Jesus asks some deeply-probing questions of His disciples with direct reference to “the glory of His kingdom.” These questions come in the context of the Transfiguration and relate to how the kingdom manifests through representatives of the kingdom of God. While these verses are seldom ever related to the Transfiguration, taking them in the context of kingdom discipling, leadership, personal submission, and the glory of the kingdom is essential.
“If any will come after Me…” Does Jesus mean go where He is going? Continue following Him now that He has made it clear to them that He will be rejected, tried, and killed? The term for “any will” or “any desire” can be taken as a decision in this situation. Certainly, Jesus is talking about the conscious and well-informed decision a person makes to go where Jesus is going.
In the previous verses, we learn that Jesus is speaking with His disciples and speaking after He has informed them plainly that He is going to the Cross. So, He says they should be prepared to go where He is going, and by that He means the same pathway of submission and obedience He is going to take to Calvary and the Resurrection.
While this Scriptural passage has been the basis for many messages on salvation, being born again, and what it means to become a Christian, the decision Jesus speaks to here is about mature leaders submitting as He is to finish their assignments.
In this context, Jesus isn’t speaking about going to heaven when you die or being born again. Certainly, a discussion of this would be appropriate when preaching salvation and asking people to come into the kingdom – that is appropriate – but the proper context of this revelation, in the mouth of Jesus, is about the glory of the kingdom of God, as we will see in a moment.
“He should deny himself…” This construction of terms speaks to the surrender decision of the person who has decided to go where Jesus is going, to go with Him through this rejection, accusation, death, and resurrection. He is saying that He is denying Himself, and the pathway to following Him involves the same submission of placing all at the disposal of the assignment. The term means “to say no, deny, disavow” and is used reflexively, “to say no to one’s self.” This clearly says that going where Jesus is going will not be going the way you want to go, but saying “no” to where you want to go. That is, if you want to go where Jesus is going, you won’t be going where you want to go.
In the context of this discussion in Matthew, Simon Peter confronts Jesus about His going to the Cross, and Jesus confronts the spirit functioning in Simon Peter, the source of Simon’s lack of submission: “Get behind Me, satan! You desire the things of man, not the things of God.”
Submission and Discipling Leadership
Following is not discipling but necessary to discipling. You must follow in order to be present for the discipling: going where the Leader is going positions you to be discipled by the leader. If you are following, you are there for the discipling.
Discipling involves shared spiritual experience – you experience what the leader experiences as a means of transformation and preparation for leadership.
Sadly, I could present this concept to the majority of modern American Christians, and they would immediately say that no such submission is necessary to being “born again” or being “Christian.” This concept of discipling has been largely replaced with a concept of discipleship that is fundamentally flawed because it fails to recognize kingdom as the basis for the Ecclesia. The accumulation of believers has become the operative definition of “church-anity.” So, the definition of discipleship has followed that faulty definition of Ecclesia. Discipleship is about identifying with the accumulated believers, not about establishing the kingdom of God through kingdom leadership development.
Jesus is heading this discussion toward an experience He and three of His leaders will share a few days after this discussion. The experience will be a revelation of kingdom glory that will put what He has just taught them in proper perspective.