And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
There were a lot of people who clamored around Jesus for different reasons. Some were drawn in by the miracles, hoping for a spectacle. Some had needs and desired for Jesus to intervene. Some were hostile and were hoping to trip Him up or find fault. Some went away disappointed, like the rich young ruler. Others went away rejoicing. Some went away forgiven, having accepting Jesus’ gift of grace, while others only went away the same as they were when they had come to Him. But still others believed on Him and loved Him and desired to follow Him, to serve Him, to be His disciples.
It is, first of all, a choice we make. Jesus calls, but we have to choose whether we will follow. It is also a position we take behind Jesus, willing to forsake ourselves and everything else in exchange for Jesus’ way. We can accompany Him as disciples, intending to learn from Him and live as He does. And it always involves a nearness to Jesus, reliance upon Him, and obedience to His Word.
It is an invitation open to anyone. Whoever desires to live for God, whoever will abide in Christ, whoever is willing to follow that path may be His disciple. Jesus never forces anyone to do anything. He doesn’t bribe or coerce or try to trick us into doing something we don’t want to do. But He invites us along and always with the expectations clearly laid out. Because following Jesus does require something of us. It must be a surrender of everything in us for everything in Him.
Are we willing to follow Jesus? His grace and His mercy draw us to Him. His kindness and compassion draw us to Him. His miracles and His mighty works draw us to Him. But those things only keep us following for a time. But are we willing to deny ourselves? Are we willing to take up our cross? Are we willing to follow when it’s challenging, when it requires something of us, when we’re despised and rejected, when it hurts? May we be willing to make that choice to follow Jesus always and to follow Jesus only.