Text: John 18:15-18
Summary: Jesus took up His cross to save you. Will you take up your cross and follow Him to the end?
15 Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he entered with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, 16 but Peter stood outside at the door. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to the servant girl who kept watch at the door, and brought Peter in. 17 The servant girl at the door said to Peter, “You also are not one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.” 18 Now the servants and officers had made a charcoal fire, because it was cold, and they were standing and warming themselves. Peter also was with them, standing and warming himself.
On this Good Friday, Lord Jesus, we remember Your sacrifice. We remember Your suffering, the shame, the scorn, the ridicule, the crown of thorns, the mockery of the crowds. You did all of this. You carried Your own cross to save us and You are inviting each of us today to take up our own crosses. Can you tell us what that means, Lord? Thank you, Lord. In Jesus name, Amen
You’ve probably been to many Good Friday services, and I know I have been to many and I have conducted a few. There are two types of Good Friday services that I’ve seen – one is like you’re attending a seminary class. It’s Theology 101 and you’re learning about substitutionary atonement and penal substitution, and in all these fancy terms, you’re thinking, Whew, good thing Jesus did that for me because I’m a sinner and I need this cleansing! You have all the doctrines that make you feel at ease at the end of a Good Friday service. That’s one kind of service that I’ve seen.
The other one is where you watch Passion of the Christ and you see the blood and the agony that Jesus is suffering, and it stirs up your emotions. You think, my sin put Jesus on the cross. The way at least I thought of Easter weekend is that the more sorry I feel on Friday, the more jubilant I’ll feel on Easter Sunday and I need to stir up those emotions and really cry. That’s the kind of Good Friday services that I’ve seen.
Just to give you advance warning. This is not one of those services. Jesus took up His cross to save you. And now He is inviting us to take up our crosses. He’s asking you, will you take up your cross and follow Me?
Today, I want to put the cross back into Christianity. There is a crossless Christianity that makes Christian life and worldly life look very similar. In the world, you go after whatever you want, and bigger is better and more is better. Now you have God on your side, so He’s going to bless you and he’s going to give you all the things that you want. Hardly is there ever a mention of a cross that we are to carry. Today I want to put the cross back into Christianity.
What does it mean for us to take up our crosses? What is the cross for the believer? We know that Jesus had a cross.
16 So he delivered him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus, 17 and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha.
Jesus had his own cross. Jesus never never asks us to do anything until He first does it Himself.
He asks us to take up a cross because He first took up His cross. His cross is is unique. Of course, there is only one Cross of Calvary. None of us are going to take up a cross and atone for anybody else’s sins. This is unique. This was the unique cross for Jesus and He took up His cross. He fulfilled His mission all the way to the end. He fulfilled the Father’s will.
What about us, don’t we also have a cross? The context of John 18 is Peter and another disciple are trying to follow Jesus. But we know in the case of Peter that he is about to deny Jesus and so his following temporarily ends in chapter 18. This other disciple seems like he went a little further but for Peter, he ends his following of Jesus in chapter 18.
The context of Peter’s denial in John 18 is in John 13.
36 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.” 37 Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” 38 Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times.
Peter is not lying here when he says to Jesus, I will follow you to death. He is not lying because we see that in chapter 18 where Jesus is arrested that Peter pulls out a sword and he cuts off a servant’s ear. He is ready to fight. To the best of Peter’s ability he says, I will be wherever you are and if you are going to fight, I will fight with you.
John 18 proves that Peter is ready to fight. He is ready to lay down his life. But when he sees Jesus being arrested and Jesus tells Peter to put away his sword, now the script is not unfolding the way that Peter had envisioned. Peter has a choice — will he keep following or will he back out? Chapter 18 is where Peter backs out. He takes the exit ramp. He wants to follow and in Chapter 13 he is so confident that he will follow Jesus. But things are unfolding in an unexpected way and Peter backs out, meaning he stops following.
We would all agree that the core of the Christian Life is following Jesus. Wherever Jesus is, that’s where I want to be. If Jesus is going to that town, I will move with Him. If Jesus is here in this job, I will stay with Him. If Jesus moves to another city, I’m going with Him. Wherever Jesus is, we’re following Him.
Jesus adds one important detail before following Him. He says, you must take up a cross and this is unique to you. It is your cross. It is not a one size fits all cross. It is not Jesus’ cross. This is your cross. Throughout the gospels, Jesus says we must take up a cross and he gives reasons why one might choose not to take up a cross. If you choose not to take up your cross, are you following Jesus? Is there such a thing as a crossless Christianity? You cannot say you’re following Jesus and there’s a cross in front of you and you refuse to take it. You must take it if you want to follow Jesus.
And there are reasons why we might choose not to take up a cross. One reason is pride.
24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?”
There is a crossless Christianity that says you can have the world and you can be saved. It says that whatever is in the world, go after it and Jesus will be there with you. There’s a choice, are we going to take up our cross? In this case, it is our pride which says, I cannot lose. I always need to gain. I always need to accumulate and amass things to show how great I am. If you are a proud person, you will not take up a cross and you will not follow Jesus. That will be one reason you will be disqualified from being called a disciple of Christ.
Today we must put down our pride. Did you know that if you follow Jesus, often it will feel like you’re losing? I can’t explain it any other way. You will feel like you’re losing monetarily. It will feel like you’re losing in your career and your influence. It will feel like you’re losing friends. In every way, the more you follow Jesus closely, the cross is there. If you take it up and you put down your pride, you will lose. But the disciple of Jesus says, yes, I know I will lose but Jesus, I want to be with You.
Another reason why we may not take up our cross is people.
26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.
That is quite a list! Father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters, even your own life. Jesus said you must hate all of these things. But there’s a humanistic part of us that wants everyone to be happy. I want to keep my family intact. We all have to be together. Your father and your mother may not go to church or they might just be church goers, but not really Christ followers, but you so want to please them. You so want to gain their approval. Jesus says, if you do not hate your father, mother, wife, children, even your own life, brothers and sisters, if you’re not willing to take up this cross, you cannot follow Me.
Meaning in the end, you might be the only person in the family on one side. Everybody else is gathering and having a great time talking about their careers, talking about their vacations, all their worldly achievements, and you’re on the outside. Jesus is asking, are you okay with that? Is it more important that you follow Me and you’re with Me or do you just want the big happy family? As a Christian we need to be able to hate father, mother, wife, children, brothers and sisters. Yes, I have to honor my parents, but there’s a season if spiritually we’re on different pages that we may have to keep a distance. Does it make sense that I’m going over every Saturday afternoon and hearing their critique and it’s wearing on me?
No, there’s just a wisdom that says I will honor them but I have to keep a distance. There will be a time later that God will give, when they will have ears to hear and I will be there. I will speak to them and we will have an opportunity to share Christ to them. But for me, I cannot be dragged down by anybody.
If I am the only person in my family, if Jackie and the kids say forget Jesus, and I’m on my own.
Well, I’m going to keep going, that’s what it means. You will keep going. Even if your loved ones are not on the same page.
If you follow Jesus, you take up your cross. It will feel like you’re losing in a worldly sense. Jesus says, what good is it if you gain the whole world but you forfeit your soul? That’s the risk you take. You gain everything yet you forfeit your soul. You gain all of your people and your friends. You have a huge following of people who adore you, respect and love you, but you’ve left out Jesus and isn’t He the only person that matters and our Heavenly Father? Isn’t that all that matters, to want their approval in the end?
Jesus says more forcefully in Matthew 10.
34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. 37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
Jesus uses a very harsh imagery of a sword. He comes and He’s splitting your family apart not because He wants to but because everybody in your family has an opinion about Jesus. The same way today people have an opinion about Trump and that is divisive. You have all of Middle America probably the majority of the country on Trump’s side. You have the two coasts and you have Hollywood and mainstream media hating on Trump. And you can’t even go to Thanksgiving and Christmas without worrying that the topic of politics is going to come up. I’ve been blacklisted by my family.
And Jesus says, it’s going to be worse. You think it’s bad to be a Trump supporter? You think that’s bad, wait until you see how things end up for the Christian. Even your own family will turn you in. Right now, it’s good. We’re not in a persecuted country. We have freedom. And so even if you have different opinions about Jesus, we can still kind of coexist. Maybe we shouldn’t visit all the time and be best friends with all of our family members.
But there will come a time at the end that the hatred for Jesus will be so great that even your own family member will turn you in. The same way that they despise you because you supported Trump. It’s going to be a hundred times worse because you say you’re a Jesus follower. Jesus said this is what’s at stake.
And so does it make sense for us to seek the approval of a father or a mother who is not on the same spiritual page as you or a wife or your child or your brother or sister just because you’re humanistic and you want everyone to be happy? There is a division whether you like it or not. There is a division if your family member does not see Jesus the same way that you see Jesus you cannot be close. It just doesn’t work. There is a division in your home sadly. It’s not your fault. It’s just because of Jesus and their hatred for Jesus. There’s nothing you can do to repair this until that person sees Jesus the same way that you see Jesus. So we might not take up our cross because of pride and because of people.
The last reason I think is kind of a hybrid between the two — pride + people.
34 And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
Did you know that the first thing we need to do is to deny ourselves? The pride in you says, no, indulge yourself, gratify yourself, build yourself up. Before we even take up a cross, we have to deny yourselves. We cannot hear God leading us if we’re proud and we haven’t denied ourselves.
Denying yourself means you’ve gotten to a place of neutrality, that we’ve so rejected our own desires that Jesus can say something and we’re not fighting Him. See, if we’ve never denied ourselves, no wonder we can’t hear the Lord because we’re always hearing our own voice and we’re in this is a tug-of-war. Jesus says, I need you to go this way. And you keep telling Jesus — I want to go this way. Can I go this way? You haven’t rejected yourself, you haven’t disowned yourself. You haven’t denied yourself.
35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? 37 For what can a man give in return for his soul? 38 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
It says the same thing in Luke 9.
23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. 25 For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? 26 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.
Why did Peter back out? Because not too long before, he was ready to fight for and fight with Jesus. He was willing to Jesus to a glorious victory, or a glorious defeat. He was ready to follow.
Why did Peter back out? Because Jesus looks so weak. So helpless. And there’s part of Peter that’s just ashamed. So shameful, Jesus. I know how powerful You are. How come You’re not fighting back? So weak. You’re not going to say anything? You’re not going to defend yourself? You’re not going to call down a legion of angels to rescue You. So shameful.
And Peter, as a proud person, doesn’t want to associate with that kind of weakness. That’s not the kind of Jesus that he signed up to follow. He wants to follow a reigning King, the Lion of Judah. That I can get behind, but this weakling? This loser? This nobody? Peter is ashamed of Jesus.
Jesus was inviting Peter, can you follow Me even while I am the object of ridicule? Even when life doesn’t make sense? Can you keep following Me? Nothing make sense to you, but can you just keep following Me?
Peter couldn’t follow all the way because he was ashamed. This is not the Jesus I know. I don’t know why He’s doing this. Peter is so confused and he backs out.
Why does Jesus say that we must take up a cross before following Him? And what is the cross for each believer? What does it mean to take up our cross? I think simply put it means you have no exit ramp. That’s what the Lord showed me this week. There is no exit ramp.
Even though life doesn’t make sense, just the fact that Jesus is there, you want to be there. You want to follow Him into the confusion, into the shame, into the suffering.
Everybody else is saying, no, save yourself. Everybody else is saying, no, protect your pride. Prove that you’re not a loser. Jesus simply says, just be with me. Follow me. Come with me. I will show you how things will turn around in a few days.
When you take up a cross, it means you have no exit ramp and that means you’re willing to follow Jesus to the end, however things pan out in your life. You are willing to follow Him to the end.
That means you’ve abandoned your script. You have nothing. Your pride is not dictating how your life should turn out. You’re not trying to gain the whole world and risk forfeiting your soul. You’ve denied yourself. You’re willing to follow Jesus wherever He goes. Even when you’re despairing, Jesus, you say to move and I’m going to go with you. Even when your heart is troubled, Jesus says, follow Me and you follow. Even when you’re confused, life doesn’t make sense, Jesus says, keep coming. Keep coming to me. Keep following me.
And even when everyone has left you, you’ve lost everything, Jesus asks, do you still trust Me? Will you still follow Me? Have you taken up your cross? Have you paid the price? Have you counted the cost? Wherever Jesus is, that’s where you want to be. That is the Christian life. Not a crossless Christianity where God is going to just bless you with everything. Everything is going to go well. No, you’re only commitment is wherever Jesus goes, I want to be with Him. I trust Him. I want to be near Him.
While following Jesus over a lifetime. I guarantee there will be crosses. I guarantee there will be many crosses to carry. You don’t understand why Jesus is asking you to do this. You don’t see the big picture. You’re confused. But you’re so confident that Jesus told you to go this way. So you’re going this way and people ask you, how long are you going to do this? And your simple answer is until Jesus says to do something else. I have nothing else to go on. Jesus says to do this, I’m going to keep doing this.
That’s what it means to follow Jesus, to take up a cross of confusion, of shame, where everyone is mocking you, even if the whole world hates you and you’re the object of that hate, still you’re going to follow. That’s somebody who’s taking up his or her cross.
Going back to our main text. Just to wrap up. Just an amazing thing the Lord showed me this week.
John 18:15-16. Did you ever wonder who is that other disciple? I never in all my years plus 20 years of reading these Passion Week texts, I have never caught that detail. Who is this guy?
Who is this other disciple? The answer is in chapter 20?
1 Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. 2 So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved…”
Who is that other disciple? It’s Apostle John. There’s only one disciple who followed Jesus to the end, literally to the end? It’s Apostle John. John is so humble. He doesn’t mention himself. He doesn’t put his name there. And if you think about it from Peter’s perspective, why is Peter even allowed to go in? John and Peter are often together and they are together even in chapter 18. John knows the high priest and so he got in and then he goes back out to the servant girl and tells her, let Peter in, too. And the servant girl asks, are you also one of the disciples? Like she already knows that John, the disciple of Christ, is there.
So was Peter in danger? Probably not because John wasn’t in danger. John witnessed almost everything except for the private discussions when Jesus is being questioned by Caiaphas and Annas. John was there the whole time and Peter could have been there the whole time, too. But he panicked. Because remember, he’s so confused. Even though John, his fellow friend is there by his side, and John is not panicking, Peter panicked. The servant girl just asked a basic question, aren’t you also one of the disciples? And he should have just answered, yes, I am. I’m here to follow Jesus all the way to the end. But he panicked.
And why does John speak in this way when referring to himself? In other cases, he says, he’s the disciple Jesus loved. But here, he refers to himself as the other disciple. I think this is purposeful. It’s because you can put your name there. You can put your name there. You are the other disciple.
And so when Jesus asks you, will you follow Me to the end? Like John, you can answer, yes, Jesus, I will take up my cross. I will pay whatever price. Even if things are unfolding and it doesn’t make sense, I will keep following, I will keep trusting. I just want to be where You are. I just want to be near You. I don’t care about losing everything in the world. I don’t care about losing family members. If I lose everything and the world hates me, I’m ready, Lord. I’m following You to the end. I have no exit ramp.
I want to be just like John. That’s why I love John. I encourage you to read the gospel of John, read 1st, 2nd, 3rd John, read Revelation. John loves Jesus. He’s not known for a lot of ministry, or other things, but John loves Jesus. He is willing to take up his cross. And he was there to witness Jesus take up His own cross for our sake.
I invite you to check your heart. Does your picture of the Christian life and following Jesus include a cross? Does it include denying yourself, your desires, so that you can hear the Shepherd’s voice? Does it include a willingness to lose everything in the world to gain your soul, a willingness to be shunned by your entire family or clan and even the world? Because you want to be on Jesus’ side.
The cross is is the exit ramp. And by taking up your cross, you are saying. I will never leave You, Jesus. I will never leave You. I will follow You to the end. That is what it means.
Repent of your pride, your idolatry of people, seeking people’s approval, the praise of man, fearing man, living under the gaze of man. And commit to Jesus and tell Him, I want to take up my cross today and follow You.
For John, he took up his cross in a period of such confusion, yet because he loved Jesus, he was there. Perfect love overcame fear. No wonder he penned it. He lived it. He loved Jesus so much it overcame all of his fears. He stepped into the confusion. He watched Jesus suffer. And he was the only male disciple to be there. Other than a bunch of women, John was the only male disciple to follow to the end.
And he leaves room for all of us by saying the other disciple. He leaves room for all of us. We, too, can take up our cross and follow Jesus.
Are you in a season of life that doesn’t make sense, or you’re frustrated, where you’re confused, you have to make important decisions? Meditate on what it means to take up your cross and where Jesus is leading you. It may go against what you desire, but you’re willing to obey Him and follow Him. And be called a loser in the eyes of this world, and to lose everything to gain your soul.
Wherever Jesus is, that is where we want to be. Make a commitment. That’s what you want to do with your life. Wherever Jesus is, I want to be next to Him.