If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. (Matthew 16:24 NRSV)
Probably all of us at one time or another has played "Follow the Leader". It's a wonderful and fun childhood game. There is a type of caterpillar called the processional caterpillar that is an expert at following. These caterpillars follow one another everywhere.
Scientists have taken groups of processional caterpillars and put them in a circle so that they follow one another around and around. Did you know that these caterpillars will keep going around in a circle until they die? They don't stop, they just keep following the caterpillar in front of them until they die. They are not smart enough to stop following the caterpillar in front of them. Caterpillars are not very smart followers.
Jesus wants us to follow him, but he doesn't want us to be dumb about it, like the caterpillars. The caterpillars are not smart followers. Jesus' disciples were smart followers. They chose to follow Jesus. They knew that they could leave at any time. They wanted to follow Jesus and to be like him. They worked hard to support and glorify Jesus, and so Jesus blessed them and told them the things that God had told him. Jesus wants us to be smart followers of God, so that we too can be his faithful disciples.