The Cross of Discipleship

Jesus was known as an excellent teacher. The stories He told were vivid, memorable and practical. The crowds swelled and at times were so huge that Jesus retreated into a boat to keep from being crushed. Jesus was also known as the greatest crowd-shrinker in history!

At the height of Jesus’ popularity, He would say things like those that He did in Luke 14:25-35. Let’s review a moment – Jesus had already healed a demon possessed man, Peter’s mother-in-law, and everyone in the town who was sick, a paralytic lowered through the roof, restored a withered hand in the synagogue, a near dead servant of a Roman centurion, raised a widow’s dead son, calmed a fierce storm, a woman with the flow of blood for over a decade, raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead, sent out His disciples that were healing and preaching everywhere, fed the 5,000, cast out more demons, healed a woman that was bent almost in two in the synagogue, a man with dropsy, and of course mesmerized thousands with His teaching. Whew.

Now, when the crowds are at a fever pitch, His reputation at its height, He tells them the cost of following Him. In fact, Jesus is clear – He states that unless you do things, you cannot be my disciple. Cannot here in the Greek means unable to do so. As a friend of mine stated, “Salvation is the free gift of God, it will only cost you everything you have and are!”
In Luke 14:26 Jesus calmly says,

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.”

What a sentence. We understand the word hate to mean loves less than and not actually hatred, but still, this is not the way to keep followers. The truth is that Jesus has to be number one in our lives, for He will not accept anything less. To be a disciple of Him we must love Him more than our wife, parents, children, grandchildren and any other human relationship. This extends all the way to loving Jesus more than our own life.

The first commandment revealed by God in His discussion with Moses began with I am God, you shall have no other – God wants first place in our life. We do not simply add God to our life. He is lord, master, savior, king, and we give Him our complete loyalty, obedience and faithfulness. Anything short of this is not Biblical Christianity.

Not only is there the requirement to love God more than any other person, Jesus addresses us right where we need it – “even his own life.” Often our chief competitor to our walk with Jesus is our self. We love us. I want what I want when I want it! There cannot be two lords for lordship is an exclusive term. One throne, one seat, and only one sitting upon it.
Jesus is Lord, I am not. Jesus is first, I am not. Jesus is primary, I am not. My relationship with Him is above any other human relationship but by submitting to His lordship, all other relationships will ultimately improve.

In Luke 14:27 Jesus presents a picture that every hearer would have understood, though not necessarily what He meant.

Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.

Josephus, along with other historians, reports that the Romans killed thousands this way. Whatever else the crowd may have understood by this command, it at least meant humiliation and death. We understand it to mean death-to-self with the goal of imitation of Christ. His will, not ours, His plan, not ours, His vision for us, not ours for ourselves. This process of death-to-self produces wonderful character qualities such as humility, selflessness, endurance, courage, trust, and an eternal perspective, not a temporal one.
Ultimately, we know we shall be like Jesus as we embrace His will for us. (1 John 3:2)

Jesus elaborates His point with vs. 28-32 – count the cost before you join into the processional. Are you really ready to follow Me? Have you thought it through completely? Are you ready to endure to the end? Jesus already has explained the high cost – love Me more than anyone else, including yourself. Follow in My footsteps in the way of the cross leading to humility and death. If you follow Me your life is not your own, you belong completely to Another.

Often we fail to understand the true cost: Young people that glibly enter marriage; producing children and not spending time with them, sacrificing what is important for what is not, such as trading the eternal for temporal items. Do we understand the cost of hurtful words once spoken, secrets shared, gossip spread, and the betrayal to wedding vows? There is a high cost to these actions and also to following Christ; we must learn to think through it. Jesus said, you follow Me it will cost you everything! Are you prepared to lay it all down? If you look back, you are unworthy! (See Luke 9:62)

As if what Jesus had said was not enough, He drives home His point with these words in vs. 33:

So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.

Jesus is God and therefore can make these demands. God will not accept anything less than being first. We cannot, dare not worship God and something else, including ourselves.
If we have failed in this high calling, and we all do, take heart. One of the greatest promises in all of Scripture is found here in 1 John 1:9:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

As we seek to follow Jesus, we realize how far short we fall in obedience to the truths revealed in Luke 14. This is not a surprise to God and He has provided all that is necessary to redeem, restore and forgive us in Jesus’ sacrifice. God loves us so very much and when we realize that, we will walk in the footsteps of Jesus all the way to our cross. Do not give up or in. Keep on growing in being a disciple of our wonderful Lord Jesus!