It wasn’t too long into Jesus’ earthly ministry before He began talking of his death and resurrection. Even though His disciples did not truly believe His words, Jesus wanted to make sure they knew what they were getting themselves into.
During the season of Lent, we turn our eyes toward Christ’s crucifixion. In today’s passage, as Jesus predicts His own suffering and death, He also commands His disciples that they too must lay down their own lives and take up their own crosses in order to follow after Him. Indeed, most of the original Twelve disciples of Jesus did eventually become martyrs for the sake of Christ.
Of course, Jesus’ words 2,000 years ago do not only apply to His original disciples; they are true for us today. Are we going to hold on to our lives, or take up our crosses daily and follow after Jesus? This is the hardest and most challenging subtraction of all: not just setting aside certain foods or attitudes or behaviors, but actually giving up our entire lives for Christ. For many Christians around the world, this is not merely a metaphor either, as they have given up careers, families, and even their lives to follow after Christ. But for all of us, this call of subtraction means denying our own selfish natures and choosing to take on the mind of Christ. Fortunately, this subtraction is a daily challenge, and we have a new opportunity to improve each new day as we follow in Christ’s footsteps.