When Jesus asked the disciples what people were saying about Him, it wasn’t because He was concerned about His “image” or the kind of “press” He was getting. He was simply concerned to help them nail down more clearly His identity and purpose. “Who Jesus is” was actually the question all the Gospels sought to answer, but in this particular story (Mt. 16:21-28), Jesus had come to a crossroads in His ministry: He needed to take His disciples to a deeper level of understanding and commitment, and that required linking His identity in their minds with the cross. Scripture uses many metaphors and parables for discipleship, but the cross (Lk. 9:23) is surely the most radical; others, like being born again (Jn. 3), taking on His yoke (Mt. 11), being a clay vessel with a treasure inside, or carrying Jesus’ death in our body (2 Cor. 4:7-11), being “baptized into His death” (Ro. 6:3-4), simply reinforce the same essential message as the cross. What is this discipline that Jesus calls us to in “denying ourselves” and assuming His death as our way of life? What was it He really accomplished there, and how does it help me face my issues, fulfill my purpose, and live life more fully?