“Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matt 16:24 KJV).
What does it mean to come after Jesus? Jesus’ identity needs uncovering before answering this question. In Matt 16, Jesus asked His disciples “Whom do men say that the Son of man am?” (16:13). His disciples gave various responses that others said, but none correct. So, Jesus asked the question again, “But whom say ye that I am?” (v. 15). Only Peter recognized Jesus’ true character and nature as “the Christ, Son of the living God” (v. 16b). The Christ reveals a title for God’s end-time purpose that Jesus will fulfill as the One who leads His people to final victory and judgment of the wicked (Apostolic Study Bible Commentary, 2014). Son of the living God describes Jesus’ nature or character. While a virgin birthed Jesus during the time of the law, God’s Spirit begat Him (Matt 1:18, 20; Luke 13:5; Gal 4:4; cf. Ps 2:7; Heb 1:5). Jesus was fully human and fully divine–Equal to God in His nature, character, and likeness as the image of the invisible God (Phil 2:6; Col 1:15; 2:9). Thus, Jesus is God Himself manifested in the flesh (1 Tim 3:16). Because God embodied Himself in Jesus, the believer has access to grace of salvation.
A Christ follower has to do one’s part in fellowship with Jesus, the Christ, Son of the living God. To come after Him (Matt 16:34), means to follow in the most committed sense as His disciple (Thayer, 2009). A person has to “deny himself” (v. 34b) and leave any worldly interests behind. Taking up the cross requires self-sacrifice, selflessness, and suffering for His sake. It calls for raising Jesus above all else. The beauty of self-denial in taking up the cross comes with eternal life and future reward of the Son of Man’s return in His glory (Matt 16:25, 27).
- Bernard, D. (1994). The oneness view of Jesus Christ. Hazelwood, MO: Word Aflame Press.
- Thayer, J. (1999). Thayer’s Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publisher.