Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.
This was perhaps a “rubber meets the road” kind of moment. Just previously, Peter had confessed Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God. Jesus then told them what the true fate of the Son of man would be—not an earthly throne, but a cross. So things were getting real now for the disciples. They were no longer just men following and learning from a rabbi or a teacher. This wasn’t about this life or this world or the state of Israel and Rome at the time. This was about eternity. This was about choosing this day whom they would serve. This was all in or all out. They were going to have to start thinking differently about their lives.
Knowing who Jesus really is and having even just the most vague sense of what that might mean for them, the question was, were they still willing to follow? What about us? It’s not an easy life we walk into as followers of Christ. Jesus said He would suffer and be killed, and we must also give our lives, in a sense, to be His disciples. We have to let go of everything that holds us to this world and keep our eyes on Jesus and our future eternity. And it is because there is something beyond this life that we can live differently now.
So what does it require to be a disciple? We deny ourselves. We are willing to let go of our own desires in exchange for God’s desires for us. Jesus did the same, obeying fully the Father’s will for Him. We lose our life, and we lose it completely in Christ so that we are one with Him and not living our own way apart from Him. We keep our souls, placing them in His care and protection as our Savior and Lord. We give up all that we can gain here for what we will gain in eternity instead.
Jesus went on to tell the disciples that the choice to follow is worth it. It may involve a cross here, but in eternity comes a crown. There is a whole new world, a whole other life to live in eternity with Jesus if we’re just willing to set aside our time here for Him. So we live like this world is not the most important. We can live willing to make sacrifices, willing to give our lives here because the next one will more than make up for anything we think we are missing out on. So may we be willing to lay down our lives totally for Jesus, as He gave His life for us.