It’s easy to condescend to the early apostles. After all, they just didn’t get it. Right?
I’ve heard such sentiments expressed more times than I can count.
Nevertheless, it’s probably worth remembering, in this context, that they were called to be the Savior’s first disciples and witnesses and that . . . well, we weren’t.
Do we have any reason to believe that we would have done better than they did?
That said, Jesus’ rather stinging rebuke to Peter here does strongly suggest that the firm foundation upon which, just a few verses before, the Lord had said he would build his church was not the fallible mortal man, Peter. It wasn’t to be any mortal human being.
Compare Matthew 10:33, 38-39; Luke 12:9; 14:27; 17:33; John 8:51-52; 12:25; 21:20-23
These passages make it clear that discipleship can and often does require sacrifice. And I see such examples on a regular basis.
Our long-time neighbors across the street left some years ago to preside over the Norway Oslo Mission. Accepting this call dramatically transformed their lives; they put their house up for sale, and he left his position as a physician and executive at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center. When they returned, instead of retiring, he went back to work.
Other friends, from Arizona, were suddenly called, owing to a medical problem in the previous president’s family, to assume leadership of a mission in the Ukraine (a place that had recently been much in the news). They had very little time to arrange their affairs. He had retired, and they were looking forward to enjoying a new ranch that they’d just bought.
In another instance, a friend and colleague assumed leadership of a newly-announced mission headquartered in Istanbul. It was his second mission presidency.
And these are just three cases. I could recite scores and scores of parallel cases off the top of my head, where people have accepted callings or simply served others at considerable inconvenience and cost to themselves. (We’ve had other friends, for example, serving in Ghana, serving in the Congo, presiding over missions in Samoa and Brazil, and so forth.)
When Christ tells each follower to “take up his cross” (ἀράτω τὸν σταυρὸν αὐτοῦ) he’s advising each of his disciples to do metaphorically what he himself will soon do literally on our behalf. Accordingly, he has a claim on us.
And, by the way, the Greek word for cross, stauros, is used in modern Greek, with modern Greek pronunciation, as the masculine personal name Stavros.
The Lord tells us that, if we’re ashamed of him in this life, he’ll be ashamed of us in the next.
That’s a stern warning for all of us, but, perhaps forgivably, I tend to apply it in my own mind to academics.
I confess that I also tend to think of academics when I think of someone gaining the whole world while losing his soul. What price academic respectability? How much is status really worth? Academic glory is, in the bigger (eternal) picture, a pretty paltry thing. (There are some great passages on this in C. S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce.)
Of course, many lose their souls in quest of money and/or power. The temptations are everywhere, but they vary.