"Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me." - Luke 9:23
I recently heard an old sermon podcast by one of my former pastors. He was speaking on the topic of Discipleship. One of the things that he said was that whenever a young Hebrew boy was chosen to be a student of a rabbi in Jesus' day, the rabbi's priceless invitation only included two words, "Follow Me."
Instantly, the young student would drop whatever it was he was doing and become a follower of the rabbi. He described how the new disciple would learn everything that the rabbi did... he spent every waking hour learning what the rabbi thought, how he ate, what he ate, believe what he did, and this new disciple would be (or would want to be) just like the rabbi.
Jesus has issued those exact words to us... "Follow Me." These are the same words he issued to the twelve. And these were the same words he issued to Peter when he was restored in the Feed My Sheep passage in John 21... You remember the story... After Peter had denied that he knew Jesus three times (after Jesus' arrest, while at the home of the High Priest), the rooster crowed. Later, after the resurrection, Jesus told the girls at the tomb to tell His disciples and Peter that He was alive and to meet Him in Galilee. The disciples didn't get there until later. Peter decided to go fishing. The rest of the disciples joined him. (Personally, I think they were probably needing to blow off some steam and did that in the best way that they knew -- to fish.) It was there that they saw Jesus on the shore making breakfast for them. They had fished all night long and hadn't caught anything. Then Jesus told them to cast the net on the other side of the boat! They caught 153 fish!!! It was there during breakfast where Jesus pulled Peter aside and asked him three different times whether he loved Him... Then Jesus lovingly told Peter to "Follow Me."
Following Jesus would probably mean that we spend our time learning from Him. We spend time in His word. We spend time in prayer and Bible Study. We may find ourselves in a small group learning from other followers what the Master taught. We learn what He likes and what He doesn't. And a Christ-follower, a disciple of Rabbi Jesus will want to be just like Him.
But cross bearing is not easy. You may be mocked and stripped naked emotionally by an irreverent crowd of on-watchers. You may find yourself bullied and beaten down by others who do not know or love The Rabbi Whom you are following. You may be spat upon. Laughed at. Mocked. And you may get a few splinters in your heart. Some of us may actually even face physical death for Following Him (just ask some brothers and sisters in the Underground Church! God is moving in spite of laws, but that's another post for another day!)
So... we find ourselves daily plodding down a road, walking where He has gone before us, following diligently in the Master's steps... and at some point along the road, we realize it is to His Via Dolorosa where He is leading us.... There we lay down our rights to ourselves.... our selfish ambition and our pride... we lay down the sin that so easily entangles and fix our eyes on Jesus (as Hebrews 12:1-2 tells us)... and then the hammer falls. In gratefulness we find that all of who we are was nailed to His tree on Golgatha... where He took the punishment for us all. (2 Cor. 5:21) Blow by blow, day by day, self is crucified (Gal. 2:20.) And by His mercy, we are then set free. Set free to live victoriously ... over sin.... over death... Set free to follow Him.
Then tomorrow, and tomorrow and tomorrow again... we will hear The Rabbi's Invitation issued once again to us: "Follow Me."