Jesus called Peter out onto the water because he knew Peter could do it. This is excellent master and apprentice behaviour, but when Peter doubted, he really doubted his own abilities, and Jesus lifted him up and encouraged him, “You shouldn’t doubt yourself Peter, trust in me and trust in yourself. I chose you, I have faith in you, you can do amazing things because I, the Lord of creation, have put my Spirit inside you.” Peter doesn’t realize what he is capable of doing with the power of Christ inside him, and that is what frustrates Jesus so much with his disciples. Jesus wants us to follow him and step out in faith, because he knows he will empower us to achieve what he calls us to do.
Jesus knows that we can become like him if we follow him. To follow Jesus is to be like Jesus, to have the same mindset as him, the same attitude and the same destination in mind. We are his apprentices, watching how he cares for others so we that we can go out and care for others like he does. We see how Jesus loved and treated people from a variety of different backgrounds. We see how Jesus lived a life of humility, generosity, peacemaking, patience, kindness, and grace. And ultimately, the way of Jesus is the way of the cross. We take up our cross and follow Jesus to his cross, where he sacrifices his life for others. To follow Jesus is to live a life of self-sacrificial love. Jesus sacrificed himself on the cross and in his life for the broken, the rejected, the marginalized, the weak, the shameful, the unclean, the invisible, the stranger, the despised foreigners, the oppressors, and even for his own murderers. We follow a crucified God. Our goal is that same cross, that same radical self-sacrificing love for those we want to avoid and even for those who have hurt us. When Jesus says FOLLOW THOU ME, this is where we are following Jesus to, the cross. Because the only way to experience resurrection life and power is to die. It is through the death and resurrection of Jesus that we experience true peace, and true joy, and true love, and true life. And when we sacrifice ourselves for others, we pass on to them those same riches and blessings of God’s kingdom.
Everything in me wants to control my life, and keep me safe and warm and comfortable. The will inside me is self-preservation and a desire for pleasure and autonomy. I want to do things my way, and I want to have everything I desire, but Jesus says, Follow Thou Me. Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me. Because he knows where our selfish hearts will take us. They will lead us to misery, and emptiness, and loneliness, and they will end in death. But the way of Jesus leads us to peace, and wholeness, and community, and after passing through suffering and death, we will experience everlasting life, life to its fullest.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” The call to discipleship is a gracious call, but it is also a costly call. As Bonhoeffer said, “It is costly because it costs a person their life, and it is grace because it gives a person the only true life.”