Lukeby Mike Raiter
Imagine you have been following Jesus. You have seen Him healing many sick people, and then He has fed you a wonderful meal of bread and fish. It may appear that being a disciple of Jesus means that all your problems will be solved and life, from this point on, will be easy. Jesus quickly corrects this misunderstanding of the character of discipleship.
Jesus is aware that the presence of large crowds does not necessarily mean there is genuine faith or understanding. He asks the disciples, “Who do the crowds say I am?” (v. 18). Then, as now, people have their opinions about Jesus. Today, some say He was a great moral teacher, a deeply spiritual man, or a prophet. Jesus then turns the question on the disciples, asking, “But what about you?” Peter, speaking for all the disciples, replies that Jesus is God’s Promised Ruler, the Messiah (v. 20).
Peter’s reply is right, but Jesus is aware that they may draw the wrong conclusions from this. They will assume it means that the road ahead will be marked by triumph and glory. Of course, one day Jesus will reign in honour and power, but that day is not yet. For the first time, He tells them that the Messiah’s road of entry to His kingdom must pass through betrayal, death, and resurrection. Before the crown, there must be the cross. Before glory, there must be Golgotha (v. 22).
What is true for the Master must also be true for the disciples. They must deny themselves, saying “no” to their own agendas and “yes” to the agenda of the kingdom (v. 23). If Jesus must, literally, carry a cross to enter His glory, then those who walk the road He walks must, metaphorically, do the same. They must be willing to bear ridicule and rejection.
Discipleship may even involve paying the ultimate price: one’s own life. Yet, even that is a small price to pay when the promise is eternal life. The choice is stark: bear the shame of being a disciple now, or accept the world’s approval and God’s “shame” on the last day (v. 26).
What does it mean for you to deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Jesus (v. 23)?
What are the occasions when we may be tempted to be ashamed of Jesus and His words (v. 26)?