Jesus invites His listeners to discipleship. What does it mean to be a disciple? A disciple is “one who follows.” Within the setting of the New Testament, disciples follow teachers. Thus, Jesus invites His listeners to follow Him as their teacher. Please note: not everyone who listens to Jesus is His disciple. Disciples follow.
What does it mean to follow Jesus as His disciple? Several selections from the New Testament discuss the cost of following Jesus as His disciple. This cost can be both physical and spiritual.
Luke 9:57-62: 57 As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58 Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” 59 He said to another man, “Follow me.” But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” 60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 61 Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.” 62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
Notice the physical cost involved with following Jesus as His disciple. Apparently, Jesus has no home (verses 57-58). If following Jesus means that a disciple will also have no home, then so be it: Jesus comes first. Apparently, Jesus considers Himself to be the family of His disciple (verses 59-62). If following Jesus means that a disciple must leave his “other” family behind, then so be it: Jesus comes first.
Luke 14:25-27: 25 Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: 26 “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. 27 And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”
Notice the spiritual cost involved with following Jesus as His disciple. Following Jesus is truly a matter of obeying the First Commandment (“Thou shalt have no other gods before Me. What does this mean? We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things”). Apparently, anything that come between Jesus and His disciple is a violation of the First Commandment. This includes: father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters, and their own life (verse 26). Certainly, there can be a great cost involved with following Jesus as His disciple. Later in the same selection (see below), Jesus says that “those of you who do not give up everything you have, cannot be my disciples” (verse 33). Notice the word “everything.” Everything can come between Jesus and His disciple. Everything can be a violation of the First Commandment.
Jesus invites His listeners to discipleship. Following Jesus as His disciple may involve physical and spiritual cost. This physical and spiritual cost is best described by the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Philippians: “But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ – yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead” (3:7-11). For the Apostle Paul, any cost associated with following Jesus as His disciple is worth it. What he, and every other disciple, receives from Jesus makes it all worthwhile.
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