Exodus 3:1-15/ Romans 12:9-21/ Matthew 16:21-28
The Cost of Discipleship
Do you know the pop star George Michael? He unfortunately passed away in 2016, but he was famous and popular since the 80’s. How about Andrew Ridgeley, do you know him? Not a lot of people know Ridgeley, but you will recognize the name of his musical band Wham!. Michael and Ridgeley were a pop duo called Wham! in the 80’s but few people know Ridgeley because he was overshadowed by the talent and charisma of George Michael. To be more precise, Ridgeley consciously stepped behind to let Michael shine. He was Michael’s best friend since they were 11, and the one who helped him out of his shell and gave him the confidence to shine and become a pop star.
I find this story amazing because how many people in the show business would make such a sacrifice? Isn’t the whole point of going into show biz to let yourself shine? Ridgeley’s sacrifice for their band Wham! and for his best friend Michael was a noble one and it should inspire all of us who want to be a good person.
Wham! and George Michael’s success would not have been possible without Andrew Ridgeley’s sacrifice, sacrifice of his ego and personal ambition as a musician, which is surprisingly Christia
Take Up Your Cross and Follow Me
In today’s gospel text, Jesus teaches a similar lesson. In last Sunday’s text, Jesus’ true identity as the “Messiah, the Son of the living God” was revealed. Now that we have established that truth, it is time the disciples learned about what it entails to be disciples. They didn’t yet know that following Jesus would bring so much suffering; that is why they needed to learn this. Jesus tells them that he would be killed and then rise again. Peter denies it, saying, “Never!” to which Jesus says, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”
You may be shocked that Jesus said such a thing, but the point is that, in following him, his disciples should not expect a secular success and glory. The glory of being a disciple is in the sharing of God’s love; that is the true reward. Like the founder of the Methodist Church, John Wesley said on his death bed, “The best of all is God is with us.” Our greatest reward as Christians is God’s presence and love in our lives, which will last for eternity.
Jesus sums up the reality of being his disciples as follows; “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” This is his expectation for us.
For today’s disciples, taking up our cross is just an analogy of the burdens we have to bear to live as selfless followers of Christ. However, to the original audience, it was literal and dead serious, pun totally intended since a lot of early Christians were killed for being the followers of Jesus. The idea of dying on the cross like Jesus was a serious business for them. They knew exactly what they were risking.
For us who don’t have to worry about dying on the cross like Jesus, it should be a wake-up call about how the kingdom lifestyle, following Jesus in our lives, is not paved in gold or covered with flowers. This lifestyle requires a lot of small and big sacrifices. Instead of trying hard to save ourselves, we should lay down our lives (mostly metaphorically) to serve others.
Moses Is Called
Moses is a great role model for us Christians because he was an imperfect person like us who responded to God’s call and followed through. Between last Sunday’s reading and today’s, he killed an Egyptian for abusing a Hebrew worker, and as the result, had to flee. He settled in Midian and married Zipporah, one of the daughters of the Midian priest.
In today’s story, God comes to Moses in a burning bush and calls him as the deliverer of the Hebrew people from Egypt. He is scared because he is not a confident man, but God promises that he will not have to do it alone. There will be help and guidance along the way. His life would change drastically. He would have to leave his comfortable life behind. The important lesson for us is that he didn’t say no.
The Cost of Discipleship
God requires us basically the same thing: God calls us as the disciples of Jesus and God’s hands and feet in our world. However, we do not have to be scared. God will provide help and guidance along the way, just like Moses was helped in his mission. He made sacrifices to work for God, to bring the people of God to the promised land.
As Jesus taught the first disciples, God requires us to make sacrifices to carry out our mission to make our world God’s reign on earth. Some of how we should live our lives as Christians is listed in Romans chapter 12 that we read today. We should love with genuine love, hate evil, hold fast to what is good, love and respect one another, work hard, rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer, bless those who persecute us, be compassionate, not repay anyone evil for evil, make peace, and so on. Some of these require a lot of sacrifice from us. For example, it is really hard to not repay evil for evil or not choosing revenge. And sometimes, it is not easy to not be haughty and arrogant. These are only a few. There are a lot more things to do or not to do as Christians. It is not easy living as Christians indeed.
Living as God’s people, as the disciples of Jesus, is not for the fainthearted. It is not without cost. But think about the things on which we use our time, energy and money. We invest our time and money on those things because we deem them worthy. Choosing a life as a disciple is the same. Because we believe that following Jesus, being a part of God’s family is worth it, we make sacrifices and pay the cost.
The cost of my guitar, for example, was several hundred dollars. My piano was given for free but I spent several hundred dollars to have it moved by professional movers. Likewise, we should invest our heart, time, and material gifts to live as disciples. We should also give up greed, arrogance, prejudice, and hatred to live as disciples. Let this week be an opportunity for us to renew our commitment as the disciples of Jesus. And remember; we don’t have to walk this life alone. We have God’s presence, help, and guidance. Therefore, let us not worry too much or be intimidated by the high cost of discipleship. Let us trust God through and through, and walk with God. Amen.