When Jesus taught us to take up our crosses, he meant that if we want to follow his teaching, we must carry whatever daily burden is unique to us.
There are three things about his teaching to remember:
1. Context is everything. Read the entire paragraph in both Gospels; in Greek, both start with verse 21.
2. Following “behind” someone symbolizes following a Jewish rabbi as a teacher. When Jesus says, “For any who would follow me,” he refers to someone being his student. When Jesus tells Peter to “get behind” him, he is telling Peter to know his place and not argue with the teacher. (‘Satan’ was a reference to both the fallen angel’s agenda and a sarcastic reference to Peter considering himself an expert to advise Jesus; it did not mean that Satan had possessed Peter’s body and taken over his mouth. ‘Stumbling block’ did not mean that the Almighty God could trip and fall, but that Peter was small, young, and shouldn’t act like a rug rat around the fully-grown teacher who knew what he was doing; and, for that matter, Satan shouldn’t either.)
3. Jesus talks about suffering; that’s what a cross implies.
Luke’s version includes “take up his cross daily“, which has some beautiful vagueness encompassing many ideas, including take it up daily and the cross of the day.
Each day has its own problems just as each person has his own challenges.
Some of our problems come from messes we have made. When we make a mess, Jesus forgives us, but we must love others and not leave the mess for others to deal with. At the same time, forgiveness is difficult; if you need to forgive someone then try as hard as you can since forgiveness, like love, is a choice; if other people need to forgive you, remember that it is hard to forgive and try to make it as easy for them as you can.
Our own messes aside, Jesus has tasks for us.
Sometimes we must be patient and exercise perseverance, longsuffering, and forbearance; other times we must work beyond exhaustion—any of these burdens could be ours for any reason.
Following Jesus means carrying each day’s personal cross.
Matthew 16:21-28; 6:34, Luke 9:21-27, Romans 14:4, 7