Thanks to Beth for this week’s notes. The passage can be read here via the BibleGateway web site.
In today’s passage, Jesus is talking to the crowd following him about the cost of being his disciple. It’s challenging stuff.
The passage opens telling us that large crowds were travelling with Jesus and I wonder if this is what makes him say what he does. There’s a safety in numbers and there’s a safety in being part of a crowd. As many of you know, I work a lot with young people and I can remember on several occasions young people becoming Christians as part of a large group. It’s incredibly powerful and often draws more people to accepting Christ – there’s a safety in numbers. However, sadly, sometimes, when time goes on, these young people fall away and grow distant from God. If your safety is in the crowd, that’s not a strong enough motivation to keep going when it becomes tough. I think the same thing is happening here; Jesus is growing in popularity, large crowds are gathering and there’s probably a sense of excitement but Jesus knows what they don’t. It won’t stay like this. It will become difficult; they will be persecuted for following him and some will even lose their lives. Jesus is warning the crowds that they need to weigh up the cost first.
Giving the example of building a tower and checking you have enough money first, Jesus draws the parallel to Christian life. Are you willing to hate your own life and pick up the cross and follow Christ? If not, there’s no point in starting the journey.
Jesus is nothing if not honest, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life!’ (John 14:6) Here he tells the crowd how it is. He doesn’t pretend it’s going to be easy following him; he doesn’t draw them in with diamonds and glitter; he tells them that they will pay a price.
There seems to be some frightening directions in this passage. Is Jesus really telling the crowd to hate their family? I think if you look at the rest of the bible, it’s clear that’s not so. What he’s saying is that, in comparison to our love for Christ, we must as good as hate everything else. As in, our love for Christ must consume everything. We must put him above all. That’s incredibly difficult. What does that mean for us? Well, I think it means that, if following Christ offends our relatives, follow him anyway. If our love for Christ is an ultimatum with our love for our family – or anything else for that matter – choose Christ. This is happening all over the world right now.
What does it mean to ‘carry their cross’? I think it means that they must be willing to be crucified for Christ – as some of his disciples were. We must be willing to pay the ultimate price. For us, that’s unlikely to mean death but it will undoubtedly mean being mocked, perhaps losing a reputation, perhaps missing out on worldly things but isn’t it worth it? Isn’t it a price worth paying? We get given righteousness and eternal life and unconditional love for this. It sounds like a bargain to me.
Lord, help us to consider the cost and to choose you. Help us Lord to pick up our cross and follow you, whatever the cost. Give us perspective when we are faced with difficult decisions Lord, helping us to remember all that you have done for us and all that we are gaining.
“Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked. For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favour and honour; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless. Lord Almighty, blessed is the one who trusts in you.” (Psalm 84:10-12)