A Walk through the Book of Luke
March 22, 2023
The Cost of being a Disciple
“How many ears do you have?”
While in full-time ministry, I would lead chapel for the children in our church’s school every two weeks. In my last church, the children were relatively young. Their ages ranged from 3 to 5 years old.
To keep their attention during chapel, I needed to be creative. It wasn’t a church full of adults and teens on a Sunday morning; it was a church with 50—60 children. Their attention span was short, so I used a lot of visual aids.
Sometimes the kids would get a bit loud when I tried to speak. So, I would stop talking and not say anything for a moment. Then I would say, quite loudly, “How many mouths do you have? Most of them understood and would reply, “One?” Then I would say, “How many ears do you have, and they would reply, “Two!”
My following line always got their attention and made the adults smile. “So, if you have only one mouth and two ears, shouldn’t you listen twice as much as you talk.” And they would reply, “Yes!” It took a few times for them to get it, but they got it after the first few times I did this in chapel. They understood it was time to be quiet and listen.
At the end of today’s devotion, Jesus says,
“Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”
Let’s take a few moments to see why He said this.
“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 unable, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for peace terms. In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.
“Salt is good, but how can it be made salty again if it loses its saltiness? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out.
“Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”
The teaching in this passage is some of the hardest Christians can hear. In the passage above, Jesus gives three conditions for following Him. First, there needs to be a willingness to leave family ties.
This was difficult for Jesus’ followers then and is still today for you and me. In several of my past devotions, I mentioned how we need to prioritize our life and time.
God comes first
Family comes second
Work comes third
Friends come forth
And everything else comes after.
I can recall hearing the above statement on a motivational tape by Lee Iacocca (Former president of Ford motor company and CEO of Chrysler) about 25 years ago. I recall that he said many things changed when he changed his priorities (see above). One, in particular, was that many of his “friends” fell away when he and his wife declined dinner invitations because they had a family or church event to attend.
The second statement Jesus makes pertains to us carrying the cross. No, Jesus isn’t talking about us carrying a cross around with us.
“The cross here does not refer to the afflictions and troubles which commonly come in life to Christians and non-Christians alike. Rather the cross means to accept whatever suffering might result for a sincere commitment to Christ and His Kingdom.” (People’s Bible Commentary, Luke, Victor H. Prange, Pp.108)
The third statement Jesus makes is in reference to earthly possessions. This would include money. Jesus says we need to be willing to give them us in order to follow Him. It reminds me of the story of 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.
Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
Those who heard this asked, “Who then can be saved?”
Jesus replied, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”
Peter said to him, “We have left all we had to follow you!”
“Truly I tell you,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.”
That passage has some strong statements. The ruler seemed to be a follower, but he was unwilling to give up his earthly possessions to follow Jesus. Jesus’ statement at the end of the above passage makes it quite clear why it’s important to follow Him with no restrictions.
Truly I tell you,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.”
Jesus then shares three parables. The first is about building a tower, and the second is about going to war. Both are about preparedness. We shouldn’t follow Jesus because it’s cool to do, and all the stories of His miracles, etc. Instead, we need to follow Him, knowing right up front there can be and is a cost in doing so. People may fall away from you because of your faith. Some people may criticize you, while others may try to hurt you because of your beliefs.
Believing in Jesus is only part of the equation.
“Only discipleship, only faith in Jesus and active faith (action) will save him from the fate of salt that has lost it’s taste.” (Concordia Self-Study Commentary, Luke, Pp.73.)
Finally, Jesus says, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”
“Fruitful hearing of the word is choked by the trials and temptation of this world, its riches and pleasures. The follower of Jesus needs to listen to everything he has to say, not only what one wants to hear,”
(People’s Bible Commentary, Luke, Victor H. Prange, Pp.171)