We hear the Word of God commanding us to take up our cross and follow the Lord Jesus Christ, and so read our experience into the text that our “cross” becomes rheumatism, shortage of money, an irascible relative, an awkward roommate, a personal defeat, or even (God forgive us!) a joke. But we are far too light on ourselves; to the first-century reader, the person who literally took up his cross not only was condemned to die, but also to die the painful, ignominious, humiliating death Rome reserved for noncitizen [sic] criminals, the scum of the earth. If Jesus is telling us to take up our cross and follow him, the “death to self” he envisages is not death, nor some quick step of faith that kills off some ontological part called “the old man,” but a painful, humiliating death made endurable only because Jesus physically passed this way first.
D.A. Carson, Exegetical Fallacies, 103-104