Summary: Discipleship does not come easy. There are some things we must do in order to be good disciples.
THE COST OF DISCIPLESHIP
Luke 9:23-27; 14:25-33
INTRO: It is said that a text without a context becomes a pretext. Therefore, before examining these passages, let’s put them into context. Luke 9:23-27 follows hard upon verses 18-22. Note especially verse 22, "The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life" (NIV). The implication is that the disciple may anticipate the same fate as that of his teacher. Read Luke 9:23-27 with this in mind.
The larger context of Luke 14:25-33 is Luke’s description of Jesus’ Journey to Jerusalem. Jesus is headed for Jerusalem, with Golgotha being the ultimate destination.
In Luke 9:31, Moses and Elijah "spoke about his [Jesus’] departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem" (NIV). In 9:51 "Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem" (NIV). The same is said in 9:53. In 13:33 He states, "Surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!" In 17:11, Luke documents that Jesus was "on his way to Jerusalem" (NIV). In 18: 31, Jesus says to the twelve, "We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled" (NIV).
This surely suggests that the passage of Luke 14:25-33 is couched in the context of Jesus dying in Jerusalem. More specifically, these verses are found in the context of the crowds following Jesus in a superficial manner. Now is the sifting time. Luke 14:25-33 should be read in this context. From these passages, let’s concentrate on three ideas.
The Christian life is full of paradoxes. Self-denial brings self-fulfillment. Losing one’s life for Jesus’ sake permits one to find it. Giving away, you have. Keeping you have not.
The idea of self-denial is a strong concept. It is, in the words of the Greeks, "to disregard one’s own interests." The word deny is used to describe Peter’s denial of Christ. "I," said Peter, "disown or forsake any relationship with Him."
To deny oneself is to disregard or disown one’s selfish desires, foolish pride, and anxious unbelief. Descartes said, "I think, therefore I am." The Christian says, "I think, therefore I deny myself (my selfish desires, my foolish pride, my anxious unbelief)."
II. RESPONSIBILITY OF CROSS BEARING.
For us to understand what cross-bearing entailed in the first century, we must remove our misunderstandings. There was nothing beautiful about the cross. Forget the cross necklace, sapphire-studded cross pins, and good-luck cross charms. The cross was ugly--as ugly as pain and death.
People didn’t sing about the cross. They feared it and cursed it. Our casual singing about the cross has so glamorized it that we have lost its crudeness.
The cross meant nails being driven through flesh and tendon; it meant bones cracking and blood gushing forth; it entailed excruciating pain and lingering death.It involved the sounds of hammers banging on nails, of victims crying out in pain, of criminals cursing their executioners. The victim cried out for a death that would not come. There was the smell of death in the air, the stink of human sweat secreted from suffering bodies.William Barclay says the cross "means to be ready to endure the worst that man can do to us for the sake of being true to God."
Three subsidiary ideas grow out of these verses on cross-bearing.
1. One must choose to bear a cross; it is not forced upon the individual. Luke 9:23 is saying, "If any wills [present tense] to keep on coming after me..." Note the condition "if." The last part of the verse, which is a conclusion to the "if" condition, says the disciple must take up his cross. Luke 14:27 defines one of the conditions of discipleship as being cross-bearing. Crosses must be carried even when they are heavy and burdensome. In the end, that which the disciple has borne will bear him.
2. Each of our crosses is personalized. Each has, as it were, our name written on it. There is a proverb that says, "Each cross hath its inscription." This is true.
Our crosses vary in size, shape, and weight. The cross is heaver as some times than at other times, but the cross never chafes beyond the bearable.
Because Jesus bore the cross of Calvary, our crosses are lighter.
3. Cross-bearing involves the commonplace. It is possible to translate Luke 9:23 as follows: "If anyone wants to come after Me, let him disown himself and pick up his cross day after day and follow Me continually." The drudgery of the commonplace can make cross-bearing painful.It would be much easier if we could bear a cross for a while and then lay it down. But cross-bearing is a full-time job, day in and day out.