Summary: We examine two parables that deal with discipleship and specifically the carefully weighing the cost of following Jesus. No matter where you are spiritually, Jesus calls us to seriously consider discipleship.
The Parables of Jesus
The Tower Builder and the Warring King
July 26, 2009
This week we are going to turn to two parables that are about discipleship. It is a “Who from you…” parable. This refers to the phrase in verse 28 of Luke 14 that in the NIV says, “suppose one of you.” Literally the phrase means “Who from you?” (tis ex hymon). The idea is sort of rhetorical in that Jesus is asking a question that says, “Would any of you do this?” The answer in these cases would be, “Of course not. No one would.” Not all “Who from you” parables assume a negative answer.
A Sunday school class has often been about discipleship especially kids. One class was learning the Lord’s Prayer and each child would have the opportunity to lead the class out loud. But one youngster had some problems remembering exact words but said what he heard, “Our Father, who art in heaven, how’d you know my name.”
Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, ’This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’
"Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not 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.
These parables utilize the 1st century Mediterranean culture strong emphasis on honor and shame. While being mock is often personally degrading and can damage an individual’s psyche in our culture, in the Jesus’ culture, mocking was especially offensive. It signified complete social destruction and would adversely affect one’s ability to make a living sometimes for generations.
Towers were often built to guard and defend property as well as store equipment and for the harvest. One of the interesting things that I saw in Ireland was the remains of different watchtowers especially as we approached one of the restored castles that we visited. The land was fairly flat approaching the castle. There would be three natural approaches from the sea that marauding Vikings might take to plunder the land. These towers were built on hills (the only hills nearby) and the partial remains could be seen.
Some watchtowers might be built as lookouts or signal points to give advance warning of an invasion. The exact kind of tower is not really important to Jesus. A guy decides that he needs to build a tower. As everyone knows, one must take great care in how the tower is built, where it is built, and how long it will take to build.
The second parable shows typical descriptions of battle and negotiations for peace. Small kingdoms would often rely on larger powers for protection resulting in becoming a vassal. Protection often entailed a high price of crops, resources, and even people. While we might imagine several historical events, Jesus has no specific event in mind.
The parables are about counting the cost of discipleship.
Counting the Cost of Discipleship
Sometimes we forget how important the question of following Jesus was in the early church. We overlook this because we have the great gift of religious freedom combined with the church’s tendency in the last century to oversimplify the gospel. Discipleship for the early church as well as for the persecuted church is no light matter as several of the stories that I have shared over the last couple of months have illustrated. And I believe that we would do well to remember that even for us, it is no light matter. It is an urgent call. But it is a serious commitment. We should never be cavalier in our approach to following Jesus.
• Casual – yes. Cavalier – no.
It is easy to be too formal in spirituality. Dr. God mentality. Just as the early church used ritual and purity rules that became barriers for the Gentile believers, we have the tendency to use other types of rules such as dress codes that can keep people from seeing Jesus. Don’t get me wrong! I’m not saying, “Anything goes!” That would be an error at the opposite end. Sometimes the clothing of our culture is distracting for others. Whether we like it or not, our clothing sends messages especially in our culture where we pay companies to advertise for them by buying clothes with their logo on it. What message are you sending by what your wear?