and hence discipleship, is the word discipline.

We don’t find the same appeal in the word discipline because it has negative overtones.

Everyone is born with a tendency toward rebellion against authority.

In other words, discipline, the enemy of everyones will, saturated the way of life Jesus came to reveal.

Many who were confronted with the challenge to follow Him could not accept this discipline.

As the time for His crucifixion drew closer, there was an unusual urgency in what Jesus said about the cross and about discipleship.

  1. Jesus set forth His destiny.
  1. Matthew 16:21 (ESV)

Jesus Foretells His Death and Resurrection

21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.

It was as though Jesus had turned a corner in teaching His disciples about His approaching death and resurrection.

Several times prior to this, He had spoken of the cross by implication.

That is, through parables, metaphors, and other figures of speech, He had sought to prepare the disciples for the reality of the crucifixion.

But they, typical of the Jewish thinking of that time, had their hearts set on establishing an earthly kingdom then.

Their minds were closed to the possibility that Jesus would die, and most especially to the thought that He would die on a cross, which was an accursed thing to every Jew.

B. There was an appropriate time for Jesus to make this clear evaluation of His mission.

Peter had just made his marvellous confession of faith, no doubt speaking not only for himself, but for all the disciples.

So with that kind of openness between Jesus and the disciples, it was time for Him to be straightforward concerning what lay ahead.

They would understand what Jesus said about suffering, for they had encountered the hostility of religious hierarchy.

But when Jesus used the word “killed”, they were terrified!

In fact it was such a horrifying thought that apparently they did not even hear the rest of Jesus’ statement indicating that He would be raised again the third day.

C. Matthew 16:22 (ESV)

22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.”

Was this the same Peter who made that victorious declaration of faith shortly before at Caesarea Philippi?

Note how graphically Matthew described what happened, “Peter took him aside” 

It was as if Peter had stepped up beside Jesus and pulled Him to the side as you would take a person who was upset or distressed, and lead them away from the crowd.

Peter “began to rebuke Him”.

He admonished Jesus as a school teacher would attempt to set straight a student who had become confused about something.

D. Jesus quickly and positively responded to Peter’s actions.

Matthew said that He “turned”, this suggests that it was a fast and immediate act on Jesus’ part.

Matthew 16:23 (ESV) says

23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

Peter was doing the same thing satan had done when he tempted Jesus in the wilderness.

He was saying, “Bypass the cross! Take another route! You don’t have to die!” 

Jesus told Peter “You are a hindrance to me.” 

In other words, “Peter, you are tempting me to offend my Father by failing to do what He has purposed that I do!”

Peter spoke the spirit of his age, and of ours.

The demand for a cross less Christ is still with us today.

It is far more appealing to admire His perfect life and to praise His beautiful teachings than it is to accept His bloody cross.

2. Jesus explained discipleship.

A. Jesus said to His disciples in, Matthew 16:24-25 (ESV)

24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 

25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Literally, Jesus said, “if anyone wishes to follow me…”

There is no compulsion here.

God has so limited Himself that He will not force anyone to follow Him.

Jesus leaves people free to follow Him in this intimate relationship or not to follow Him at all.

Their degree of love for the Lord determines their decision.

B. Jesus also spoke of self denial.

“Self” loves to be pampered, indulged, and coddled.

But the Christian ideal is that when self comes under fire because of its selfishness and insubordination, don’t help it!

Let it squirm!

When self is tempted to pout and become oversensitive because it considered itself slighted, don’t sympathise with it!

When self is withering under the search light of God’s truth, let it suffer and let it die!

C. Jesus drove home this revolutionary truth when He spoke of “taking up the cross”

Again we have a sense of immediate, decisive action.

“Let him take up his cross at once!” 

This was totally distasteful to the jews in general and even to the disciples.

The cross was a Roman instrument of torture and disgrace, an accursed thing, and even to touch a cross rendered a Jew ceremonially unclean.

Yet Jesus said that one must voluntarily take up a cross and bear it!

D. The point is that Jesus was explaining how to deny self, self must be crucified, nailed to the cross.

Then He said “….and follow me.”

Following Jesus is the inevitable result of “denying self”.

It is impossible for someone to follow Christ and at the same time drag around a selfish and rebellious self.

3. Jesus pressed for a decision.

  1. Matthew 16:26 English Standard Version (ESV)

26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?

We are told that the Emperor Charlemagne was buried, not dressed in grave clothes and reclining in a casket, but in the robes of state and seated upright on a throne.

An open Bible was on his knee, and one of his fingers pointed to the words that spoke for him when he could no longer speak for himself. 

“For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?”

B. What is a persons soul?

It’s not something hidden away inside, to be saved by attending church on Sunday while the rest of the person remains worldly and chained to material possessions.

What profit is it if a person gains all the world has to offer in order to exalt and pamper self?

When self is lost, what can a person give to recover it?

C. The world offered its rewards to Jesus, but He refused them to do the will of His heavenly Father.

The world makes the same offer to us, to appease self and to do it our way.

But if we choose to follow Jesus, we must make the same choice Jesus made.

We must accept the cross, not for the same reason that He did, but that we might nail self to the cross so we can follow Jesus wherever He leads.


Here is the paradox of it all.

To know real joy in the Christian life, we must feel the pain of death.

And, sadly, it is not a one time experience.

How awesome it would be if we could bury self one time and it would stay dead forever!

Instead, we must daily nail self to the cross.

And every time we do it, we strengthen our inner self, our spiritual self, which is controlled by Jesus.

Disciple is certainly an appealing word.

But within it there is the discipline of the cross, the denial of self, so that Christ may reign supreme as Saviour and Lord.

Until next time

Stay in the Blessings


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I really want to encourage you to be diligent with your Bible study time, because God has so much more for us than we can get from just going to church once or twice a week and hearing someone else talk about the Word.

When you spend time with God, your life will change in amazing ways, because God is a Redeemer.

Theres nothing thats too hard for Him, and He can make you whole, spirit, soul and body!

You’re important to God, and you’re important to us at

When it comes to prayer, we believe that God wants to meet your needs and reveal His promises to you.

So whatever you’re concerned about and need prayer for we want to be here for you! Or even if you just want to say Hi, you can contact us


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Gary Hoban

Refinery Life Church Australia


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