During my freshman year of college, I took a New Testament class. My professor began the first class by talking about following Jesus and the joys that come with it. He ended his discussion by saying, “If it costs, then it costs.”
Looking back, I can’t remember my professor’s name or much about his class, but that one phrase has stuck with me for 10 years. When we catch sight of the joy Jesus brings to us through the sacrifices required to follow him, the cost of those sacrifices, the “what could have been”s, fade away and we are left only with the brilliant light of that unspeakable joy in Christ.
In John 21:15-23, Jesus gives a simple command: “Follow me.” Jesus pursues reconciliation, extends mercy, and gives the command to follow, even if that means your life.
In John 18, we see Peter deny Jesus three times. Later, in John 21:17, we see Peter’s shame in denying Christ. The passage says Peter was grieved that Jesus had to ask him three times if he loved him. Just as Peter denied Jesus three times, he is now led to proclaim his love to Jesus three times. Jesus then foreshadows Peter’s death even as he gives the command to follow him.
We serve a great God who created the world, pursues reconciliation, extends mercy and grace, and loves perfectly. His command to us is straightforward: “Follow me.” It’s a simple command, but hard when you truly put it into practice. It requires us to give up our desires, our plans, and our pride. It requires us to trust him. But here is the great thing about trusting him—he has something better for you than your own desires and plans. He formed the universe, he is all-knowing, he fulfills his promises, he has proved countless times that he is faithful, and he works everything out for our good and his glory. When our heads and our hearts believe this, then trusting him is easy. Giving up everything for the sake of the gospel, for the sake of knowing the Creator, is a fulfilling exchange.
Consider the parable of the hidden treasure in Matthew 13:44. “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” The man in the parable was willing to sell “all that he has,” meaning everything that he owns, down to the last drop of oil. He gave up the stuff he wanted and the stuff he would have said he needed, all so that he could possess a treasure greater than all of it.
The command is simple—“Follow”—wherever Jesus leads at whatever cost. It may cost friendships, popularity, jobs, stability, security, or even our lives, but we receive Jesus, and through him, we receive ultimate joy.
Following Jesus will look different for everyone. Even Peter needed to be reminded of this. After Jesus tells Peter about his death, Peter asks Jesus about John. Jesus replied, “What is that to you? Follow me!” Following Jesus might look different for each of us, but we all have been commanded to follow him, proclaim his goodness, pursue and serve people, tell them about him, and make disciples. For some, this journey might take you to the remote ends of the earth. For others, it will take you to your kid’s soccer game or into the corporate world. We are all called to follow him and proclaim him, wherever we find ourselves. For me, this is freeing news because there is no need to compare myself with others. I am simply called to follow him wherever he leads, at whatever cost.
Until we die or Jesus returns, there is much work to be done. So brothers and sisters, let us follow the example of Peter and let us look for the “joy that is inexpressible and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8), which allows us to say, “if it costs, then it costs,” and in exchange we will receive the ultimate gift of knowing and following him.