“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23).
“Whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:38).
Christ died to create comrades on the Calvary road. Calvary is the name of the hill where he was crucified. He knew that the path of his life would take him there eventually. In fact, “he set his face” to go there (Luke 9:51). Nothing would hinder his mission to die. He knew where and when it had to happen. When someone warned him, on the way to Jerusalem, that he was in danger from King Herod, he scorned the idea that Herod could short-circuit God’s plan. “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course’” (Luke 13:32). All was proceeding according to plan. And when the end finally came and the mob arrested him the night before he died, he said to them, “All this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled” (Matthew 26:56).
In a sense, the Calvary road is where everyone meets Jesus. It’s true that he has already walked the road, and died, and risen, and now reigns in heaven until he comes again. But when Christ meets a person today, it is always on the Calvary road—on the way to the cross. Every time he meets someone on the Calvary road he says, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). When Christ went to the cross, his aim was to call a great band of believers after him.
The reason for this is not that Jesus must die again today, but that we must. When he bids us take up our cross, he means come and die. The cross was a place of horrible execution. It would have been unthinkable in Jesus’ day to wear a cross as a piece of jewelry. It would have been like wearing a miniature electric chair or lynching rope. His words must have had a terrifying effect: “Whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:38).
So today the words are sobering. They mean at least that when I follow Jesus as my Savior and Lord, the old self-deter- mining, self-absorbed me must be crucified. I must every day reckon myself dead to sin and alive to God. This is the path of life: “Consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11).
But camaraderie on the Calvary road means more. It means that Jesus died so that we would be willing to bear his reproach. “Jesus . . . suffered outside the gate. . . . Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured” (Hebrews 13:12-13). But not just reproach. If necessary, martyrdom. The Bible pictures some of Christ’s followers this way: “They have conquered [Satan] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death” (Revelation 12:11). So the Lamb of God shed his blood that we might defeat the devil by trusting his blood and shedding ours. Jesus calls us onto the Calvary road. It is a hard and good life. Come.
*This is taken from John Piper’s book “The Passion of Jesus Christ,” which was later released under the name “50 Reasons Jesus Came to Die.” Please visit Desiring God’s Website for more gospel-centered resources from John Piper. You can also download a free PDF of “50 Reasons Jesus Came to Die” here.