Discipleship (1) -- Following -- How far?
These words came at a crucial time in the experience of the disciples. Their initial response to the magnetism of Jesus had progressed to a deep personal devotion. They had returned from a tour of evangelism, when they had been given special powers of healing and exorcism, and they wanted to share their exultation with Jesus. Then came his question in verse 18 as to who he really was. Peter spoke for them all when he expressed their conviction that he was the Christ, the Son of God.
It was at this point that he took them into his close confidence. To be a disciple would not just be a success story. He began to unfold what the future held for him -- swift rejection and a cruel death, followed by the resurrection. To follow him would lead them the same way and would mean identification with him in it all. However little they understood it at the time, the words, `If any man would come after me' in this context meant a committal for life, for a wonderful purpose it is true, but at great cost. Christ needed these men to take up his cause there and then, however costly, that they might be his representatives after his ascension.
Christ's words come with equal force and authority to us as his disciples today. To commit ourselves to following him is no insurance against calamity nor any easy perspective, both in the long term and in the daily round and common task that await us today. And the reward of following? Then as now it is constant fellowship with him. `Because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved' (Ps 16:8), for he has promised: `Be assured, I am with you always, to the end of time. (Mt 28:20 NEB).
O Lord, when thou givest to thy servants to endeavour
any great matter, grant us also to know that it is not the
beginning, but the continuing of the same unto the end,
until it be thoroughly finished, which yieldeth the true
glory; through him who for the finishing of thy work laid
down his life, our redeemer, Jesus Christ.
Sir Francis Drake.
Further reading: Lk 9:18-26, 57-62.