When he described this choice, Jesus had a decision that only he recognized. On one hand was a path that other people wanted for him, to make him king of the Israelites. They could have deposed Herod, put Jesus in the place David once held, therein fulfilling their limited, social understanding of who their Messiah would be.
Or as Jesus knew, he could give himself over to the people in a different way, to torture and death, sacrificed because humanity is too broken and sinful to honor goodness and truth when it stands in our midst.
Only Jesus knew that through death on the cross, he would become the ultimate King of all nations, the Savior and the mighty Lamb. Only Jesus valued that path more than becoming the king of a small, impoverished nation, fully under Roman occupation. See almost ever time, we humans will choose a lesser victory rather than the challenge and pain of acquiring God's purpose for our lives. Let me reiterate that - EVERYONE else wanted Jesus to aspire to being king of the Jewish nation at that time... not King of kings for all time.
Only Jesus pursued his calling, his purpose from God. No one else understood.
And only Jesus had to literally carry the cross to become Savior of the universe. For the rest of us our cross is not literal, but a description of our burden, our pain, that stands between us now, and the life God calls us towards.
The choice is always ours. We can live a lesser path. We can become kings of our own broken country. Or we can pursue God's will alone, and live the triumph only He knows is ours to claim.
It won't be easy.
We will have to let go of our false hopes.
We will have to deal in truth.
It will likely hurt sometimes.
It will take great courage.
It will require trust in God - the One who sees what we cannot yet see.
Yet it will be greater than any other possibility for our lives.
"Take up your cross, and follow Him."