We must love Jesus not only more than our families but more than our own lives. For all our talk about low self-esteem these days (and most of us do view ourselves as less than what God has called us to be), the vast majority of people still cling desperately to life (compare Eph 5:29; Epict. Disc. 2.22.15-16). But the moment we become Christ's followers, our own lives and wills become forfeit; we die with Christ to sin (that is, to the right to make selfish choices; Rom 6:3-4) and choose a path that could lead any day to our execution for Christ's name (Mt 16:24). Although we may speak glibly today of "our cross" as the need to put up with Aunt Molly or a leaky roof, "taking up the cross" in Jesus' day meant being forced to bear the instrument of one's execution past a jeering mob to the site of one's imminent death as a condemned criminal (see Hengel 1977).
The promise of eternal life should be sufficient motivation for any who genuinely believe Jesus' claims-it doesn't take a math major to recognize that the greatest mortal longevity pales in comparison with eternity-but we sometimes prove less committed than we suppose (26:41). That even the first disciples were not initially prepared for such a demand (26:56) does not mitigate the level of commitment our Lord seeks from us: if we want to be followers of Jesus, we must be ready to die. If I value my life in this world more than I value Jesus and the life of the next world, I cannot be his disciple.
IVP New Testament Commentaries are made available by the generosity of InterVarsity Press.
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