To understand that, we need to understand the meaning of the cross in that time and culture.
The cross has lost most of its original meaning today. It is shrouded in religiousness and mystery. It has become many things, from a religious icon to a fashion element.
When we see the cross today, it is a symbol of faith, particularly the Christian faith.
But in the time when Jesus made that statement, He had not yet died on the cross. So, in its original context, the cross was a symbol of death.
In fact, it was the symbol of a very cruel death. The Romans reserved it for the worst criminals. It was a form of torture and humiliation, ultimately leading to a long and painful death.
Why would He use the cross to illustrate what it meant to follow Him?
Jesus intentionally used a gruesome symbol to get the people’s attention. He did this to say that following Him was not “child’s play.” It is not a game and it is not easy. In fact, it will cost you to follow Him as a disciple.
Taken from "The Paradox of the Cross" by Randy Alcorn, Eternal Perspective Ministries, 39085 Pioneer Blvd., Suite 206, Sandy, OR 97055, 503-668-5200, www.epm.org