Mark 8:34
Like a commander addressing his soldiers. Full of clear vision and resolve.

I. THE AIM. (Ver. 38, Mark 9:1.) It is the overcoming of spiritual error and Satanic influence, and the establishment of the kingdom of God.

II. THE CONDITIONS OF ITS ATTAINMENT. (Ver. 34.) These are open to all. The multitude is addressed equally with the disciples. There appears to have been a disposition in many to join themselves to his fortunes. He therefore lays down the terms of his service, so that none may enter it without knowledge of its nature.

1. Self-denial.

2. Cross-bearing. Not quite identical with the preceding, although involving it. "A Christian," says Luther, "is a Crucian (Morison). His cross," each having some personal and peculiar grief, sorrow, death, through which he has to pass. This cross he is to take up voluntarily, and to carry, long ere it shall have to bear him.

3. Obedience and imitation. There can be no self-assertion or private end to be sought by individual believers. "The footsteps of Jesus." It is a cross even as the Master has to be crucified. The same spirit and plan of moral life must be shown. He is our law and our example.

II. INCENTIVES. (Ver. 35-Mark 9:1.)

1. Christ's example and inspiration. He says not "Go," but "Come." He goes before, and shows the way.

2. The endeavor to save the lower "self will expose to certain destruction the higher self;" and The sacrifice of the lower "self" and its earthly condition, of satisfaction will be the salvation of the higher "self." "Life," or "soul," is used here ambiguously. A moral truism; a paradox to the worldly mind. "It is in self-denial that we first gain our true selves, recovering our personality again" (Lange).

3. The value of this higher life cannot be computed. All objective property is useless without that which is the subjective condition of its possession. Righteousness is that which makes individuality and the spiritual nature precious, and imparts the highest value to existence. Every man has to weigh the "world" against his "soul."

4. Recognition of Christ on earth is the condition of his recognition of us hereafter. It is not merely that we are "not to be ashamed;" we are to "glory" in him. The recognitions, the "well done" of Heaven, the highest reward. Even here the great triumphs of truth confer honor upon those who have striven for them.

5. The triumphs of the kingdom of God are not long ]PGBR> deferred. Some of Christ's hearers lived to see the overthrow of Jerusalem and the universal diffusion of the gospel. The spiritual vision is purified to discern the progress of truth in the world. Those victories which Christian morals and spirituality have already won within the experience of living Christians are an ample and abundant reward. - M.







Whosoever will come after Me, let him deny himself.
Here Christ very distinctly sets before all men the conditions of discipleship in His school, and of citizenship in His kingdom. It is not a kingdom of earthly splendour. If any would come after Him, they must expect hardships, self-denial, cross-bearing, and scorn. Their rest and reward were not yet. He was, indeed, the Messiah; but it was by a rough pathway that He would bring His followers to glory. Notice —

I. THE UNHESITATING WAY IN WHICH JESUS ASSUMES TO BE OUR RIGHTFUL LEADER. Elsewhere He is man's Teacher, Master, Friend, Saviour. Here He invites followers, and offers and claims to lead.

1. Man needs a Leader; life's byways are many; the labyrinth is deep; its duration is short; the stake is great. Man's native tendency is not upward.

2. Jesus has a rightful claim to be our Leader. He proves it by the greatness, and wisdom, and perfection of His person and character.

II. THE SOBERING WAY IN WHICH JESUS ANNOUNCES THE COST OF FOLLOWING HIM. "Whosoever will" — this points to obstacles to be overcome, and trials to be borne. To be a true follower of Christ one needs the courage of deep conviction and strong desire. This may seem stern. So it is. But it is not arbitrary or unfeeling. There are two reasons for denying self.

1. The "self" in us is to be denied, because it is wrong. Personal salvation, without the denial of the old nature, the sinful self in us, would be a contradiction.

2. The new spirit that is in us requires it. The follower of Christ has gone over to His side, and become His servant and soldier. But his new work is not easy. It was not easy to the Saviour, for it cost Him humiliation, and privations, and obloquy, and pains.

III. THE CHEERING WAY IN WHICH JESUS SETS BEFORE US THE REWARDS OF FAITHFULLY FOLLOWING HIM. While Christ was the greatest of all preachers of self-sacrifice, He uniformly recommended it by pledges of future good. The reward He promises is not of any lower or sensual kind. It is that of activity, calling into right and glad exercise every power we possess.

(H. M. Grout, D. D.)

I. ITS ESSENTIAL CONDITIONS.

1. It must be absolutely a voluntary choice — "Whosoever will."

(a)This is a condition universally recognized in the New Testament.

(b)It is a condition that underlies the whole plan of salvation.

(c)It is a condition from which there can be no deviation.

2. It must be absolutely an entire surrender.

(a)A surrender of every part of our being to Christ as Master.

(b)A surrender of every object which He requires to be given up.

II. ITS ESSENTIAL PRINCIPLES.

1. Holiness, suggested by the necessity of the surrender of "self."

2. Implicit obedience is suggested by the necessity of taking up the cross.

3. To love Christ, suggested by the necessity of being ready to lose life far Christ's sake.

4. The avowal of Christ, suggested by the words of Jesus in ver. 38.

(D. C. Hughes, M. A.)

Like a commander addressing his soldiers. Full of clear vision and resolve.

I. THE AIM. To overcome spiritual error and Satanic influence, and establish God's kingdom.

II. THE CONDITIONS OF ITS ATTAINMENT. These are open to all.

1. Self-denial.

2. Cross-bearing.

3. Obedience and imitation.

II. INCENTIVES.

1. Christ's example and inspiration. He says not "go" but "come." He goes before, and shows the way.

2. The endeavour to save the lower "self" will expose to certain destruction the higher "self"; and the sacrifice of the lower "self" and its earthly condition of satisfaction will be the salvation of the higher "self."

3. The value of this higher life cannot be computed.

4. Recognition of Christ on earth is the condition of His recognition of us hereafter.

(A. F. Muir, M. A.)

There is a wonderful spell in such a call. All history, profane as well as sacred, has shown us this. The great Roman general realized its force when he called to his soldiers, who shrank from the hardships of the Libyan desert, and promised to go before them, and to command them nothing which he would not first do himself. Even so Christ designed to help His followers by the assurance that He would first suffer that which they would be called to bear

(H. M. Luckock, D. D.)

There was an eagerness among many of the people to come after Him. The wistfulness of a considerable proportion of the northern population had been awakened. They were ruminating anxiously on Old Testament predictions, and filled with vague expectancy. They saw that the Rabbi of Nazareth was no common Rabbi. He was a wonderful Being. It is not strange, therefore, that they pictured out to themselves all sorts of possibilities in connection with His career. To what was He advancing? Whither was He bound? Was He on His way, or was He not, to the throne of the kingdom? The Saviour by and by gives sufficiently explicit indications of the ultimate witherhood of His career; but meanwhile He brings into the foreground the moral conditions of adherence to His person and His cause. "Whosoever will come after Me, let him deny himself," — let him be prepared to say No to many of the strongest cravings of his nature, in the direction more particularly of earthly ease, comfort, dignity, and glory.

(J. Morison, D. D.)

I. THE MATTER WHEREIN WE MUST FOLLOW HIM.

1. His holy doctrine.

2. His holy life. Some of His actions were not imitable.

(1)His miraculous works.

(2)His mediatorial acts.The things wherein we must follow Christ.

1. In that He never sought His own praise and glory, but the praise and glory of God that sent Him (John 7:18; 1 Corinthians 16:31).

2. In that He contemned His own will for His Father's (Matthew 26:39).

3. In daily and frequent prayer to His Father (Mark 1:35).

4. In fervent zeal to His Father's house (John 2:17).

5. In His faith and confidence.

6. His charity and love of man, shown in many ways.

II. THE MANNER WHEREIN WE MUST FOLLOW CHRIST.

1. We must follow Him in faith.

2. In ardent affection.

3. Sincerely.

4. Wholly.

5. Constantly.

III. THE REASONS OR MOTIVES THEREUNTO.

1. The equity of the precept.

2. Great is the danger of not following Christ our Leader.

(1)If we look at ourselves.

(2)At danger of false guides.

(3)At the world as a guide.

3. Argue from the safety of following Christ our Guide.

(T. Taylor, D. D.)

In the parish where Mr. Hervey preached, when he inclined to loose sentiments, there resided a ploughman well-informed in religious matters. Mr. Hervey being advised by his physician, for the benefit of his health, to follow the plough in order to smell the fresh earth, frequently accompanied this ploughman in his rural employment. Mr. Hervey, understanding the ploughman was a serious person, said to him one morning, "What do you think is the hardest thing in religion?" To which he replied, "I am a poor illiterate man, and you, sir, are a minister. I beg leave to return the question." "Then," said Mr. Hervey, "I think the hardest thing is to deny sinful self;" and applauded, at some length, his own example of self-denial. The ploughman replied, "Mr. Hervey, you have forgotten the greatest act of the grace of self-denial, which is, to deny ourselves of a proud confidence in our own obedience." Mr. Hervey looked at the man in amazement, thinking him an old fool; but in after years, when relating the story, he would add, "I have since clearly seen who was the fool: not the wise old Christian, but the proud James Hervey."

(1) in the subjection of our own opinions in religious matters to the authoritative announcements of Scripture. If we believe God only where we can see the truth and propriety of what He states, we do Him no honour.(2) In the renunciation of worldly and social advantages. If the Spirit dwelling in us be not mightier than that which is in the world, we cannot be Christ's disciples. If we have the true principle of Christianity, it will rise within us in proportion to the demand upon it.(3) In foregoing the love of ease and quiet and wealth. The ignorant must be taught; the knowledge of Christian principles spread; the wiles of the devil exposed. In the spiritual army, all must be warriors, if they would be victors.(4) In the abnegation of our own honour. The end of all our actions and sufferings is, that every crown earned and won may be placed on the head of Him who wore for us the crown of thorns.

(J. Leifchild.)

1. Necessity for salvation. Having become corrupt through apostasy, we must be wrought on a different mould.

2. Grateful imitation and return. Christ's love draws out ours.

3. Spiritual and eternal recompense. Even this world's goods will be restored, if God sees we would benefit by possessing them. But in most cases the reward is wholly spiritual — the favour of heaven instead of the friendship of mortals — the blessed experience of being on the side of God and right.

(J. Leifchild.)

I. WHAT IS MEANT BY "HIMSELF."

1. Things outward: things concerning the outward man, yet so near him, as they are, after a sort, himself; not only his riches, but his name, his liberty, his life; all of which must be denied rather than Christ and His truth.

2. Things inward, which can hardly be distinguished from himself.

(1)He must deny the wisdom of the flesh, which is enmity to God.

(2)He must deny his own corrupt will, which is contrary to God's will.

(3)He must deny all his carnal passions and affections, as carnal love, hatred, fear.

(4)He must deny all his own wicked inclinations.

(5)He must deny all wicked habits and sins.

II. THE DIFFICULTY OF THIS PRECEPT.

1. Consider the nearness of things to be denied. Were it only in things without us, as to part with riches, it were difficult enough; but when it leads us out of our own wisdom and judgment, what a hard province proves it.

2. Natural pride and self-love is such, that it is with us as with Solomon (Ecclesiastes 2:10). We are so far from crossing ourselves, that we endure not any other should cross us; Haman is sick on his bed because Mordicai denies him obeisance; if John deny Herod his Herodias, he will die for it; if Jonas his gourd, he will be angry to the death; such impatience is in our nature, if we be crossed in our wills.

3. Distrust in God, and trust in the means, makes the precept yet more difficult: we see not easily how we can do well without friends, wealth, liberty, favour, preferments. Wisdom is good with an inheritance (Ecclesiastes 7). We cannot live by promises, something we would have in hand.

III. THE NECESSITY OF SELF-DENIAL.

1. The context affirms a twofold necessity: in the words going before — without it a man cannot be a disciple of Christ: and in the words following — no man can take up his cross who has not denied himself.

2. The true wisdom cannot be embraced before the other be displaced, no more than light can be manifest before darkness be chased away.

3. The gospel offers Christ as a Physician, man must therefore deny the means he can devise to help himself, before he come to see what need he hath of Christ.

4. No obedience can be acceptably performed to God without self-denial, for many commandments are hard and difficult.

5. Whence is all the denial of Christ at this day, but want of self-denial.

IV. THE AIDS TO SELF-DENIAL. The Lord has not left us destitute of means, if we be not wanting to ourselves.

1. Strength to overcome ourselves is not from ourselves, therefore, we must remember that the Spirit is given to those who ask.

2. Consider what an advantage it will be to take ourselves in hand before our lusts be grown strong in us, and how they are far mole easily denied in the first rising then when they have seated themselves with delight in the affections and members, and are grown from motions to acts, from acts to customs, from customs to habits, from habits to another nature.

3. As it must be the first, so also the continued acts of a Christian to stand in the denial of himself, seeing the enemy continually uses our own natural inclinations against us; he ploughs with our own heifer.

4. And because they are not denied till the contrary be practiced, our care must be that the room of our hearts must be taken up with good desires, and the lustings of the Spirit which will keep out the desires of the flesh.

5. Whereas distrustfulness of heart rivetteth us with the world, labour daily for the strengthening of faith in the providence of God, and bring thy heart to lean upon that and not upon inferior means.

V. THE MOTIVES TO SELF-DENIAL.

1. Look to Christ, He denied Himself for us, we cannot deny too much for Him.

2. Look to the world, it will leave and deny us.

3. Look to the examples of the saints who have denied themselves.

4. Look to hypocrites forsaking much for God's favour; we have Baal's priests tormenting themselves to uphold their idolatry.

5. Look to the end of our self-denial; there meets us God's promise with a full hand; all will then be made up with an infinite advantage

VI. THE MARKS OF SELF-DENIAL.

1. One in regard to God; it will cast a man wholly out of himself (Psalm 73:25).

2. The second in respect of Christ, for Christ, he can want as well as abound (Philippians 3:8).

3. The third, in respect of the Word of God, it is ready for all God's will.

4. The fourth, in respect to himself, he that hath denied himself will desire no way of prosperity but God's own, and will ascribe it all to God.

5. The fifth mark is, in respect to others; he that hath denied himself lives not to himself, but procures the good of others, and advances to his power every man's good. He looks not on men as they are affected to himself, but as he ought to be affected to them.

6. The last note of self-denial is the life of faith, beyond and without all means of help. As nothing gives more glory to God than faith, so nothing takes so much from man.

(T. Taylor, D. D.)

Self-denial is a Christian principle, and yet no new thing, since in some form it must form a part of the lives of most men. Thus, when Garibaldi was going out to battle, he told his troops what he wanted them to do, and they said, "Well, general, what are you going to give us for all this?" He replied, "I don't know what also you will get, but you will get hunger, and cold, and wounds, perhaps death." They stood awhile in silence, and then threw up their hands; "We are the men!" Faith in Christ puts in action, and strengthens a desire to conquer self, which seems inherent in human nature.

The world in general has got ready a cross for each of Christ's disciples. So determined is it in its opposition, and so remorseless in its hate. It has resolved that every Christian shall be crucified, in one way or another. If the body cannot be got hold of and transfixed, the heart may. Every true Christian must be willing to accept this treatment for Christ's sake. He must take up his cross, and walk with it, as it were, to the place of execution, ready for the last extremity. It is the dark side of the case; and the phase of representation under which it is exhibited was no doubt suggested to our Lord by the clear view He had of the termination of His own terrestrial career. "A Christian," says Luther, "is a Crucian." The Saviour pictures to His hearers a procession. He Himself takes the lead with His cross. He is the chief Crucian. All His disciples follow. Each has his own particular cross. But the direction of the procession, when one looks far enough, is toward the kingdom of heavenly glory.

(J. Morison, D. D.)

Be prepared for afflictions. To this end would Christ have us reckon upon the cross, that we may be forewarned. He that builds a house does not take care that the rain should not descend upon it, or the storm should not beat upon it, or the wind blow upon it; there is no fencing against these things, they cannot be prevented by any care of ours; but that the house may be able to endure all this without prejudice. And he that builds a ship, does not make this his work, that it should never meet with waves and billows; that is impossible; but that it may be light and staunch, and able to endure all weathers. A man who takes care for his body does not care for this, that he meet with no change of weather, hot and cold, but how his body may bear all this. Thus should Christians do; not so much to care how to shift and avoid afflictions, but how to bear them with an even quiet mind. As we cannot hinder the rain from falling upon the house, nor the waves from beating upon the ship, nor change of weather and seasons from affecting the body, so it is not in our power to hinder the falling out of afflictions and tribulations: all that lies upon us, is to make provision for such an hour, that we be not overwhelmed by it.

(T. Manton, D. D.)

When God built this world, He did not build a palace complete with appointments. This is a drill world. Men were not dropped down upon it like manna, fit to be gathered and used as it fell; but like seeds, to whom the plough is father, the furrow mother, and on which iron and stone, sickle, flail, and mill must act, before they come to the loaf.

(H. W. Beecher.)

The Christian lives in the midst of crosses, as the fish lives in the sea.

(Vianney.)

Is religion difficult? and what is not so, that is good for anything Is not the law a difficult and crabbed study? Does it not require great labour and perpetual drudging to excel in any kind of knowledge, to be master of any art or profession? In a word, is there anything in the world worth having, that is to be got without pains? And is eternal life and glory the only slight and inconsiderable thing that is not worth our care and industry?

(Archbishop Tillotson.)

The crusaders of old, it is said, used to carry painted crosses upon their shoulders; it is to be feared that many among us take up crosses which sit just as lightly; things of ornament, passports to respectability, a cheap exchange for a struggle we never made, and a crown we never strove for. But let us not deceive ourselves. None ever yet entered into the kingdom of heaven without tribulation; not, perhaps, the tribulation of fire, or rebuke, or blasphemy, but the tribulation of a bowed spirit and a humble heart; of the flesh crucified to the spirit, and of hard conflict with the powers of darkness; and, therefore, if our religion be of such a pliable and elastic form as to have cost us neither pains to acquire, nor self-denial to preserve, nor effort to advance, nor struggle to maintain holy and undefiled — we may be assured our place among the ranks of the risen dead will be with that prodigious multitude who were pure in their own eyes, and yet were not washed from their filthiness.

(D. Moore, M. A.)

Carrying a cross after Christ means, for one thing, enduring suffering for Christ. "Cross" was the name once given to the most fearful engine of agony for the body; and the words "cross," "crucial," "excruciate," etc., have come into our language from that material cross, and they now point, in a general way, to what has to be suffered, not in the body, but in the soul. To carry a cross for Christ means, for another thing, having a great weight on the mind for Christ's sake. To carry a cross for Christ means, for another thing, that this suffering and heavily-weighted condition should be open, not secret; for the cross bearer is seen. It means, for another thing, that the man who is willing to carry the cross for Christ is willing to suffer scorn for Christ. No one carried a cross in the old Roman days but one who was the very refuse of society. To be willing to carry a cross for Christ means willingness to suffer ignominy, willingness to "go forth without the camp, bearing His reproach." To carry a cross for Christ has another meaning. It means that for Christ's sake the person who does so takes up a trial that comes to him in the course of God's providence, and not through his own choice, or fault, or folly. A man does, from a sublime motive, some evil thing that good may come. Then he suffers the penalty. When he does so, that is not suffering a cross. When a man is a violator of the Petrine law; when he is a busybody and a meddler in other men's matters, and suffers the proper penalty; when a man does a right thing at a wrong time, or in a wrong place, or in a wrong way, and suffers the penalty; when a man tries to help out the cleansing efficacy of Christ's blood by some nostrum of his own, as if the great Lord of the universe had mistaken the proportions in which health and sickness, light and darkness, fire and frost, ease and pain, should be distributed, and suffers a complicated penalty thereby and therefrom, that penalty is not a cross in any one instance. Penalty is penalty, and nothing else. Whatever the cause may be in which you are acting or suffering, penalty is penalty, not a cross taken up for Christ. But when, for the sake of principle, for the sake of profession, for the sake and in the course of carrying out the laws of a Christian calling, any man has to suffer something sharp, or to bear something gaffing, for Christ's sake, that is a cross.

(Charles Stanford, D. D.)

I. WHAT IS THIS CROSS? By the cross is not meant any affliction which belongs to the common calamities of nature; but that suffering which is inflicted for the profession of Christ and His truth.

1. From Him: His fan to sift and purge us.

2. For Him: endured for His cause and glory.

3. His in His mystical body; not natural.

4. Not in respect of merit, but of sympathy.

II. WHY IS IT CALLED THE CROSS?

1. Because of the union between Christ and the Christian, so it is a part of Christ's own cross: for as all the members suffered with Christ on the cross, as their Surety; so He suffers with them as His members.

2. That we should never think of the troubles for Christ, but cast our eyes also upon the cross of Christ, where we shall see Him sanctifying, sweetening, and conquering all our sorrows.

3. That in all our sufferings for Christ we should support our faith and patience in beholding what was the end of Christ's cross, and to expect the same happy end of our crosses for Christ — the crown.

III. WHAT IS IT TO TAKE UP THE CROSS? It is not to devise voluntary affliction for ourselves. Neither is it to pull the cross upon our shoulders. For —

1. Christ did not carry His cross till it was laid upon Him.

2. Our rule is to use all good means for the preservation of our bodies, health, wealth, and comfort.

3. Every bearing of affliction must be an obedience of faith, and as such based upon a commandment of God. No soldier must of his own head raise war against his own peace, nor set fire upon his own house; this is not the part of a good soldier, but of a mutinous fellow. So no soldier of Christ must be superfluous in suffering.

4. We may not tempt God by running before Him, but follow Him going before us. If without sin and with good conscience we may escape danger, and do not, we run upon it, and it becomes our own cross, and not Christ's. It is enough to suffer wrong; we must not offer wrong to our own persons. We are not bound to seek the cross, nor make it, but to bear and take it up. Nor to fill the cup for ourselves, but to drink it when God reaches it. To take up the cross, therefore, is, when a cross meet us in our way, which we cannot without sin escape, we must now take knowledge of God's will, God's hand, God's time, and God's voice calling us to suffer. Now God laying on the cross, we must not pull away the shoulder, nor hide ourselves from the cross under the covert of sinful shifts, nor avoid it by any unlawful means, but take it up, and buckle to the burden.

IV. THE NECESSITY OF THE CROSS.

1. To the godly afflictions are often as necessary as meat and drink; for prosperity is as a dead sea (Proverbs 1:32). Standing waters contract mud, and breed vermin; a still body fills with bad humours. Fallow and unstirred grounds are fruitful in weeds; therefore God in great wisdom by trials shakes them out of security, and makes them more watchful of themselves; scouring makes metals brighter and more useful.

2. Another reason why the Lord hath yoked the Christian to the cross is, because He will thence fetch a strong argument to confound Satan (Job 1:9); He will have it appear that His servants love Christ and religion for itself, not for wealth or ease.

3. Comfort to the saints in their suffering.(1) In that they have such a partner.(2) In that we have Christ Himself at the other end of the cross, helping and supporting us. He is of power to carry the heavy end, and bear off the weight from us.(3) In that we have all the saints our companions. How can we sink having so many shoulders under our burden.

V. WHAT IS REQUIRED IN TAKING UP THE CROSS?

1. A continual expectation and a standing unfearfully in the station wherein God hath set us, with a strong resolution not to be discouraged, though crosses come never so thick. Expected evils smart less.

2. A contentedness to abide under a great burden, as a man stands under the burden he hath taken up.

3. Love of God, notwithstanding the cross.

4. Humility and silence; not disputing the matter with God.

5. Joy and rejoicing, not in the smart of the cross, but in waiting the sweet fruit of it.

(T. Taylor, D. D.)

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