That could have been me in place of Peter. How can I self-righteously think that I would have behaved any differently? Peter had followed Jesus for three years, watching as He preached, healed, and performed miracle after miracle. But despite all Peter had been part of, he still denied he even knew who Jesus was. Yes, it could have easily been me disowning the Lord. For any time I allow fear to mute my voice in speaking the truth of God…I’m silently renouncing Him…more afraid of possible retribution or embarrassment than speaking up. That’s because when I’m silent instead of standing up for what’s right and good and godly…I’m quietly condoning sin.
Maybe this has happened to you – You’re with a group of friends and the discussion takes a very uncomfortable twist against what you believe as a Christian. You know you should say something…but you don’t out of fear or awkwardness. Then you spend the rest of the night kicking yourself for being such a coward. It’s not that you blatantly denied or rejected Jesus in public…but in a way, you did. Speaking out about the fact and truth of the Gospel is hard, and rejection by some is inevitable…but that shouldn’t silence us from speaking out about what we believe in.
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.
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.
The story comes out of Matthew 21:42 where Jesus is quoting this Scripture to the chief priests and elders of the Temple…whom were not too happy about Him accusing them of rejecting the Messiah…namely Himself, Jesus. Continuing in the next verse, Jesus countered with, “Therefore, I tell you that the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.” Jesus was offering the gift of salvation to Gentiles…building His Church from those willing to accept Him as Savior. And as Believers in Christ, we are the Church. To paraphrase Ephesians 2:20, We the Church, are God’s people, built on the foundation of all martyred apostles and prophets, with Jesus being the chief cornerstone.