“‘To take up one’s cross’ does not mean to put up with some minor irritant, like a crabby in-law or a runny nose. Crucifixion was the form of execution reserved for the most despised and evil of criminals. No Roman citizen could be crucified without the sanction of the emperor; that form of death was reserved for slaves and non-citizens.
After sentence was passed, the victim was scourged with the most severe of the three Roman levels of beating… and then the cross-member was lashed to his arms and shoulders so that he could carry it out to the place of execution. There the cross-member was fastened to the upright member of the cross, already sunk in the ground.
Thus, for anyone to ‘take up their cross’ was to go to the place of painful, shameful execution. To use that expression in a metaphorical sense is not to strip it of its force. Jesus means that His followers must die to self-interest, declare themselves dead to the glories and attractions of this world, and be prepared for suffering, even the most ignominious suffering.”
–D.A. Carson, How Long, O Lord? Reflections on Suffering and Evil, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1990/2006), 75.