The call of Jesus to deny ourselves and take up the cross and follow him was the subject of my scripture reading this morning. I have discussed this deeply important idea here and here. This view
from "The Unitarian" magazine, vol. 12, 1897 in a series of Questions also made into pamphlets for the "church porch"...
"QUESTIONS ON THE WAY OF LIFE.
This series of "Questions" is designed to meet the earnest inquiries of our young people, as they face the real demands of the religious life.
The Second Question, "Can I follow Jesus ?" is prepared by Rev. Frederick B. Mott.
(Each "Question" will be republished in very small leaflet form, especially intended for the church porch, and can be ordered from the Unitarian, 2 cents each, 10 cents per dozen, 50 cents per one hundred.)
Question 2: CAN I FOLLOW JESUS?
I. Jesus said so. Doubtless he knew. His words are :—
"If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow me."
П. It is not Christ's cross that I am to carry, but my own. Not the cross of crucifixion to death, but the cross of devotion to life. If I were asked to bear the cross he bore I should not have the courage to attempt it; but I suppose I ought to be able to lift my own cross.
Ш. Jesus said not only, "The spirit of the Lord is upon me," but also "I must be about my Father's business" ; i.e., 1 must not only trust in God, and feel his presence, hut I must work for him, take an active part in the great enterprise of life. This is bearing my own cross.
IV. Is this all I have to do to follow Jesus ? No, it is only the beginning : after resolving to take up my own cross daily, then I have to make sure that I carry it along the right path. There is only one way Jesus went ; to follow him I must go that way. He shows me just where to set my feet when he says, "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of these my brethren, even the least, ye have done it unto me." It is the path of service.
V. To follow Jesus must I then be a burden bearer? weighed down by my daily load, always suffering and sad? Not at all, Jesus declared "My yoke is easy and my burden light." This seems like a contradiction. I have always thought that which a man carried weighed him down ; yet Jesus, though he was a great burden bearer, was never oppressed or disheartened. Indeed, though he carried the sorrows and sufferings of humanity, the burden exalted him. There seems a wonderful possibility of joy in this thought, a burden that uplifts, a cross that exalts.
VI. The fact is, the path of service, with the daily cross on one's back, while it is a steep ascent, yet leads into such higher atmosphere and such spiritual companionship that the heart and soul are refreshed. More light, more faith, more hope, flow in from the divine life above as one ascends. To "Reckon not the gain, But count the hardest duty light that lifts another's pain" is in fact not only to count it so but to find it has become so. The burden itself, when borne as the daily cross of service to the world, becomes possessed of a divine buoyancy.
VII. To follow Jesus is not then so hard : it is an open way to all who are willing to walk in it. It promises the highest and purest joy, for it leads onward and upward forever.
"And he said unto All, If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me."