Luke 14: 25-35 (Pentecost 16 - 2016)
“Jesus Teaches us the Cost of Following Him”
“Large crowds were traveling with Jesus …” They were drawn to his teaching abilities. They noticed his authoritative hold on their attention (Matthew 7: 28-29). His understanding of the Scriptures and the applications to their lives were unmatched. Mostly they were waiting for the next miracle to happen.As the crowds continued to follow, Jesus explained what it truly means to be one of his followers. The two pictures in the lesson are simply illustrating the fact that wise people evaluate what they are getting into before they commit to something.
- A builder doesn’t build unless he knows he can finish what he started (verses 28-30). He needs the right tools, the proper funding, the manpower, the ability to finish what he started; otherwise he will look like a fool with an unfinished basement.
- A king doesn’t go to war unless he knows he can win (verses 31-33). He needs the right manpower, the proper strategy, and the advantage of an upper hand. He will otherwise lose a great deal for nothing, or be forced into a peace treaty.
Jesus was asking the crowds, “Do you know what you are getting into?” Many of these crowds would eventually abandon him. Even his closest friends would follow him to the point of Gethsemane, only to realize they were associated with a man marked for death. Strike the Shepherd and the sheep would be scattered (Matthew 26:31). He was entirely focused on his Cross as he led these crowds to understand the cost of following a wanted man. He wants you to learn that cost.
Following Jesus means Loving Him More than Anyone Else
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters – he cannot be my disciple.” The word “hate” may seem so too harsh. Jesus did not mean that, did he? This is the Son of God who demands with fourth commandment convictions that our homes be filled with love and respect. What does he mean in saying that we must hate our immediate family as initiation into his kingdom?!Remember that it was only a short time ago that he explained that his sword of truth creates division (Luke 12: 49-53 – the Gospel Lesson two weeks ago). Remember this is a God who “loves righteousness and hates wickedness” (Psalm 45: 7). The cost of following Christ includes the reality that not all folks agree with what you believe about him, including people you know very well.
Will you hold firmly to the Word in your homes while some live as enemies of the Cross of Christ? Are you able to patiently bear the thought that not everyone you know agrees with everything that Jesus stands for? Do you have what it takes to stand up for the convictions of the Bible when people who are close to you stand in your way? Our personal lives become the very places where the conflict is most often felt: I would give more attention to my children if they weren’t so selfish and began to understand what a rotten day I have had. I would give my spouse more affection if he wasn’t such a slob; I would do what she asks if she wasn’t such a nag. I would enjoy family functions more if there wasn’t so much religious tension.
The Lord brought Abraham to Mt. Moriah to test his love and faith. Abraham was asked to measure his relationship with the Lord against his love for his only son.Would you have drawn the knife on Isaac if God commanded you to do so?Jesus pleads with first commandment convictions: Do you love me more than father, mother, spouse, and child? Remember that he does not ask anything of you that he himself was not willing to do. His gracious convictions “did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all” (Romans 8:32)! That enduring, sacrificial love promises to bear you up when personal lives grow difficult. We are following Him. He is leading, walking with, and supporting us with every step.
Following Jesus means Loving Him More than Yourself
“If anyone comes after me and does not hate ... yes, even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” I hate myself! We have all thought it. You may have even said it out loud. This condition makes a bit more sense to us. People who have come to know God’s law so entirely well, people who have become so clearly aware our sinfulness before holy God – we have rightfully come to hate ourselves in a true and proper sense. We can all relate to the situations which lead us, with Paul, to say “I hate what I do!” (Romans 7: 15) - for nothing good lives in my sinful nature.
Be careful. Remember how easily Lot’s wife turned her head back to Sodom, almost as if to say, “But Lord, there were certain things in that town that I will miss!” In a similar way, there is much that we love about ourselves which following Jesus would force us to give up. We secretly hang on to the “yeah buts!”
- Yeah but, Lord, there are certain areas of my life where I like to sin and I do not desire to leave it all completely.
- Yeah but, Lord, I do not think you intended for me to agree with everything that you have to say.
- Yeah but, Lord, I don’t know that I should have to be all that excited about the rotten stuff you have allowed to happen in my life. Don’t you want me to determine some of my own happiness?
- Yeah but, Lord, I like myself too much to think that you come first in all things. There are certain things that force me to look back.
We needlessly hang on to favorite temptations; to personal opinions that oppose the Lord’s wisdom; to opposing thoughts about the ways he has chosen to direct our lives. Jesus says, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom” (Luke 9: 62).
In Baptism Jesus crucifies our sinfulness to HIS cross. In Baptism Jesus buries our old selfish thoughts and ways. In Baptism he raises us up with power of his resurrection. In light of that peace he has given to us with our heavenly Father, Jesus promises, “If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation; the old has gone the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Jesus teaches you to deny yourself. Yet he is the one who loves you more than you love yourself. The price he paid on a cross for you shows that well.
Following Jesus Means Carrying Your Cross
Even then there is the cross to bear. He says “Blessed are you when men persecute you because of me.” Trouble accompanies those who claim Christ as Lord. When Jesus demands that you pick up YOUR cross he does not mean what HE did on Calvary. That was part of HIS suffering for our salvation. YOUR cross is entirely another thing. The believer in Christ who takes confession and practice of his Word seriously meets with a set of troubles unique to all believers. Jesus says “anyone who does not carry his own cross and follow me cannot – literally: IS NOT ABLE – does not have the power to – be my disciple.” What about …
- Bear the ridicule of those who hate you because of your Christianity?
- Handle all the lousy stuff that Hell throws at the children of God when they stand up for the truths of Jesus?
- Handle all the lousy stuff that society throws in the face of the Christian home?
- Bear with the messy church tensions that get stirred up when sin rears its head among the family of believers?
- Carry the burden of knowing what is right in the face of so many who will hate you if you do it?
- Carry the self-inflicted guilt of knowing when you are willfully standing on the sidelines, most of the time because you just don’t want the bother of getting involved, or losing whatever comfort zone you have nestled up to? Do you hope to rescue yourself from the cross by standing still like a face in the crowds?
We do NOT have what it takes to follow Jesus. But Jesus has it and gives it!
“If salt loses is saltiness, how can it be made salty again?” Jesus explains that salt that is no longer salty can’t be made salty. It is good for nothing, not even the manure pile. The only way to be revived is at the foot of HIS cross. There is serenity in this lesson. Do you see how focused Jesus is on HIS Cross? Do you see how capable he is to carry his own load and the load of others? Do you see that he has the power to carry the entire burden of sin, the enemies of truth, the threats of Hell, the darkness of death and take it up to Calvary, to that wooden post where he endures every ounce your guilt along with the guilt of the whole world. The one who removes your sins in His death, holds the power over all death, and has been given all authority in heaven and on earth, is the one who is able to carry you through this life as well.
He says: “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest for your souls. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11: 28-30). He says, “Do not be afraid of those who can kill only the body; rather be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10: 28). He says, “My grace is sufficient for you for my power is made perfect in your weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9). You do not have what it takes. But HE does. He has the power to lift you up under your cross so that his strength sustains you through the very life he has called you to live. He will raise you up as on eagles wings and give you joyful patience as you wait for his eternal blessings to be fulfilled in heaven. Until then we sing: (Close with CW Hymn 419: 1, 5) Amen.