Question 1: Jesus offers the greatest challenge to self-denial to his followers in Mark 8:34-38. Here he explains what Christians must do to become his followers.
What are the three things he says his followers must do in this passage to be his disciple?
Question 2: Jesus offers the explanation that if someone wants to follow him he must lose his life. But then he explains that if he does lose his life, he will in fact save his life (verse 35).
How can this be explained? The cross signified crucifixion and the Jews living during Jesus' time were very familiar with this cruel method of execution. To help us understand the context of this passage, the Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary offers the following insights:
"In the first century, crucifixion was one of the most feared forms of execution, used effectively by the Romans as one of the strongest forms of deterrence against insurrection or rebellion. It was a dreadful way to die.
Condemned victims were often forced to carry a cross-beam to the scene of the crucifixion. They were nailed to it, which in turn was nailed to the upright beam, which was then hoisted into place.
The horror of the cross will be Jesus' own tragic fate, but in what must have been to the disciples a shocking shift of emphasis, Jesus uses the cross and crucifixion as an image of discipleship."3
How could the disciples have made sense of this command by Jesus; and equally as important, how can modern day Christians make sense of this command to "take up our cross" every day?