Summary: This is a sermon on discipleship. The thesis is that discipleship demands total surrender that includes: 1.) loving Jesus above all else and 2.) carrying your cross.
Disciple or Just Part of the Crowd?—LUKE 14:25-33
Jesus appealed to large crowds of people. Today’s text in Luke 15 declares: “Large crowds were traveling with Jesus.” Jesus appealed to the common masses of people. Time and again the Gospels make such announcements as:
“A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that He had come home. So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and He preached the word to them” (Mark 2:1-2)
In Mark 3:10 we see the crowds sometimes became pushy: “For He had healed many, so that those with diseases were pushing forward to touch Him.” We remember the story of the raising of Jairus’ daughter and the healing of the woman who had been hemorrhaging for twelve years. On that occasion Mark records: “A large crowd followed and pressed around Him” [Mark 5:24b].
Our Lord is compassionate towards the crowds as we see in Matthew 9:35-6, “Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Sometimes the crowds could press Jesus so much that even His own family had difficulty obtaining an audience with Him as is the case in Luke 8:19, “Now Jesus’ Mother and brothers came to see Him, but they were not able to get near Him because of the crowd.”
On Palm Sunday again the crowd was present to welcome King Jesus into Jerusalem as Matthew relates in Matthew 21:8-9, “A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of Him and those that followed shouted,
‘Hosanna to the Son of David.’
‘Blessed is He Who comes in the
name of the Lord!!’
‘Hosanna in the highest!’”
But crowds can quickly turn fickle, for by Good Friday things had changed so now Matthew reports: “But the chief priest and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed.” So when Pilate asked, “‘What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called Christ?’ They all answered, ‘Crucify Him . . . . Let His blood be on us and on our children [Matthew 27:22-25].
It’s one thing to follow Jesus as part of the crowd. It’s any entirely different matter to be His disciple. Today the Holy Spirit confronts each one of us with this vital question: “Am I His Disciple or just part of the crowd?”
When we relate to Jesus as disciple to Master, it is the most intimate, personal relationship we can have with Him. Indeed Jesus calls those in the crowd to become disciples, for our text asserts: “Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them He said: ‘If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife, and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he can not be My disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me can not be My disciple” [Luke 14:25-27]. WOW! Where could you find a more challenging invitation to Christian discipleship than these words of Jesus Himself?
Billy Graham says, “Salvation is free, but discipleship costs everything we have” [--Edythe Draper, Draper’s Book of Quotations for the Christian World (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1992). Entry 2832.] You can be saved and have assurance of going to heaven but not be a true disciple of Jesus Christ. A Disciple stands out from among the crowd of people who just follow Jesus. Are you a disciple of Jesus or just one who follows Him among the crowd? What is the cost of being a disciple of Jesus? First of all, you must “hate your father and mother, your wife and children, your brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life” or you “cannot be a disciple of Jesus.” Now is that not rather harsh? Well, if you take the word hate in the literal sense we normally use it, yes it is. However, this is not what Jesus is saying. Hate in the context of this Scripture simply means “to love less.” Jesus is saying that loving Him must be our number one priority. We can not love anyone or anything more than Jesus and be His disciple.
Jesus states the number one commandment of all Scripture in Matthew 22:37-38, “Jesus replied, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.’” Jesus must be our first love if we are to be His disciple. We might restate the words of Jesus here in the words of the first commandment as found in Exodus 20:3, “You shall have no other gods before me.” It’s so easy to screw up our priorities and either come to love people or things more than we love Jesus. This is a repeated theme in the Gospel of Luke. Go back with me for a moment to Luke 9:57-62, “As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”