13th Sunday after Pentecost
September 8, 2019
“What Does it Cost?”
Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you all in the name of God our Father and our Good Shepherd Jesus. The basis for the sermon today is the Gospel lesson for today from Luke 14.
My dear friends in Christ Jesus,
I have a little dog at home named Farley. It’s just Farley and me in that big 3+ bedroom, 2 bath home that I rent. He’s fairly old now…16 years. His bladder control just isn’t what it used to be and sometimes I am away from home a bit longer than I should. So, I cannot really blame him if there is an occasional “accident.” Well, the “accidents” have mostly happened on this area rug I had in my “man room” and it now smells so bad I have to replace it. Like everyone else, I went on-line to see about a new area rug. I found this one on-line I liked. It’s a 10′ X 14′ Handmade Persian Wool area rug. On sale this week…for $4,912. There’s free, same-day shipping…so there’s that. But that’s a BIT out of my price range; that rug costs too much. Maybe I’ll just stop by Home Depot or something. The point is…you have to consider the cost before you just do something, right?
Today’s Gospel lesson is all about counting the cost before just doing something, and it is an important lesson for all of us to hear, no matter how harsh it sounds. In Luke 14 Jesus is being followed by a large crowd, many of whom probably desired to be His disciples, but first they wanted to “check things out;” to “see and be seen” and what this Jesus guy is all about. Obviously able to determine their unenthusiastic approach to following Him, Jesus suddenly turns and verbally levels anyone who was lukewarm about following Him. What Jesus told them had to have sounded pretty harsh, because its power and its sting can still be felt even today. Jesus said, “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.” (14:26).
Whoa. Those are pretty strong words! What Jesus is telling the crowd is that discipleship is an all-or-nothing deal. You want to follow? You have to evaluate the cost first. And then Jesus tells two quick parables about the man desiring to build a tower and the warring kings. Both have to first evaluate the cost before they start anything. By telling these parables Jesus is teaching people that first you have to evaluate the cost before you just jump in and do it whether you’re talking area rugs, cell phone plans, or major life decisions.
Jesus indicates that there is a pretty heavy price to pay for discipleship. First he says we have to hate our own father, mother, wife, brothers, sisters, and children. That’s a pretty steep price! But Jesus is not advocating hatred of our family. But He does mean that if it’s a choice for us between Him and our family, we’re to choose Jesus. Obviously this isn’t easy. By God’s grace most people are spared this kind of decision, but there are some who are forced to choose, and if that arises, we are to follow Christ.
We are also to hate our own life. Man, the price to follow keeps getting heavier and heavier! What does this mean? We’re supposed to commit suicide. No. Does it mean that we can continue to live and exist in an individualistic culture that wants us to think only of ourselves all the time?” No. Does it mean that we can continue to live in and exist in a materialistic culture that wants us to spend our money on ourselves, to spend our time indulging ourselves and hoarding our resources? No. If we want to follow in discipleship, we have to hate that life in order to follow. Ours is to be a sacrificial life of stewardship and loving service to God and neighbor.
That is a heavy price to pay to follow Jesus. In fact, it is an impossible price. Ever since humanity fell into sin our every inclination has been to live for US, not to live for someone else. Think about Adam and Eve. They could have made a better decision, but they were selfish – self-centered – and their mistake costs all of us our lives. Our sinfulness keeps us so naturally far away from God. We counted the cost to follow and it’s too much for us to do!
But my dear friends, note what happened with the kings at war. “While the other is still a long way off (he) will ask for terms of peace” (v. 32b). In our sins we were the ones a “long way off” – a long way off from salvation and reconciliation with God…and it looked pretty bleak. “Lord, I can’t build that tower. I can’t fight that fight. It’s too much!” It is during those moments of helplessness that we as sinners are called to realize that God has taken the initiative to close the gap for us – the ones who were a long way off – and to bring us peace.
God closed that gap by sending the Prince of Peace – Jesus – to live, die, and rise again so that we can be forgiven, so that we can be free from the power of sin, so that we can be His disciples. God wants us – you – to let Him take over through Jesus Christ. That is discipleship! That is what it means to forsake all that we have – to give up ourselves to God. We are only able to do so because the price to follow has been paid. It was bought and paid for not with gold or silver, but with the precious body and blood of Jesus.
You too have to now consider what discipleship costs before you follow Him. Maybe it means you have to give up immoral behaviors or desires. Maybe it means you have to let go of selfish and greedy tendencies. Maybe it means you have to give up your control of things in your life and turn things over to God. God, through Christ, came near and closed that gap by giving Himself to bring us near to Himself through Jesus. That’s the incredible thing about God. He gave up His Son so that we sinful wretches might nevertheless follow Him and one day be with Him in heaven, where I’m comfortably sure we won’t need area rugs.
Speaking of which…anyone have a nice, used a 10′ X 14′ Handmade Persian Wool area rug they wanna sell me? No? Never hurts to ask. Now…how would you answer Jesus’ question from verse 33? Are you ready to “renounce all that you have to be His disciple? Consider the cost before you just jump right in.