Rev. Dr. Niveen Sarras
September 8, 2019
Luke 14:25-33, The Cost of Discipleship
Jim Elliot was an evangelical Christian who was killed while evangelizing the Huaorani tribe in Ecuador. This tribe was well known for being dangerous and hostile to outsiders. Elliot left Portland, Oregon, and his wife and daughter to share the good news with the Huaorani tribe. He went with his four friends. As soon as they encountered the Huaorani people, the warriors attacked and killed them.
Elliot and his friends knew that their mission was dangerous. They knew that they might be killed. Elliot thought genuinely of his calling and counted the cost of following Jesus Christ and be his disciple. Later, the Huaorani people believed in Jesus, and Elliot’s wife baptized the man who killed Elliot. It is easier to follow Christ, but it is not easy to be his disciple. Jim Elliot was a disciple of Jesus Christ and fully committed to him alone much more than his commitment to his wife and daughter.
The evangelist Luke talks about Jesus teaching on the cost of discipleship. Luke describes large crowds were traveling with Jesus. Jesus turns and challenges their commitment to him. He asks them to consider the cost of following him and be his disciples. He gives them two parables to illustrates his point: The first is of a man who estimates the cost to build a tower and a king estimates the cost of engaging in a war against his enemy. Many follow Jesus, but not many are his disciples. Many enter through the wide gate, but few enter through the narrow gate (Matthew 7:13). Many are interested in cheap grace, and few are interested in costly grace. When Jesus says who do not hate their family and even their lives cannot be his disciple, he does not mean to dislike or despise your family and yourself. “We can never be His disciples as long we allow other attachments to hold us back” (Hardgrove, The Cost of Discipleship, 2006). Jesus invites us to lay aside all earthly attachments like clinging to family or possessions, or personal interests that hold us back from being his disciples.
Jesus challenges the large crowds who were following him to go a little deeper in their commitment. He requires full devotion to him. No one should be ahead of Jesus. We live in a godless world where Christianity relates discipleship to health, wealth, and success rather than a commitment to Christ and suffering for his name sake. Dietrich Bonhoeffer teaches in his book The Cost of Discipleship (kindle 1276), “When Christ calls a man/woman, he bids them come and die.”
Jesus requires us to carry the cross or our cross, according to the evangelist Matthew’s version. That said, Christ invites us to endure life’s hardships and challenges for the sake of his name. The cross is a symbol of death, suffering, and sacrifice. As Jesus carried his cross and died for us, the church is also called to carry her cross and be willing to die for her faith. Discipleship means the cross, and the cross means suffering. The church is called to suffer. Dietrich Bonhoeffer explains the deep meaning of suffering,
It is not the sort of suffering which is inseparable from this mortal life, but the suffering which is an essential part of the specifically Christian life. It is not suffering per se but suffering-and-rejection, and not rejection for any cause or conviction of our own, but rejection for the sake of Christ” (Bonhoeffer, kindle 1236).
Discipleship means we need to be ready to die for Christ. It also involves living for Jesus, not for ourselves. Discipleship means casting our wishes, ambitious, and even our rights before the feet of Christ. The church is called to let go of everything that takes her from Christ. Jesus also says, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62). Hence, discipleship is not for those who put their hands to the plow and look back, but it is for those who found a great treasure hidden in a field, and they sold all they have and bought that field (Matthew 13:44). Discipleship means that Jesus is number one in your life. He is first, and all other things are subject to the decision to be his disciples.