Chapter 4, “Discipleship and the Cross”
Bonhoeffer opens this chapter with Peter’s rebuke of Jesus and Jesus’ subsequent rebuke of Peter from Mark 8:31-38. Jesus tells his apostles that if anyone would follow him it is necessary to give up his own life. Jesus’ suffering, says Bonhoeffer, requires both suffering and humiliation, something which was a scandal to the early Church. From Jesus’ words Bonhoeffer says that “the disciple is a disciple only in so far as he shares his Lord’s suffering and rejection and crucifixion”(Loc. 1240). Jesus then releases his disciples to leave him.
The way Bonhoeffer articulates this idea is disturbing. He either demands that Jesus’ people reach a certain point of decision whether they will truly follow him or he goes so far as to require martyrdom of all believers who wish assurance that they are in Christ. The former smacks of a second work of grace triggered by our maintaining our salvation by works. The latter suggests that in the absence of persecution there is no salvation. Bonhoeffer seems to indicate that martyrdom is the greatest grace God gives people (Loc. 1272).
Over and over he points us to our works which make us genuine disciples and thus receptive to God’s grace. This works-righteousness is deeply disturbing.