Posts Tagged ‘carrying the cross’

The Cost of Following Jesus

September 11, 2008

Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them He said,  “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters–yes, even his own life–he cannot be my disciple.  And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciples.

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower.  Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to compelte it?  For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying,  ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’

“Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king.  Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand?  If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace.  In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.

Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?  It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out.

He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”  Luke 14:25-35.

What is the foundation of our lives?  What do we consider to be the strength of it?  And, more importantly, what do we think we get when choose to follow Jesus?

Jesus was popular with the crowds because they looked on Him with celebrity status not because of His mission, message or purity.  They travelled with Him to see what He would do next, that next miracle, that next story of the kingdom of God, which most didn’t grasp the significance of anyway.

What would it have been like to be in the crowd when Jesus turned to tell us we needed to hate everyone including ourselves before we could be considered His disciple?  What would it have meant to us?  Then He not only told us to hate our loved ones, He made it clear we would be carrying our own cross, which everyone in that day and age would have equated with execution and death.  A man carrying a cross was going to be hung on it, to suffer and die.  That doesn’t sound very rewarding does it?

Then Jesus tells us through three parables what He’s driving at:

1.  Estimating the cost of a tower and building it in that era usually meant protection against raiders and thieves.  A tower wasn’t just for show but a functional reality for safety.  In the story of the gospel Jesus is considered the foundation, the walls and roof, the doctrinal building blocks (see 1 Corinthians 3).  Anyone building an earthly tower would first figure out if he/she had the means to purchase the materials and ability to erect the structure to completion, otherwise they wouldn’t even start such a venture.  Jesus is telling us that unless we are willing to invest not only the foundation but the teachings as well, we waste our efforts just laying the foundation.

2.  A ruler of a smaller nation had better be pretty sure of his army before venturing out to war against a larger force, for if he’s wrong, death and destruction will result.  Jesus makes it clear that surrender is the only option here for the last sentence tells us that anyone who isn’t willing to give up everything he/she has, cannot be His disciple.  A ruler seeking terms of peace is in essence surrendering to the more powerful king before the mayhem of war destroys his nation.  Jesus tells us that if we do not surrender to Him as sovereign Lord and Master, we will be destroyed.  Notice, however, that it is not only those who serve Him who lose everything.  One way or another we all must die to everything–either dying through the cross or at the judgment.  No one gets to keep their stuff.

3.  Salt was used as a preservative as well as flavor for food.  Salt that has lost its flavor loses its primary role in our lives.  A person who loses the flavor of God in his/her life has lost the essential ingredient needed to be identified with Christ.  When we use salt, we expect it to taste a certain way and do certain things.  Salt that has lost its flavor becomes innert and useless for the property which gives it that singular taste is also the ingredient needed to preserve even the manure pile.  Jesus calls us the salt of the earth for He is the flavor in us; His teachings give us the unique taste and function for the rest of the world.  If we lose the distinctive flavor He gives us, we can no longer be said to belong to Him but have either perverted His message or let go of it completely.  In either case we lose Him and therefore no longer represent Him.

The end of the message is simple:  God created it all so it all belongs to Him.  Unless we not only acknowledge this fact but live in harmony with it as well, we will be thrown out like the bad salt, destroyed like the rebellious and defiant king, and scorned for our failure to pay the price.  God will not be the one calling us to account in scorn, but the world which practices hypocrisy themselves will call us down for ours because ours is a higher calling.  Those who follow Jesus claim the Name and therefore must live up to it in humility.

The investment is all or nothing, God gives no credit for cautious involvement.  Speculation and consideration is something we do before we give ourselves to Him not afterwards.