Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Cost of Discipleship

Because Jesus was going to be killed as a revolutionary, he recognized that being a follower of his is no easy task.  They would be attacked, arrested and even killed for following him.  And not only that, but Jesus wanted everyone to recognize that if they were going to be given honor from God on the judgement day, they needed to be servants and the lowest of all in this world.  This makes following Jesus very difficult, and Jesus didn’t make it easy to do.

Jesus at one point had a large crowd following him, and many of them were thinking about being his disciple.  Jesus announced to the crowd, “If you want to follow me, your parents and friends and everyone you know will think you hate them.  You will have to act like it, because you must give up everything to be my disciple.  In fact, you will have to give up your inheritance, your possessions, even your own life, if you are a disciple of mine.

            “Let’s say someone wanted to build a skyscraper, and then halfway through it, he ran out of money.  Everyone passing by would laugh at it because he didn’t plan ahead to know how much it would cost.  Even so, before you become my disciple, look at how much it will cost you.
            “In the same way, if there was a king that had an army of ten thousand, but he was being attacked by another king with an army of twenty thousand.  Wouldn’t the first king wave the white flag and ask for terms of surrender?  And wouldn’t he give up everything he has in order to gain peace?  Even so, if you want peace on the day of judgement, you will have to give up everything you possess.”

            One of the crowd then came up to Jesus and said, “I want to be your disciple. I will follow you wherever you go.”  Jesus replied, “God has provided even the animals of the world homes, but I have no home—remember that, if you choose to follow me.”
            Another wanted to be Jesus’ disciple, and they asked, “But first let me say goodbye to my family.”  Jesus replied, “Elijah allowed his disciple Elisha to say goodbye to his family.  But one more important than Elijah is here now.  If you turn back away from me, then you are not worthy of God’s kingdom.”
            Jesus came up to another and said, “Follow me.”  That one asked, “Let me first bury my father, he is sick.”  Jesus replied, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you follow me.”

            Two of Jesus’ disciples, James and John, came up to Jesus and asked, “Lord, when you are ruler of the kingdom of God, we have a great favor to ask you.”  Jesus said, “Yes, what is it?”  They replied, “We would like to rule with you, one of us on one side of you, and the other on the other.”  Jesus said, “You don’t know what you are asking.  Are you able to drink the cup I am to drink and to be baptized the way that I will?  Are you ready to suffer and die?”  They said, “Yes, anything, Lord.”  Jesus said, “Well, you will suffer like that, but I don’t think you really understand.  Even so, the high positions in the kingdom of God aren’t mine to grant—only the Father can determine those positions.”

            The other 10 heard that James and John asked this, and they were angry.  Jesus heard their murmuring and said, “Look, if you guys really want the top positions in God’s kingdom, then you’ll have to work at it now.  If you want to be first, then be last.  If you want to be great, then be lowly.  The rulers of this world, they call themselves “ministers” or “servants of the state”.  But in fact they rule harshly.  But you are not to be like that.  If you want to be the greatest, then now you need to be a slave.  In the same way, the Son of Man is giving up everything for the sake of others, in order to deliver them from slavery to sin.”

            At one point, Jesus was at a party, and he told the guests of the party, “Let me give you a good rule.  If you want to be seen as important, don’t fight for the best seats.  Otherwise your host will ask you to move somewhere else, and then you will look like an idiot.  Rather, sit in the worst places, so your host will come up to you and say, ‘Why are you sitting here?  Why don’t you sit up front?’  And then everyone will see how important you are.”

            Jesus then spoke to the host of the party, “If you want to have a party that will really give you honor, then don’t bother inviting your friends and family who can pay you back.  Sure, they’ll like you, but God will give you nothing.  But if you invite the poor, homeless and needy to your party, then God will give you honor that you would never gain on earth.”

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