Take up the cross: discipleship

Discipleship. 34 He summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. 35 For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it.

As Jesus often does, the private conversation gives way to summoning the crowd and the offer of a larger, summary teaching. Earlier (v.33) when Jesus accuses Peter of “thinking” (phreneo) there is an indication of not simply cognitive thought, but something arising from an inner disposition or attitude – something pointing to the role of the human will. This become more clear in the phrase (v.34), “Whoever wishes” – pointing to the idea of human will and freedom of carrying out that will. What is the role of the will in the practical implications of discipleship: deny oneself, take up your own cross, and follow Jesus.

Stoffregen nicely asks: “What does it mean to deny oneself — to say “No’ to oneself? Some of us may be able to deny ourselves certain foods for a time — so that we might look and feel better; but we aren’t really denying ourselves. We are still dieting for the good of self. Can we deny our thoughts of getting good things for ourselves? or of evil for our “enemies? Can we stop our lusting after people and things? or feelings of revenge towards those who have wronged us? … Denying one’s self is concerned with the will — that one’s own will should not be the controlling factor in one’s life.”

As many theologians and spiritual advisors have noted, these things Stoffregen lists, come to our minds whether we summons them or not. Such is the condition of the world in which we live – we are awash in the seas of temptation. But temptation is not action. If there is a desire for revenge because of a perceived wrong, there is a choice to be made and a role for the will to play. The French theologian, Maurice Blondell, opined that in the moments we most want revenge, but choose to turn the other cheek, it is in that moment we are the most Christian because we have denied our self and chosen God’s will. There is a cross that is borne as we follow Christ.


Mark 8:27 on the way. Being “on the way” (en tei hodoi) is a theme throughout Mark, especially in this section. Hodos can simply refer to a road or path, or it can refer to a way of life. Jesus is “on the way” (8:27) when he asks his question. The phrase appears again in 9:33-34. There the disciples indicate that they don’t understand the way of Jesus. Jesus is on his way again in 10:17 when the rich man asks his question; and again when he gives the third passion prediction (10:32). Perhaps most significant about hodos is the fact that Blind Bartimaeus is on the “side of the way” in 10:46, but after the miracle, he is able to follow Jesus “on the way.” “The Way” became a title of early Christians (Acts 18:25, 26; 19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:14, 22).

Mark 8:31 Son of Man: an enigmatic title. It is used in Dn 7:13–14 has a symbol of “the saints of the Most High,” the faithful Israelites who receive the everlasting kingdom from the Ancient One (God). They are represented by a human figure that contrasts with the various beasts who represent the previous kingdoms of the earth. In the Jewish apocryphal books of 1 Enoch and 4 Ezra the “Son of Man” is not, as in Daniel, a group, but a unique figure of extraordinary spiritual endowments, who will be revealed as the one through whom the everlasting kingdom decreed by God will be established. It is possible though doubtful that this individualization of the Son of Man figure had been made in Jesus’ time, and therefore his use of the title in that sense is questionable. Of itself, this expression means simply a human being, or, indefinitely, someone, and there are evidences of this use in pre-Christian times. Its use in the New Testament is probably due to Jesus’ speaking of himself in that way, “a human being,” and the later church’s taking this in the sense of the Jewish apocrypha and applying it to him with that meaning. rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes: the supreme council called the Sanhedrin was made up of seventy-one members of these three groups and presided over by the high priest. It exercised authority over the Jews in religious matters.


  • K. Beale and D. A. Carson, Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI; Nottingham, UK: Baker Academic; Apollos, 2007).
  • Alan Cole, Mark: An Introduction and Commentary, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989)
  • John R. Donahue and Daniel J. Harrington, The Gospel of Mark, Sacra Pagina v.2 (Collegeville, MN: Michael Glazer / Liturgical Press, 2001)
  • Wilfred Harrington, Mark, The New Testament Message, v.4 (Collegeville, MN: Michael Glazer Press, 1979) 95-102
  • William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974)
  • Philip Van Linden, C.M., “Mark” in The Collegeville Bible Commentary, ed. Dianne Bergant and Robert J. Karris (Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 1989)
  • Pheme Perkins, The Gospel of Mark, vol. 8 of The New Interpreter’s Bible (Nashville, TN: Abington Press, 1994)
  • Ben Witherington, The Gospel of Mark: A Social-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2001)
  • David Turner and Darrell L. Bock, Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, Vol 11: Matthew and Mark (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2005)
  • Brian Stoffregen, CrossMarks Christian Resources, available at crossmarks.com/brian/


  • Gerhard Kittel, Gerhard Friedrich and Geoffrey William Bromiley, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 1995)
  • Horst Robert Balz and Gerhard Schneider, Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1990)
  • The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary, ed. David Noel Freedman, Gary A. Herion, David F. Graf, John David Pleins and Astrid B. Beck (New York: Doubleday, 1996).

Scripture – The New American Bible

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