Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.
Matthew 16:24 (read also Matthew 10:38-39)
What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?
Jesus continues teaching and preparing the disciples for the suffering ahead of them. His words in verse 24 foreshadow His death and call on His followers to fully identify themselves with Him. Denying oneself is not mild asceticism, but cross-bearing, a painful real possibility of loss of life and hardship of living in a way that is out of step with a self-centred, hostile world. It is not easy to live a selfless, holy life in a world that indulges self and mocks, punishes and persecutes Christians.
What good will come from it?
D.A. Carson writes on verse 26: “All the material possessions and privilege in this world cannot compensate for spending an eternity in hell. Nor can any human offer anything to God to redeem themselves. Eternal life must be received as God’s free gift. But this context reminds people that it may cost them their lives.”
This is a reminder to all of us that this life is temporary and that we need to fix our eyes on Jesus and spending eternity with Him, despite our present hardships, suffering or even persecution. May God give us strength to persevere with Christ and to continue standing with Him, until we are safely with Him in heaven. Amen.