(Matthew 16:24) “Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.”
The words of Christ should first be taken literally. He called anyone who desired to (literally) come after him (that is to follow physically his human body on the Earth) to take a literal cross.
I don’t know whether people literally following Jesus literally did it.
But to take a cross and move with it may seems the silliest and the least efficient way of doing things. If one bears a cross, he cannot for example cook a meat, cannot earn money for a ministry, cannot do anything useful.
Yet, we believe that the words of Christ are wise (that is efficient for a business, be it an earthy business or heavenly business). This looks the least efficient of all possible variants, but we should believe in efficiency of words of Christ.
The reason why Christ wanted us to do this, becomes more clear from the following Bible verses (Matthew 16:25) “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, and whoever will lose his life for my sake will find it.”
This mean that our main purpose is to stop doing the old way of our life. Not to do good but just to stop doing bad. Not only we should stop doing bad in this life but in afterlife also.
But now I should tell you what was a secret in the past:
I don’t know whether literal followers of Jesus complied to his commandment to carry a big piece of wood to keep their hands busy and to be able to do nothing.
But now we should not do it anymore.
The “cross” here means “gospel”. We should stop live accordingly the word of gospel, but move to live accordingly the spirit.
Read my book End of Gospel about switching to the next stage. In the epoch of gospel we were slaves of Christ (borrowing his cross not to be able to do what we consider good), but now he makes us free people, not his slaves anymore.