What is true discipleship? In our society today we crave happiness, comfort, and security. The mark of whether someone has really ‘made it’ in life is measured by how many assets they have and how much health insurance. This emphasis on happiness and security spills over into church life as we choose churches that are happy and promise security. To be fair, it was no different in Jesus’ day. When Jesus talks of suffering, Peter corrects him and says, “Heaven forbid, Lord, this will never happen to you.” These remarks elicit one of the most stinging rebukes from Jesus in the whole of the New Testament. Jesus replies, “Get behind me Satan.” You see true discipleship is not about happiness, comfort, and security. What then is it about? Jesus spells it out in our Gospel reading for this week: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself, and pick up his cross and follow me.” For Jesus, following God meant giving up his life on a cross. In a word, true discipleship is costly. In our Old Testament reading, it cost Moses his security and peaceful life in Midian. God called Moses back to Egypt to confront Pharaoh and the Israelite people before leading them all into the wilderness. This was the cross that Moses had to bear. This was the cost of following God.
What about us? Few of us are called to surrender our physical lives or take on dangerous jobs, so what should we do? In the Epistle reading for this week, the Apostle Paul gives us many clues. For example, “When God’s children are in need, be the one to help them out.” Do not ignore the problem but pick up your cross. What about enemies? The Apostle writes, “Never pay back evil for evil to anyone.” It is not about pride but rather about denying self. Finally, “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink.” All this is what is meant by following Jesus and being a disciple: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself, and pick up his cross and follow me.”
Old Testament reading for this week: Exodus 3:1-15
Gospel reading for this week: Matthew 16:21-28
Epistle reading for this week: Romans 12:9-21
Psalm for this week: Psalm 105:1-6, 23-26, 45b