Summary: We all know the cost of discipleship is high, but what is discipleship, and more importantly, do we, as a Christians have a choice but to be disciples? True discipleship is to embrace it, to enjoy it, and live for it because we want to.
This sermon was delivered to St Oswald’s, Maybole, Ayrshire, Scotland on the 5th September 2010; St Oswald’s is a Scottish Episcopal Church in the Dioceses of Glasgow and Dumfries.
“Please join me in a short prayer from Psalms 19:14, and ”Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer. Amen.
These were horrible scriptures again this morning: first from Jeremiah, the wailing prophet of the Old Testament; and secondly from Jesus Himself saying some very harsh and disturbing things in our Gospel message; but there was still something exciting and magnetic about the personality of Jesus that drew the huge crowds wherever he travelled.
I think His personality grew from the relationship He had with God through prayer; prayers which anointed Him with power and authority; where He could speak the word of God right into the people’s hearts. … I believe also that Jesus knew and related to his listeners, talked the same language as them, with no highfalutin ministerial tones.
Yes, there was and there is something very captivating about Jesus; and His message; however that being said it is very important to note that not everybody who followed Jesus that day were there for the same reason.
a. Some followed Him because they were curious onlookers;
b. and some were spies from religious and governmental leaders; who wanted to see what Jesus was saying and doing so that they could report back to headquarters.
c. others came for healing and deliverance, and
d. some just came for hope for the future.
e. yet others followed after Him because they had committed themselves to being His disciples and to gleaning some new life direction; from every message he preached.
In our gospel teaching today, we hear that a “large crowd” was travelling with Jesus. Now Jesus was not a church programmer as we know it. He did not trap or entice people to follow him; nor was he pedantic over his sermons, making sure that each one was practical and uplifting; to bring people back to time and time again; nor was he pedantic about the hymns they were singing to make sure they were easy and appealing to the largest group possible.
Jesus wasn’t a church programmer, or manager or secretary, because Jesus wasn’t calling crowds or trying to fill a church; Jesus was calling disciples. … Jesus wasn’t concerned with being popular; He was concerned with helping people transform their lives; leading people toward eternity, and not the temporal things of the moment.
When Jesus saw this crowd in today’s reading, his instinct was not to wow them; but to make each person aware of the cost of being His disciple; and it is this awareness of the journey that brings about the transformation in us.
Jesus tells this crowd that unless they can detach completely from everything they are holding onto, emotionally, and physically, they can never really be his disciples; and thereby never reap the true rewards.
Now, when I use the word disciple in this context of today’s reading, I'm not speaking exclusively about the 12 disciples who were first called out by Christ and whose names we know. … I'm speaking about the masses of people who joined Jesus as He went from town to town preaching His message; and I am also talking about His followers today.
Now I do not know what all the followers in the Gospel message this morning believed about Jesus, but they all have one thing in common: they had committed themselves to following Him, and to learn from Him as He journeyed along.
In that context, Jesus addressed them in no uncertain terms about what a disciple entails; emphasizing the difficulty of discipleship by using two very strong "cannot" statements:
1. First He says, "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 cannot be my disciple."
2. Secondly He says, "And if anyone does not carry his own cross and follow me they too cannot be my disciple."
These are extremely strong words; and I wonder if we should list them with the words from my sermon a few weeks ago, and put them all on our notice board outside the church. Everyone is welcome to join us, but you must hate all your family, and then carry your own cross like the criminal you are; and then give up everything you have worked hard for. With a wee post script at the end, we would love to see you.
No, let us look at these verses and see what they are really saying.