This has to be one of the hardest verses in the Bible to do, and do well. This verse says that if we want to follow Jesus we must make a conscious decision to renounce our old self and instead follow the example of our crucified Christ. And no one, including Jesus, Himself, ever said it would be easy, for there is a tremendous cost to following the Lord. Considering it takes daily getting our priorities right and properly arranging our lives so that Jesus ranks supreme in everything we do, carrying our cross becomes a trial of faith and obedience.
On many occasions Jesus told someone to “Follow Me.” Some did, but many did not. First off, we humans don’t like to be told what to do…we don’t like rules, especially rules on God’s terms not ours. But also, our selfish and controlling self wants to put “Following Jesus” in a neat well-defined package…like only on Sunday mornings in Church, while the rest of the week we’ll live for ourselves. But when Jesus says, “Follow Me” there is no room for negotiations…for He is God and we are not. That means we are to follow Him in faith, trust, and obedience, not the other way around…for it’s His agenda and His mission, not ours.
Whether you like it or not, you’re setting an example every day to those you come in contact with. It can be a good example, full of integrity and Christ-likeness…or it can be a bad example, full of worldliness and corruption. I Peter 2:21 tells us that we are an example to the world around us as we follow in Christ’s steps and this means in everyday living and speaking we are to imitate Him…emulating and patterning ourselves in His image.
Accepting or rejecting counsel depends on our mind-set. If we respect and trust the person, we listen…for we know the wise words coming from them may sting, but they are sincerely wanting to only mold us into a better person. But what if that rebuke comes from someone we barely know, will we be as eager to listen? This is why it’s so important to build bridges of trust with someone before you attempt to correct or chasten them. When we know that person has only our best interests at heart…we’ll be more prone to listen and change.
From the moment Jesus beckoned that rag-tag group of fishermen with, “Come, follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”… there has been the decision of whether we follow Jesus or not. For many, it’s a sacrificial decision…knowing that they are at risk of losing everything. Following Jesus sacrificially means accepting the potential loss of family, employment, and even freedom. But Jesus assured the disciples, and all of us, that this sacrifice isn’t without great reward…for in Luke 18: 29-30 He goes on to promise them, “I tell you the truth,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the Kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life.”
Jesus never said was going to be easy to follow Him. By referencing the cross in this verse, Jesus not only implied how He would die, but he gave the crowd a vivid illustration of the personal cost there was to following Him. The Jews had been introduced to this horrific means of execution by the Romans, who used it as a very effective tool of humiliation and intimidation. This crowd had watched as criminals were paraded through the streets, carrying their own cross, to the place they would be crucified…their execution very public and meant to be totally demeaning. But now Jesus was telling them they’d have to deny themselves to the point of complete surrender and sacrifice just as the criminals they saw in order to walk with Him. Following Jesus will never be easy. It starts with the willingness to give up “self”…our selfish pride and ego as we learn to trust and obey Jesus. It means taking up our cross – our own personal journey – in order to have fellowship with Him. Finally, it means humbling ourselves to the point that when people look at us…they only see Jesus.
What is the cost of following Jesus? Will we have to make hard choices? The big question is…are we even willing? We could be like the person in this verse who was told to walk away from the spiritual death around him. So are we willing to give up the things of this world we’ve become so cozy and comfortable with to follow Jesus? Or we could be like the person in verse 21 of this chapter who said to Jesus, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” In other words, “The things I want to do are far more important than following You. Let me do what I want first, and then I’ll follow You.” When Jesus says, “Follow Me.” it means the beginning of a life-long abiding fellowship with Him…of trust and obedience…of counting the cost, but still following hard after Him.
For Simon Peter, he had come full circle from that first encounter with Jesus on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. He and his brother, Andrew, were fishing when this stranger approached them and declared, “Come, follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19) Now three years later, following Jesus’ death and resurrection and Peter’s denial of Him…Peter has been restored and re-commissioned. “Follow Me,” is fellowship of faith and life with our Savior…it’s both inner fellowship of trust and confidence, and outer fellowship of becoming more like Him daily. “Follow Me,” ultimately means counting the cost and determining it’s all worth it.