The Cost of Discipleship

Sermon for the Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost based on Luke 14:25-35

Dear disciples of Jesus: Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Jesus says that in order for you to be His disciple, you must hate your own family, bear your own cross, renounce all that you have, and even hate your own life. This is often referred to as “The Cost of Discipleship.” These are viewed as the costs of following Jesus. So, sit down and count the cost of being a disciple of Jesus.

Jesus says it is foolish to start building a tower without sitting down first to count the cost or to start a war with another king without first sitting down to count if you have the men required to win such a war. So, sit down and count the cost of being a Christian.

First, you are to hate your family: hate your father, hate your mother, your wife, children, brothers, sisters. Before you say that you are doing really well with that, understand that Jesus isn’t talking about feelings or emotions. Jesus isn’t saying that you should feel hatred towards your family. After all, if you feel hatred towards your brother you are a murderer (Matt. 5:22; I John 3:15). Jesus is saying that when it comes to a choice of following him or following your family, you have to love one and hate the other. If a spouse wanders from the faith, do you follow him or do you follow Jesus? If a child wanders from the faith, do you follow him by defending his sin or do you follow Jesus? To whom do you give preference – your family or to God? That’s the question.

Next, to be a disciple of Jesus, you are to bear your own cross. This means that from God’s hand you receive your days of gladness as well as your days of sadness without grumbling or complaining. It means that in the face of suffering and loss with Job you say, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21) and further ask, “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:10)

Then, to be a disciple of Jesus, you are to renounce all that you have. Once again, it is a matter of preference. When it comes to a choice of possessions or Jesus, which will you serve? As Jesus says, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” (Matt. 6:24)

Finally, to be a disciple of Jesus, you are to hate your own life. It is a matter of preference. When it comes to a choice of your present life or eternal life, which will you choose? When your will and desires differ from God’s will and desires, to which will you give preference? No one can serve two masters. Either you selfishly serve yourself or you serve God. You will hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and self.

Do these things and you will be a disciple of Jesus. As always, the Law promises life. Life is found in obeying the commandments of the Lord and death is found in following anything else. We heard in our Old Testament reading, “Choose life, that you and your offspring may live” (Deut. 30:19). Jesus Himself says concerning the Law, “Do, this and you will live.” (Luke 10:28)

Our problem is that we cannot. We cannot obey the commandments of the Lord our God; we follow our own way, doing what is right in our own eyes. We cannot choose life; we choose death.

We may not start out with the intention of giving preference to our family over God, but our love for family clouds our judgment and causes us to twist God’s Word instead of hearing it faithfully.

We may not start out with the intention of hating our crosses and seeking to avoid them, but when real suffering starts our judgment is clouded and we seek to get rid of our crosses. When we look around and think we have the heaviest cross to bear, we want someone else’s cross rather than our own. Their crosses seem lighter to us.

We may not start out with the intention of giving preference to possessions over God, but when possessions pile up our love for them increases and we don’t want to lose what, in our minds, we have worked so hard to earn. Our judgment becomes clouded and we say: It’s mine; God has no right to take it away from me and I certainly won’t give it to Him willingly.

We may not start out with the intention of giving preference to self over God, but this is the easiest of all: I know what I want; I know what’s best for my life; my will be done; my plans are best; my ideas are best; me, me, me is easiest of all.

If it is up to us, we cannot be disciples of Jesus. We cannot do what the Law demands of us. We cannot pay the cost of discipleship. Since we cannot pay the cost of discipleship, how can we be disciples of Jesus?

The cost of discipleship must be paid for us if we are to be disciples of Jesus. The payment that we cannot pay must be paid by someone else. This is exactly what God has done. Before the foundation of the world God sat down and calculated the cost of saving us. Yes, it was a great cost, but He was willing to pay it. It cost God the Son taking on human flesh and putting Himself under the Law that He Himself has written. It cost the fulfilment of the Law by the perfect life that Jesus lived in which He never gave anything preference over God. It cost the suffering and death of the Son of God for every time we have not done what the disciples of Jesus are supposed to do.

Jesus paid the cost of our discipleship. Jesus paid the price that we could not pay and sends His ministers to make disciples of all nations by baptizing them (Matt. 28:19). This is like a slap in the face to us if we are trying to be disciples of Jesus by what we do. What is impossible for us happens as easily for God as sprinkling a little water on a head with His Word. Baptized into Christ we receive all the benefits of His life and His death. Baptized into Christ we are His disciples despite our failures to pay the impossible cost of discipleship ourselves.

Just as we cannot become disciples of Jesus ourselves, we cannot remain His disciples ourselves. Even as His disciples we continue to sin; we continue to choose death over life even though we know better. That’s why Jesus continues to give us life. He continues to pronounce our sin absolved. He continues to cover our sin with His blood shed for us. He continues to remove our sins from us as far as the east is from the west. He continues to give us forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation in His body and blood.

So, if you sit down and count the cost of being a disciple of Jesus you will realize that the cost of your discipleship that you cannot pay has been paid for you. Every time you look to the cross you are reminded of how that cost was paid. Every time you look to the cross you are reminded of who paid it for you.

Jesus paid the cost of discipleship that you cannot pay. He has made you His disciple through Baptism, crushing the thought that you can make yourself His disciple. He continues to forgive you all your sins through Absolution and His own body and blood to keep you as His disciple. The cost of your discipleship has been paid. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

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