Summary: A Casual Disciple of Christ? Jesus teaches us that such a disciple is no disciple.
What do you call these word combinations? “A little pregnant; airline food; plastic silverware; unbiased opinion; fresh dried fruit.” They’re all oxy…morons—expressions that in their superficial, or literal meanings are self-contradictory or absurd. Can you be a “little” pregnant, for example? Airlines rarely serve food anymore and when they do, can you call it “food”? If forks and spoons are made out of plastic, shouldn’t they just be called “plasticware”?
We use oxymorons all the time and don’t usually give much thought to the literal meaning of those phrases. That’s not a big deal when you’re talking about airline food or plastic silverware, but if you should ever hear yourself say or think, “I’m a casual disciple of Christ,” your hair (if you have any) should stand on end. Jesus makes it clear in our sermon text this morning that a casual disciple of his, is no disciple. So don’t be an oxymoron! Listen carefully today to how Jesus describes true discipleship, and with the Holy Spirit’s help, strive to incorporate what you learn into your daily life.
Our text takes place after Jesus’ transfiguration, which was about six months before his death. We’re told that at this time he “resolutely” set out for Jerusalem. Jesus knew what awaited him there, his betrayal, his beating, his burial. But he was determined to see it through—such was his devotion to his Father’s will and to winning our salvation. It’s no wonder Jesus attracted disciples. One such man approached Jesus and said, “I will follow you wherever you go!” But Jesus replied: “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head” (Luke 9:58).
What Jesus was saying to him was “Have you really thought this through? Have you counted the cost of discipleship?” This man had no doubt seen Jesus perform miracles and had heard him preach with authority, but did he realize that Gethsemane and Golgotha were soon to follow, not a relaxing stay at the Grand Hotel in Jerusalem? Casual disciples fail to count the cost.
Brett, I have a confession to make. While I am excited about your baptism and confirmation today, I’m also nervous for you. I’m nervous about everyone who becomes a Christian under my watch because I always wonder, “Have I given the impression that being a Christian is easy? Have I somehow communicated that once you join St. Peter’s, you’re bound to have the best year of your life?” Don’t get me wrong. It’s great to be a Christian. God’s promises will sustain you. His Word will continue to give you insights that you didn’t have before. But don’t think for a moment that the life of a Christian is the life of the couch. It isn’t! It’s the life of the cross. Your faith in Jesus might end up severing friendships you’ve had for years. Why? Because you’re different now. You don’t live for the here and the now. You know that your time, your treasures, and your talents aren’t your own. Your non-Christian friends might not get that, and say things like, “You’re no fun anymore.” So have you counted the cost of discipleship? Are you ready for the challenges it brings?
Jesus wasn’t trying to scare off his would-be follower. Quite the opposite, he was trying to draw him closer so that when the challenges came, that disciple could say, “Yep, it’s just as Jesus said it would be. And I’m glad he thinks I’m worthy to suffer with him. And with his help I can get through this.” And so will you, Brett, no matter what the challenge. But count the cost and be ready for the challenges for they will come.
Our text goes on to say that Jesus called out to another man and urged him to follow. The guy said, “Sure, right after I bury my father.” Jesus came back with another puzzler. He said: “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:60). Wait, what? Was it wrong for this man to bury his father before joining Jesus? I mean how long would that take? The thing is this man spoke as many Middle Easterners still do about taking care of one’s parents until death. In other words he was probably saying, “I’d love to follow you Jesus, but I’ve got my parents to take care of. Once they’re gone, then I’ll follow.” Jesus of course does want us to look after our parents, but from Jesus’ answer it’s clear that this man was using that as an excuse.
Brett, what Jesus is saying to you this morning and to the rest of us who claim to be his disciples is that true disciples know their priorities. Jesus is to come first. Now thankfully you will be marrying a beautiful Christian woman who has been taught this her whole life. So together you can work at making Jesus the priority in your lives. He’s to come before your work and even before your children once they start arriving. So while I’m sure you’ll want to get your kids involved in sports as you were, make sure they learn about Jesus and his promises as well as they learn how to skate backwards! Continue the great tradition you’ve been introduced to of reading the Meditations devotion booklet before supper. Don’t do just do this once in a while, do it every night. Why? Because you’ll get extra credit if you do so? No! Because when you sit down for devotions you’re saying, “Jesus, I’m ready for you to serve me. I’m ready to hear your Word so that I can be assured of forgiveness and so that I am empowered to be patient with that difficult guy at work.” Why would we ever want to be casual about receiving the blessings Jesus has in store for us through his Word? We’re never casual when someone offers us a gift card to a restaurant. We’re excited, and we immediately start planning when we can use it. That’s how genuine disciples are about Jesus and his Word.