Mark 8:32-35 “Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. ‘Get behind me, Satan!’ he said. ‘You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men. Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.”
You can’t pay Jesus to save you. There is no admission charge for following him. Salvation and forgiveness and faith are all gifts. He is giving it all away for free.
But once you have the gifts, there are consequences. When you follow someone, there are certain things you are bound to experience. When I was in college, one of my favorite high school teachers celebrated his 25th anniversary in the ministry. Several of my classmates decided to attend the celebration, enough to require two cars. I was the driver of the second car. I was not familiar with the route we were taking, so I followed the first car.
In 1984 we had no GPS, no generic voice telling us where to turn. It turned out that the driver of the first car had a lead foot. If I wanted to follow, I had to go fast, really fast. When we drove through a speed trap, guess which car got pulled over? Not the lead. There were consequences for following my friends in the other car, right around a hundred of them if I remember.
There are consequences for following Jesus, a kind of “cost” if you will. “He must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Clearly, God doesn’t think about our lives the way we do. Is there something you are working for in life, something into which you are pouring your heart and soul?
Maybe it’s the career you have set your sights on. You have your education all mapped out, and you are dropping tens of thousands of dollars on getting there.
Maybe it’s the family you want to have. You are diligently looking for Mr. or Mrs. Right. Or you have been carefully nurturing your marriage, and you have not overlooked a single detail in how you raise your children. You have planned their every experience, so that you have this beautiful, tight-knit family, and everyone turns out a certain way.
Maybe you have poured hundreds of thousands of your hard-earned dollars into your house. You pay thousands more every year to tinker with the landscape, the flooring, the furniture, and the window treatments, because this is your dream home, your sanctuary, your escape.
What if Jesus were to come to you and say, “You know, I am in the business of saving people. Since you are following me, that puts you in the business, too, even if you aren’t a member of the clergy. I can’t explain all the details to you, because how a world of seven billion people all fit together in my plan is a little complex. But there are some people I want to save. For them to hear the gospel there is this chain of events that has to happen. Part of that chain of events involves you having to leave school and give up on your dream. It means that your spouse is going to die young, and you aren’t going to find another one, or one of your children is going to suffer a crippling accident. It means that your dream home is going to disappear into a sink hole, or be torn down so that the new state highway can go through.”
“I’m not trying to be mean. But remember, I am in the business of saving people, and you are following me now. I had to give up everything and die, too. If you are following me, you can expect to go to some of the same places I went along the way.”
Following Jesus through this life can be hard. It can take us places we would rather not go. But in the end, we end up with him. Losing our lives for him and his gospel will save them. No matter what the journey involves, it is worth it.