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.
This conversation happened during The Last Supper…Jesus had just told His disciples that where He was soon going they could not come. So in verse 36, Simon Peter asks Jesus, ” ‘Lord, where are You going?’ Jesus replied, ‘Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.’ ” It happens so often…we catch a glimpse of what God has for us to do and we are impatient…desiring to heed Him immediately. So like Peter, we anxiously query, “Why can’t I follow you now?” But all of our gung-ho enthusiasm can’t measure up to the basic training and discipline we may need prior to God’s nod of approval. Over these years I’ve found one of the hardest words to accept gracefully from God is, “wait.” But I also know in the end any delay is only for my good and benefit.
Earlier in this Chapter, Jesus told Peter what the future held for him. But Peter wouldn’t let well enough alone…He now wanted to know what was in store for John also. This is when Jesus firmly reminded him that it was none of his business and Peter must focus his attention his own personal walk…not meddle into other’s. Sometimes we like to “help” God, when in fact, we’re actually interfering with His plan for other people’s lives. We think we know more than Him…but that’s when we usually get into trouble! From that fateful day at the Sea of Galilee when Jesus walked up to Peter and his brother Andrew casting their fishing nets…Jesus’s directive to Peter had not changed…”Follow Me!” He said. “Keep your eyes focused on Me and not others.”
Jesus had answered the rich young man’s question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” But when the young man arrogantly stated he had kept all the 10 Commandments from childhood…Jesus stared directly at him. Now Jesus could have called him out on it. He could have run down a list of 100 times this young man had failed…but He didn’t. Rather, Jesus looked into the young man’s eyes and saw his potential. So He gave him an invitation, but within that invitation was also a hard decision. A decision the young man sadly was not willing to make. We all have an Achilles heel…a area of our lives we hold on to, stubbornly clinging to, unwilling to trust it completely to the Lord. But it’s not until we surrender all aspects of our life to Jesus that we can fully follow Him. Jesus told the rich young man, “Trust in Me.” …and He’s asking that of you today.
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.