The Cost Of Discipleship
57 Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to Him, “Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.” 58 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”59 Then He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.”60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.” 61 And another also said, “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.” 62 But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”
If you are familiar with the stories in your Bible, you would know that…it is not easy being a follower of Christ. What if being a disciple came with a warning label. Well…the Bible is clear that it will cost you a lot to be His disciple. You know when we evangelize and tell people about Jesus, how come we only tell them the good part, like forgiveness, salvation, eternal life and so on. How come we don’t ever tell them what it will cost to be a follower of Christ.
What if…we were to tell them…evangelize to them the dangers of being a disciple? What if, after we tell them about Gods gift of salvation through Christ, then after we tell them the cost. For example…your sins can be forgiven, you can have eternal life in Christ, but after you are saved, you will face some troubles. You will be hated, persecuted, you may lose everything that you have…even your life. Would you still like to follow Christ?
If anyone knew about counting the cost, Jesus did. In this chapter, we see that Jesus “set His face to go to Jerusalem.” Thus, we know that Jesus was fully aware of what was waiting for Him. He was living each day in the shadow of the cross. Each step was one step closer to the agonizing punishment that awaited Him there. Yet he pushed forward.
How appropriate that this was the setting for these three encounters about which we have just read. In this text we see that Luke shared three encounters from Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem to teach us the cost of following Jesus. From them, we learn an important lesson for today. Two thousand years later, Jesus is still calling us to count the cost of following Him. The question then is what do we need to know about this cost? In each of these encounters, Jesus gives us a lesson to be remembered.
First, when counting the cost, we must remember the reality of the consequences…
57 Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to Him, “Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.” 58 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”
We have to assume from the text, that somehow, some way Jesus knew something about the man in this first encounter that we do not know. We know that he took the initiative to offer to follow Jesus. From the response he received… it would appear that there were consequences that he had not yet considered. Jesus says to him, “The Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” Well, we know from John chapter one that Jesus was not “homeless” in the traditional sense. Yet his response tells us something about Jesus’ attitude about the things of this world.
There was nothing that Jesus possessed, neither was there an area of His life, that had not been totally surrendered to His Father. The basic, fundamental consequence of a person’s decision to follow Jesus is a complete yielding of everything one would otherwise call their own.
The Bible is full of what the consequences will be for following Christ. Jesus says in Matthew 10:22…
22 And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.
We also have the example of the early church. The apostles followed Christ to martyrdom. They were beaten, persecuted, and ridiculed. Paul even went so far as to promise Timothy that the righteous would suffer. It is altogether naive to follow Christ without considering the consequences.
What might those consequences be? How will it cost you, you ask? It will cost us our service. It will cost us our time. Energy will be depleted. relationships occasionally will be severed. We will have to sacrifice financially and materially. Our reputation may suffer. Our pride will be trampled. These, and so many more, are the results that await us when we choose to follow Jesus. We must consider the cost. Why would anyone endure such a price? Does it seem that the cost is too high?
18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
Not only are we to remember the reality of the consequences, but...
59 Then He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.”60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.”
Wait-wait-wait… At a glance, it might seem this lesson is contradictory to the first. While we are to consider the consequences, we are also to make haste. Indeed, this is one of the most difficult of Jesus’ teachings. This time Jesus took the initiative to call upon one to “follow Me.” His response seems reasonable. It appears that his father had died and he first wanted to honor him through proper burial. But we really do not know. We can question whether his story was valid. Perhaps it was simply an excuse. Personally, I believe that his father was aging, and he wanted to be around until he had died.
But however, you interpret his request, Luke’s emphasis is not on the man’s excuse, but on Jesus’ response to that excuse. We see that response in verse sixty. “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.” It seems Jesus was saying to him that there were “spiritually dead” people who could bury his father. However, God was calling him to a task that the “dead” could never do, and that was to preach the kingdom of God. He, on the other hand, was waiting for a convenient time.
For him, Jesus’ message was “Don’t delay” but “Go!”. Most of us are familiar with another man in the New Testament who waited for a better time. His name was Felix. For the large part of his life, he really believed he was complete. As a Roman governor, he had honor and authority. People knew him as he passed by in his royal clothing, surrounded by his personal guard. yet, something was missing. He never could put his finger on it, until he met a man named Paul.
The apostle Paul. How strange that a man who stood before him as a prisoner had something to offer him. I imagine he spent many days thinking upon the time that chained prisoner joyously shared his personal testimony in his court. To the eye, Paul seemed weak and oppressed. But Felix saw an inner strength as he spoke with boldness about what God had done for him. In fact, he was so impressed by what he heard, he couldn’t resist but personally bring Paul back on another occasion just to hear him say more about Jesus.
His interest turned into conviction. Conviction turned into trembling. Finally, he spoke those fatal words, “When I have a convenient season, I will call for you.” He was waiting for the perfect time. Acts 24:27 reveals that such a time likely never came as
27 But after two years Porcius Festus succeeded Felix; and Felix, wanting to do the Jews a favor, left Paul bound.
Likewise, the man in the second encounter with Jesus had fooled himself into believing that one day, his excuses would run out. One day, everything in life would fall perfectly in order and then he would follow Jesus. One day his family’s needs would all be met. One day, other duties and obligations would be over. But there is a dangerous argument in such reasoning. It assumes that if such a time did come, you would still be willing to respond.
This is why it is so important to respond immediately when God’s Spirit is calling you to be saved. Just as the thorns rise up and choke the seed planted into thorny ground, even so do the cares of this world suffocate the desire of one to come to Christ when a willing heart delays to respond.
This man’s willingness to serve was rejected by Jesus because it contained a qualifier: “First”. “Let me go FIRST...” Is there a qualifier in your life? Are there any “firsts” that would keep you from following Jesus? “First God, let me get through school, then I will follow you.” “First God, let me settle down and start a family, then I will follow you.” “First God, let me get the kids through school.” “First God let me get that promotion, reach that retirement.” “First God, let me...bury my parents.” See how it happens?
Until your first interest is God’s only interest, you will never experience the joys of the Christian life. There is an urgency that must be heeded. It is not enough to respond tomorrow. Jesus says “Go!” Respond immediately.
When following Jesus, we must remember the reality of the consequences, the need for immediacy, and... The danger of looking back.
We learn this lesson from Jesus’ third encounter on the way to Jerusalem. Again, one approaches Jesus promising to follow him. Again, there is a qualifier, similar to the last man we discussed. He wanted to bid his family farewell. Then he would be willing to follow. And again, Luke’s emphasis is not on the excuse, but our Lord’s response. We see it in verse sixty-two. It is a warning against looking back.
61 And another also said, “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.” 62 But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”
A farmer’s plow had only one handle. By placing all of his weight against the plow, and by pressing forward with his body, he was able to move forward. This would not be physically possible if he was looking back. It wasn’t a matter of whether or not the farmer could plow straight. If a farmer looked back, he couldn’t move forward. If he didn’t move forward, he didn’t move at all! The work could not be done. What a wonderful demonstration by Jesus of what happens when we accept Christ. When we look back, we cannot move forward spiritually.
For most of us, the greater the sin in our past, the more difficult it is not to look back. When we choose to follow Jesus, we must do so surrendering our past as well as our future. Not only is meditating on the past harmful, and detrimental, but sinful as well. When we look back, we become unable to see ourselves from God’s perspective.
For this third man, not looking back meant he had to sever ties. However, it may have many ramifications for your life. It may mean seeking God’s help to overcome guilt from previous sins. It may mean forgiving someone who has harmed you. But for everyone, it means letting go of an old lifestyle.
It means surrendering and ending the life we once lived apart from Christ. I want to encourage you this afternoon and say that there is not a single thing in your past that will cause God to reject you. There is not a single thing in your past that must keep you from God if you will bring that past to Him.
The same warnings Christ spoke to these would be followers two thousand years ago, He speaks to us today. But to really understand His message to us through these encounters, we must see the bigger picture.
Here is the good news about the cost of following Jesus. What he taught us about the cost on the way to Jerusalem, He demonstrated perfectly when He arrived. He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane and took into account the reality of the consequences of the cross. The drops of sweat, as they were blood, served as a cruel reminder of the blood soon to be shed for us. He also made haste, and was immediate in His obedience to the Father. He did not delay.
As the soldiers arrived for his arrest, He responded, “The hour has come...Rise, let us be going.” And finally, our Lord refused to look back. “For the joy that was set before him he endured the cross.” He continued to press forward until He could legitimately say, “It is finished!” If we are to become followers of Jesus, we too must remember the reality of the consequences, the need for immediacy, and the danger of looking back. Your past and mine… “It is finished”
Having now a better idea of what it means to be a follower of Jesus, can you say that you are a follower of Jesus? God wants you first of all to follow Him as Savior and Lord. But also, He wants you to follow Him on a daily basis as your life is surrendered to Him.
Because Jesus paid the cost for us, it is now possible to know Him personally. Jesus was willing to follow the will of His Father all the way to the cross. In light of all that He has done for us, how can we not heed His call for us to follow him?
Pastor Richard Santos
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