The Great Cost of Discipleship
While at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees on a particular Sabbath, Jesus gave some lessons about humility using the parable of attending a banquet. Someone who was reclining at the table with him spoke up and said “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” (Luke 14:15). This man’s statement holds a great truth because those who eat bread in the kingdom of God will be blessed. But…it’s apparent from the response that Jesus gives that something in the perspective of this man and his statement needed some clarifying and teaching as well.
Again using the parable of a great banquet Jesus points out a strong reality in regards to the kingdom of God. But he said to him, "A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, 'Come, for everything is now ready.' But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, 'I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.' And another said, 'I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.' And another said, 'I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.' So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, 'Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.' And the servant said, 'Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.' And the master said to the servant, 'Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet." (Luke 14:16-24)
Then Jesus turned to many who were with Him and listening to what He was saying an said - "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, 'This man began to build and was not able to finish.' Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26-33)
It seems that Jesus was pointing out that in regards to the kingdom of God that many who believed they were, or were in fact a part of God’s kingdom were hoping for a discount. Some declined the invitation because they had “bought a field” and “must go.” This seems like Jesus is illustrating those who had made obligations that in order to fulfill those obligations would not accept the invitations. Some declined the invitation because they had “bought 5 yoke of oxen” and said “I go to examine them. Here is seems like Jesus is pointing out that there are those whose priorities are not where they should be. After all the 5 yoke of oxen have already been bought and the man could examine them at any time. Lastly some said they had “married a wife” and therefore declined the invitation. This seems that Jesus is illustrating those who put their relationships before their desire to fulfill their duties.
Because of these three main areas Jesus went on to teach the crowds and encourage them to count the cost. Jesus saying to them that they need to hate their own families in order to be His disciple seems a little harsh at first. We of course know from the context and the definition of the word itself that Jesus isn’t actually saying to hate them in the way we commonly use the word but simply means to love them less than we love Christ or God. He tells them about the need to bear their own cross. It’s interesting that Jesus uses this illustration considering that while we automatically associate it with Jesus going to the cross, at this point He obviously hadn’t yet so what meaning did they associate with it? They would have understood it to mean that they must faithfully follow Him despite the shame, disgrace, persecution, burden, and hardship that may come with their service. Lastly in v.33 Jesus concludes with simply saying if one is not prepared to renounce all that they cannot be a disciple. This is more about willingness and preparedness then it is the literal command to do so. Every disciple must be prepared and truly willing to renounce all in order to faithfully follow Him. Every disciple must be prepared and truly committed to keeping their priorities and relationships in the right place in regards to our commitment and service to Him.
The Good News is that you’re invited to the banquet. The man had it right when he said “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” In John’s recorded Revelation he tells us that “The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.” It’s such an amazing invitation that only by God’s grace, love, and mercy are we invited. But we must count the cost. Counting the cost can seem at times to heavy to bear but Jesus reminds us in Matthew 11:29-30 that He is “gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” As we humbly accept God’s invitation be watchful for Satan’s classic hurdles that Jesus so clearly points out. Don’t let perceived obligations, out of place priorities, or earthly relationships come between us and our desire to faithfully serve Him each day.