Luke 14:24-35 “Cost of Discipleship”
This last week I was down at the Big Save Store here. My favorite check-out person was on the register (bless her heart). After self-checkout nonsense at other retailers, I actually look forward to that friendly face! I had to ask her why I had not seen her on the register for a while. She commented back “Oh, I have just been busy going around raising prices in the aisles for the last few months.”
“I hope that means that you got a raise too!” I joked. She did not smile at the joke.
Oh yes, the cost of everything is going up these days. In our family growing up, my father used to say “We are all getting poorer.” He would then tell stories of how my grandmother would shop twice a day in Germany, once at noon and once at five pm before the stores closed because by morning the next day the money she had would be worthless. Yes, my grandfather was paid twice a day, and my Omi would go get his pay and run to the store before the money was worthless. Inflation was unimaginable—it was easier just to say, “We are poor.”
So, I wish to make this connection now between “the cost of discipleship” and the poorness of our own faith. Following Jesus costs a lot, but if you are rich in faith, that cost is covered. Honestly, I feel as if the cost of being a Christian is in fact rising, inflating, but we are still good because we have the faith to cover it.
In the bible reading, the cost is listed that we may have to “hate” our family. “Hate” is such a strong word. Yes, the word in Greek is rightly translated as “hate.” Admittedly we misuse it in modern American English however. We often say such things as “Oh I really hate the self-checkout at the big box stores.” Honestly, I do not “hate” the self-checkout. I just prefer the store clerk. WE exaggerate the term “hate” all the time. We need to be careful with the hyperboles. The truth is that the self-checkout tests me considerably. Every time I use one I have to call an employee to fix it anyway.
So, Jesus is talking to a whole bunch of would-be followers—probably around five hundred or so. He is testing their faith. WE are not allowed to test one another’s faith, but the Lord is. Right? What is your strategy for being a Christian? That is what is being asked of us.
I want us all to consider this: What is the number one commandment of Jesus? What are we most specifically asked to do for Christ? Yes, it is the Great Commandment of Jesus Christ (Matthew 22:35-40): “Love God, and love your neighbor as yourself.” Keeping that in mind, if your family is suddenly forsaken due to your faith, will you not immediately gain them back in love?!
I believe that Luke is including this part of Jesus’ teaching now specifically because the Christians in the early church that are reading this have in fact forsaken their families to become followers of Christ. Most of the early Christians were officially disowned by their kin. Their mothers and fathers were still worshipping in the Synagogues or Roman temples. By this time Emperor Nero has already blamed the Christians for the burning of Rome (by the way, we did not do it). Christians were being martyred by being thrown to the lions.
That is quite a difficult thing for us to imagine this day here on Kauai that those folks in the past who decided to follow Jesus were really putting their lives on the line. So, Jesus asks “Are you willing to lose your life—in order to gain it?” Do you have the faith to make that leap?
The next thing Jesus says is that we must be willing to pick up and bear His Cross. Since we are talking about the strategy in all of this, I wish you to consider how it is possible to pick up the Cross of Christ while carrying so many other burdens? That is right, in order to pick up the cross you got to lay your burdens down.
What I find truly fascinating in this statement is that the people that Jesus is saying this to do not know that Jesus is going to be crucified. They do not yet know that Jesus will die, go to the tomb, rise on the third day, and ascend to heaven! You see, we are the “post-Easter” followers of Christ. We have the full picture. We have seen the resurrection! Those poor blokes in that day listening to Christ are being told they will be crucified for their faith. Done.
By the time Luke is sharing this with the church, many of their fellow church members have in fact been crucified just like Jesus was. This was about the time that Saint Peter goes to the Cross in Rome—being hung upside down as he felt unworthy to die in the same manner as his Lord.
And, in Luke’s time the people know the story of Simon of Cyrene who actually did see the Lord suffering carrying the Cross to Golgotha and picked it up for him. He shared the grief of the Cross of Christ without having to die in that time. Maybe you do not have to die outright for your faith, but you must share in the grief and suffering that Christ went through.
The next two things that Jesus mentions to this crowd really hits on the understanding of having a Christian strategy by which to live. Nobody starts building a building without thinking how to finish it! We just not too long ago had a building project here at our own church. We had to hire an architect, get permits, raise funds, get grants, engage the construction company. Then finally the work started, and then after completing about a third of the work, the construction company says “Sorry, we are contracted to start another job now. We will hopefully get back to you.” And, they never really did! We ended up hiring our own carpenter and doing much of the work ourselves to finish the job. Never saw that coming!
I am reminded that before Jesus was a traveling Messiah, his trade was carpentry. He knew firsthand what he was talking about. You have to have a plan. Even in his ministry, he had it all planned out. He knew what he was building. We are today still part of the plan for the building of the Kingdom of God. We all need to just look at the drawings that Jesus left for us and continue to build on His foundation.
Even in war, one must have a strategy. You have to first know what you are up against. I have to point out that Jesus is not actually advocating violence here—just like he was not advocating hating your family. He actually says that if you see 20,000 troops against you, maybe you ought to sue for peace. Just go ahead and surrender. In this way, you can live to fight another day and in another way. Spiritual surrender is just fine. Spiritual peace is just fine. Spiritual warfare? Make sure you have a winning strategy if you are going to have to fight it out!
Just remember that Jesus was born as the Prince of Peace in a quiet stable. He did not come with an army to destroy. This is not the Christian way. This is not how we win the Kingdom for God. How do we win?
The last analogy to salt losing its flavor is the key to this new strategy of winning the Kingdom of God. In the day, folks would add salt to their soups and stews by dropping a rock that contained salt into the pot. So, they did not just pour out from the saltshaker. This is the salt/rock that Jesus is talking about.
Maybe in this world we Christians find ourselves in a kind of a stew. We are definitely in a lot of hot water! We need to let the love of God, the grace of Jesus, leech out of us into the surrounding goop that is the world today. We have it within us to change the flavor of the pot.
This analogy reminds me of the fact that back in that day, they did not have chilli paste, ground curry powder, or Tobasco sauce. Shootz, they did not even have Fig Newtons back then. I am sure that if they had had, Jesus would have spiced it up a bit! We can change the world just by being in it! What a great strategy! Give the flavor of Jesus to others!
Are you going to be a disciple of Christ? Be the salt! Make the difference! Think it out for yourself how to live your life in this world, knowing that you are building the Kingdom of God.