These are hard texts, but they are good news because they show that Jesus is God and worthy of all allegiance. For if Jesus is not God, He could not have called for absolute allegiance. But if He is God, then anything less than a call to absolute, unqualified allegiance would have been a massive disservice to us. Why? Because Jesus would have failed to call us to place the highest possible value on what truly is of the greatest value — Himself. And that would have been equivalent to cutting us off from the highest possible joy.
I’ve grouped the parallel texts together and then put in italics some of the notable differences that bring out additional meaning. Then I include some texts showing how these texts worked out in the life of Paul, which I think helps us understand them better.
We are to put following Christ over any other relationship.
Matthew 10:37-39: “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. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
Luke 14:25-28; 33: “Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, ‘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. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost….So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.”
John 12:25-26: “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in the world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.”
We must put following Christ over our comfort, security, and even lives.
Matthew 16:24-27: “Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 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? For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.”
Mark 9:34-37: “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. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of me and 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.”
Luke 9:23-26: “And he said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? 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.”
There is a great reward for following Christ (and a great loss for not).
Matthew 19:27-30: “Then Peter said in reply, ‘See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.
Mark 10:28-31: “Peter began to say to him, ‘See, we have left everything and followed you.’ Jesus said, ‘Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come, eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
Luke 18:28-30: “And Peter said, ‘See, we have left our homes and followed you.’ And he said to them, ‘Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.”
How These Things Are Expressed in Paul’s Life
What it Means to Hate Your Life
Acts 20:24: “But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”
What it Means to Renounce Everything
Philippians 3:7-11: “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ, and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith — that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”
1 Corinthians 9:19-23: “For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them….I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.”
1 Corinthians 10:31-33: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to the Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of the many, that they may be saved.”
What it Means to Take Up Your Cross (and the Result)
Philippians 2:3-9: “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (cf. Colossians 3:4 on how Jesus’ glorification relates to us as Christians: “When Christ who is your life appears, you also will appear with him in glory“; this ties in with the promises of reward in the above passages, such as John 12:26, “where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him” and Matthew 10:32 “so everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven).
Romans 15:1-3: “We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, ‘The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.’” [That is, “let each of us please his neighbor for his good, even to the point of suffering — as Christ did.”]
Matthew 20:26-28: “But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Matt is an author, speaker, and consultant eager to help you do work that matters, and do it better. More than that, he wants to help you do your work and influence the culture in a gospel-centered way. Matt is the author of What’s Best Next and Creating a Business Plan that Actually Works.
He worked for 13 years at Desiring God leading the web department, serving as director of strategy, and helping build the ministry for greater spreading. With an M.Div. from Southern Seminary and experience consulting with churches and organizations, Matt started What’s Best Next to equip Christians theologically and practically.