The Parables of Jesus
March 26, 2022
The Cost of Following Jesus
Luke 14:25-35; Matthew 4:18-22; Luke 9:23-26; Luke 18:18-23
“You know what a leader is without followers? Just a guy taking a walk.” That’s a quote from one of my favorite television shows, The West Wing.
It’s true. Leaders need followers, and those meant to follow need a leader. The dictionary definition of a follower is an adherent or devotee of a particular person, cause, or activity.
We follow the leader. We follow people on Instagram and Tic-Toc. But the type of follower we’ll be talking about today is best described by one of my former students.
“At its heart, followership is the complement to leadership. You can’t have one without the other. This doesn’t mean that followers are defined by what leaders are not. A follower is a leader’s counterpart, not his or her opposite.”
(Embracing Followership, How to Thrive in a leader-Centric Culture. Allen Hamlin Jr., Kirkdale Press, 2016. Pp. 4.)
Now that you understand what type of follower I’m discussing let’s look at today’s Parable. In it, Jesus says that there is a cost involved in following Him.
The Cost of Being a Disciple
“Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate Father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay, the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’
“Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.
“Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out.
“Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.” Luke 14:25-35
In this passage, Jesus lays out some pretty strong stipulations to be a follower of His.
- You need to be willing to leave your family behind
- You need to carry your cross
- You need to be willing to give up all earthly possessions
After reading the passage and then the conditions Jesus gives, you might be saying, “Say What?”
Jesus isn’t saying to literally leave your family behind per se. Instead, he is saying that He and His instructions for us need to come first.
Perhaps you remember a devotion I wrote several years ago. In it, I quoted the late Lee Iacocca, former C.E.O. of Chrysler. There was a point in his life when Lee realized his priorities in life were all screwed up. So, he changed them. They read like this.
God comes first.
Family comes second.
Work comes third.
Everything else comes after that.
Perhaps you remember in the book of Matthew when Jesus was calling His first disciples:
“As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once, they left their nets and followed him.
Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James, son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They were in a boat with their Father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their Father and followed him.” Matthew 4:18-22
Did you see what happened there? Jesus calls Simon Peter and his brother Andrew. What did they do? They left their nets and followed Him. They left their work their livelihoods to follow Jesus.
Then Jesus called James and John to follow Him, they did the same thing. They left their work and their family (Father) to follow Jesus.
We hear it often in preachers’ sermons. “You must take up your cross.” But, what exactly does Jesus mean by that?
Let’s look earlier in the book of Luke when Jesus says:
“Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. Whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world and yet lose or forfeit themselves? Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” Luke 9:23-26
On the surface, it may seem that Jesus is indicating the cross we must take up daily are all the problems we encounter in life. Issues like illness, divorce, loss of a job, and the anguish of enduring the death of a loved one.
But, that is not what Jesus is referring to. Instead, He’s talking about suffering one must endure for being a follower of Christ.
Perhaps you and I will never have to pay the ultimate price of death for being a Christian. But, Jesus’ disciples all endured hardship, beatings, banishment, and death for following Him.
What about you and me. You mention that you are a Christian during a conversation, and immediately the conversation cools. Have you ever walked into a store with a Christian t-shirt on? Someone stops to read your shirt, then they look at you and say, “Oh, you’re one of those.” It’s happened to me. It’s the price we pay for being a Christ-follower.
Finally, Jesus said, you need to be willing to give up all earthly possessions. That’s a tough one, isn’t it? Perhaps you remember the rich young ruler.
“A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.”
“All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said.
When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
When he heard this, he became very sad because he was very wealthy.” Luke 18:18-23
Jesus came right out and told the ruler what He needed to do. But, he just couldn’t bring himself to do what Jesus asked. His earthly wealth was more important than eternity. Unfortunately, He couldn’t see beyond what was right in front of him.
Being a disciple of Jesus is not for the faint of heart. You can’t make a half-hearted commitment to Jesus. You’re either all in or not in at all.
“What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?”
Dear Jesus. When you came to earth, you were all in. You gave everything of yourself, including your life. You taught us that there are no halfway measures when following You. Let us never lose sight that following you means not just love and loyalty but sacrifice. Amen.