People came to Jesus looking to sign up as His disciples. There were times when His fame was such that it would have been considered quite prestigious to be numbered among the elite in Jesus' retinue. Crowds followed Him, hanging on every word, looking for another miracle. Some may have believed the rumour that He would be God's instrument for raising an army and chasing out the Roman overlords.
Three such "employment interviews" are recorded in Luke 9:57-62. None of the three understood that the benefits to the position of disciple did not include comfort, safety, prestige, or advancement.
As the Lord approached the night He was to be betrayed, He warned those who had become His disciples, and those who would in the future, that discipleship was not an easy road. As He washed His disciples' feet He is recorded as saying: "I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them" (John 13:16, 17).
A little later that evening He spoke about this again, saying: "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: 'No servant is greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me...in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. I have told you this, so that when the time comes you will remember that I warned you" (John 15:18-21; 16:2-4).
Jesus was an itinerant teacher. He had no home, no paying employment, no health benefits. His fame was fleeting. Crowds came, but those who truly followed Him were increasingly few. Quickly His enemies gained momentum, at first content to only criticize Him, but then they fell to plotting His death.
When we are tempted to want more, or be more, or expect more, it is wise for us to remember our Master. The servant, us, will be no better than the Master. If we are like Him in character, in word and deed, we can expect to be treated as He was treated. We will not be buddies with princes or politicos. We will be sought after, not because someone wants our autograph or wants to become a groupie in our entourage. Rather, they will seek us to mute our voices—perhaps even permanently. They will think they are acting righteously.
This reality is not something we want to remember about our Master. But it was something Jesus took the time to cement into the minds of His early disciples. It became true for them. All but John became martyrs for the cause of Christ—and he was sent into exile.
Peter writes to believers once scattered because of persecution: "Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ...if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name" (1 Peter 4:12, 16).
Praise God...even when the path is a hard one.