“Whoever does not
Take up the cross
And follow after me
Is not worthy of me.”
καὶ ὃς οὐ λαμβάνει τὸν σταυρὸν αὐτοῦ καὶ ἀκολουθεῖ ὀπίσω μου, οὐκ ἔστιν μου ἄξιος.
This verse of Matthew is similar to Luke, chapter 14:27, indicating a Q source. Matthew had Jesus repeat this remark in chapter 16:24, about the same theme of unworthiness. Mark, chapter 8:34 has the carrying of the cross as a condition of discipleship. If you did not take up his cross (καὶ ὃς οὐ λαμβάνει τὸν σταυρὸν αὐτοῦ) and follow after Jesus (καὶ ἀκολουθεῖ ὀπίσω μου), you were not worthy of Jesus (οὐκ ἔστιν μου ἄξιος). This assumes knowledge of the cross and suffering of Jesus. To be a follower of Jesus, you had to follow him and take up his cross. The cross was the Roman way of punishment and execution. After the death and resurrection of Jesus, it became a symbol of the death of Jesus on the cross.