I think we can all agree that Jesus says some pretty shocking things throughout his time of ministry on the earth. Blessed are those who mourn…Blessed are the poor in spirit…Whoever wants to be first must be last…Go, sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor…Woe to you Pharisees, you hypocrites…Follow me and I will make you fish for people…
I could go on, and I’m pretty sure you could add your own to the list, things that have stood out to you as pretty shocking as you read them for the first time…or perhaps were still socking even reading them for the tenth time.
I could be wrong about this, but I think that some of his most shocking statements were made to people who wanted to follow him, who came to him and asked to follow. You see, in Jesus’ day, Rabbis took applicants for positions as their students, and the recruitment process was brutal. Applicants were told to recite whole books of the Old Testament (can you imagine reciting the book of Numbers from memory!?!?!?), or answer questions about obscure people or figures in the scriptures.
So it made some sense that people who came to Jesus asking to be his disciples met some pretty strict questioning…but it was not the kind of questioning that they were expecting. More often than not Jesus questioned these potential followers, not about their memorization techniques or how faithfully they followed the rules of the Jewish religious system, but about whether they were willing to accept the cost of following him.
He said things like: From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law. (Luke 12:52-53)
Or: Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 10:39), and then there’s the story of the three men who desire to follow Jesus and the rebuttles each of them received (from Luke 9)
In each of those instances, the unasked question Jesus puts forward is: “Can you handle the cost of following me?” We are under a great delusion if we think that following Jesus means simply saying a prayer for Jesus to “come into my heart” and that’s the whole deal. No where in the Gospels do we see this picture modeled by Jesus. In fact, we see the opposite. We see Jesus saying: you want to follow me? Fine, but it will cost you your comfort, your family, your freedom, your possessions, possibly even your life. That’s the cost. Anyone can come, but come counting the cost.
The clearest place that Jesus lays this out is in Luke 14:25-34. Those are the nine verses we are going to dig into on Sunday as we explore what it costs to be a follower of Jesus. Read those words of Christ over and consider what he is saying.