Pastor Bill, “The events of Luke 9 were not isolated incidents in the life of Jesus, either. On another occasion, when surrounded by a crowd of eager followers, Jesus returned to them and remarked, ““If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple”, Luke 14:26.
Imagine hearing these words. The perplexed faces from the villager to the Jewish teacher in the first century. He just lost most of them, and us, at hello.
But then he continued. Luke 14:27, “Anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”
Now this is taking it to another level. Pick up an instrument of torture and follow me. This is getting plain weird… and kind of creepy.
Imagine a leader coming on the scene today and inviting all who would come after him to pick up an electric chair and become his disciples. Any takers?
As if this were not enough, Jesus punishes a seeker’s sensitive plea with a pull at your heartstrings. Luke 14:33, “In the same way, those of you who do not give up every thing you have cannot be my disciple.”
Give up every thing you have?
Carry a cross?
Leave your family?
This sounds a lot different than admit, believe, confess, and pray a prayer after me.
And that’s still not all.
Consider Mark 10:17, “As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”” He was a guy who was young, rich, intelligent, and influential. He was a prime suspect, to say the least. Not only that, but he was eager and ready to go.
If we were in Jesus’ shoes, we would probably be thinking this is our chance. A simple prayer, sign this card, bow your head, and repeat after me, and this guy is in.
Then think about what a guy like this, with all his influence and prestige, can do. We can get him on the circuit. He can start sharing his testimony, signing books, raising money for the cause. This one is a no-brainer; we have to get him in.
Unfortunately, Jesus didn’t have the personal evangelism books we have today that tell us how to draw the net and close the sale. Instead Jesus told him one thing, Mark 10:21, “Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.””
What was He thinking? Jesus had committed the classic blunder of letting the big fish get away. The cost was too high.
Yet the kind of abandonment Jesus asked of the rich young man is at the core of Jesus invitation throughout the Gospels. Even his simple call in Matthew for his disciples, follow me, contained radical implications for their lives. Jesus was calling them to abandon their confidence all that was familiar to them and natural for them.
He was calling them to abandon their careers. They were reorienting their entire lives work around discipleship to Jesus. Their plans and dreams were now being swallowed up in his.
Jesus was calling them to abandon their possessions. Drop your nets and your trades as successful fishermen, he was saying in effect.
Jesus was calling them to abandon their family and their friends. When James and John left their father, we see Jesus words in Luke 14 coming alive.
Ultimately, Jesus was calling them to abandon them selves. They were leaving certainty for uncertainty, safety for danger, self-preservation for self-denunciation. In a world that prizes promoting oneself, they were following a teacher who told them to crucify themselves. And history tells us the result. Almost all of them would lose their lives because they responded to his invitation.
I have read this part of Pastor’s sermon several times, and the same question comes to my mind at the end – who would do this for Jesus if he stood in front of you today? We have had people, in our lifetime, our generations, which have aspired to his callings. Mother Teresa most notably. I will admit here that if I were called to do so I’d struggle. I couldn’t leave my children and how, as a Mother, could I lead them to such danger. It would be like feeding my children to a hungry lion.
But does being his disciple really require such a large price? Is there really a cost associated with following Jesus?
Radical abandonment is not necessarily a price we pay, but it can be a reward we will not see for a lifetime to come. Maybe the rewards are not meant for us, anyway, but for those that walk in our footprints – the generations to come.
Mark, John… did not receive human wealth, but they can look back, upon the earth, and see the streams of gold laid forth before their children, their loved ones, and those that never even knew them, but have taken pause to understand why they made the choices they made.
What could happen in your world, today, that would get you to walk forth in radical abandonment?