Death is where the journey begins for the disciple of Christ. Not necessarily physical death (although that may certainly be part of it — John 11:16), but death to self in this lifetime. The cross meets us at the beginning of our communion with Christ, not the end. As we encounter Him, so we encounter His cross right behind, and it has one objective — to kill. But O what a sweet death it is! The old man is executed, with his lusts and passions and goals and worldly attachments, and the new man emerges with one desperate aim, ‘follow Him!’ ‘Keep Him close!’
In fact, “The only man that has the right to say that he is justified by grace alone is the man who has left all to follow Christ” (Bonhoeffer). You see, until we become unconscious of self, we are not ready to bear the cross of Christ for His sake. Only a man who has crucified his self-will, can follow Him. Until we are aware of nothing save Christ, we cannot endure the cross. But, what is the cross? It’s summed up in suffering and rejection — never one or the other, but both together. A disciple of Jesus is one who shares both the suffering and rejection of their Lord. The funny and amazing thing is that this is our highest joy! It’s a fresh breeze to the smothered soul! Peace, not misery! We toss off our heavy burden for the light load of Christ.
Could you say with David, “For it is for your sake that I have borne reproach, that dishonor has covered my face. I have become a stranger to my brothers, an alien to my mother’s sons. For zeal for your house has consumed me, and the reproaches of those who reproach you have fallen on me” (Psalm 69:7-9) Does everybody love you? I hope not.
I pray that we all would learn to follow Him; to fling away our lives for the sake of the gospel. “To take Peter’s words in his denial, ‘I know not that man!’ and turn them on ourselves.” I pray that we would stop being fearful of the unknown, scared to go deep. I pray that we would embrace the cost of discipleship.
“Discipleship is not limited to what you can comprehend — it must transcend all comprehension. Plunge into the deep waters beyond your own comprehension, and I will help you to comprehend even as I do. Bewilderment is the true comprehension. Not to know where you’re going is the true knowledge. My comprehension transcends yours. Thus Abraham went forth from his father and not knowing wither he went. He trusted himself to my knowledge, and cared not for his own, and thus he took the right road and came to his journey’s end. Behold, that is the way of the cross. You cannot find it yourself, so you must let me lead you as though you were a blind man. Wherefore it is not you, no man, no living creature, but I myself, who instruct you by my word and Spirit in the way you should go. Not the work which you choose, not the suffering you devise, but the road which is clean contrary to all that you choose or contrive or desire – that is the road you must take. To that I call you and in that you must be my disciple. If you do that, there is the acceptable time and there your master is come” (Luther)