Warning! This passage and what follows includes hard sayings from the Christ.
“He was saying to them all, If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself?” Luke 9:23–25
It appears that Jesus delivered these words to “the crowd” (New Living Translation) who were following him, not huddled with his disciples.
And “He was saying to them all.”
A political advisor would certainly say to Jesus that telling the people that if they wish to come after him they must deny themselves and carry a cross, was not particularly good messaging.
Knowing anything about crucifixion, they’d understand that the guilty would carry their own cross bar, likely after scourging, walking in shame down a dusty street to where they’d die a gruesome death. On that road they’d know they weren’t coming back.
Paul elaborated on the “crucifixion” process looking back down this road less traveled.
I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. Galatians 2:20
Jesus also warned that the process of gaining the whole world involves losing one’s life.
Indeed such a sales pitch would not win many takers. Bottom line, following Jesus requires dying to one’s self and leaving everything this world has to offer. This was the stumbling block for the Rich Young Ruler (Luke 18:18-25). Jesus told him what he needed to do but he was unwilling to forfeit the world.
Those like Peter (and hopefully all of us) know there is no viable alternative to following the Lord regardless the cost or sacrifice.
As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore. So Jesus said to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?”
Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.” John 6:66-69
In reality, the words “we have believed and have come to know” are the essence of salvation and following Christ. Then the response to his true disciples is this:
“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
Ah, yes! That’s more like it.