His interaction with Peter led Jesus to give further instruction to his disciples about genuine discipleship. The order of his words are important. A disciple of Jesus is marked by three things: deny himself, take up his cross and follow Jesus. What does Jesus mean by these three details? I think he means repentance, trust and commitment.
What is denial of self? It is not giving up chocolates – that kind of activity is easy. Instead denial of self is leaving whatever we were and becoming different in our aims. A person who lives for self has not repented. Living for self can mean different things to different people. The issue is whether or not I have repented of who I am and what I did when I was not following Jesus.
Jesus used many pictures of faith and I would suggest that one of them is ‘taking up his cross’. I suppose the significance of a cross was identifying fully with something that could lead to dying for it, no matter who will try and prevent it. That is faith in Jesus – wholehearted allegiance.
But that is only the beginning. The disciple who repents and trusts in Jesus engages in a life of ongoing commitment. Of course, the good thing about discipleship is that it always involves the company of Jesus because disciples follow him.
Such disciples are helped in their choices by the process of evaluation. Should they live for the world? Even if they gained all of it, they would have missed out on the essential meaning of life, which is to follow Jesus. And they will miss out on the reward that he will give to faithful disciples.
Jesus here is not describing a special kind of disciple. Instead he is describing the only kind of disciple. We are not to assume that there is any other kind of disciple apart from someone who repents, trusts in Jesus and then obeys him. Jesus is not saying that they will be perfect, because Peter was not behaving perfectly at that moment. But he still only wanted to follow Jesus.