Jesus gives this word in response to a rebuke that came to Him from one of His disciples, Simon Peter. Peter rebuked Jesus because he disapproved of Jesus’ prophetic announcement regarding His ministry and the things that He would suffer. Peter told Jesus, “That can never be!” But Jesus spoke to the demonic force at work in Peter and said, “Get lost. You have no idea how God works.”
It’s never appropriate when disciples try to rebuke Jesus, because we have no idea how He works. And it is not for us to know all of the intricacies of the working of Christ. Our charge, as His disciples, is to get align ourselves with His will and be obedient to His commands. And the way to do that is spelled out in what Jesus says here: “Anyone who intends to come with Me has to let Me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow Me and I’ll show you how.”
Disciples must let Christ lead. Our nature is to be consumed with self, to the point that we will not yield our will to Jesus’ will. Our world is suffering, and we have blamed everything for our suffering—ignorance, poverty, unfortunate circumstances. But it’s not that simple. It’s not ignorance or poverty or bad luck that has caused our suffering. The culprit is evil, predicated on our wanting to do things our way instead of Christ’s way. But to be His disciple, there must be a surrender in our hearts: “I will deny myself and do things the Lord’s way.”
Disciples must embrace suffering—take up our cross. Too often today, contemporary Christianity tries to hide the reality of suffering. And the cross symbolizes horrific suffering. Yet, Jesus says that disciples should not run from suffering, but embrace it. It is in walking the path of suffering service that Jesus transformed our lives, and it is as we walk that path that we can serve as instruments of transformation for others. No cross is pleasant—jealousy, prejudice, hatred, poverty, inferior education, etc. But our cross can’t destroy us if we’re anchored in Jesus Christ.
Disciples follow in the footsteps of Jesus. Jesus said, “Follow Me and I’ll show you how.”
In His footsteps, we must walk the way of love. Jesus said, “As I have loved you, so are you to love one another.” In His footsteps, we must walk the road of concern. He said, “If you’re weak and heavily burdened, come to Me and I will give you rest.” In His footsteps, we must walk the highway of prayer. Good things happen at prayer time—burdens are lifted; darkness becomes light; sorrow is transformed to joy.
Today, let us deny self, embrace our suffering and follow Jesus.