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Lessons from Luke - Week 4




Scripture: Luke 14:25-33, CEBLarge crowds were traveling with Jesus. Turning to them, he said, “Whoever comes to me and doesn’t hate father and mother, spouse and children, and brothers and sisters—yes, even one’s own life—cannot be my disciple. Whoever doesn’t carry their own cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

“If one of you wanted to build a tower, wouldn’t you first sit down and calculate the cost, to determine whether you have enough money to complete it? Otherwise, when you have laid the foundation but couldn’t finish the tower, all who see it will begin to belittle you. They will say, ‘Here’s the person who began construction and couldn’t complete it!’ Or what king would go to war against another king without first sitting down to consider whether his ten thousand soldiers could go up against the twenty thousand coming against him? And if he didn’t think he could win, he would send a representative to discuss terms of peace while his enemy was still a long way off. In the same way, none of you who are unwilling to give up all of your possessions can be my disciple.

———————————————————————————————————————————————SERMON:

Of all the sayings of Jesus, I tend to find these words in Luke 14:25-33 to be some of the most puzzling. Not the least because I love my father, mother, spouse, children, brother, and sisters, and on good days, I even really love myself. Of course, you could say, “Jefferson, don’t be silly… Jesus didn’t mean all that literary.” And yet, I would still have to tell you, Jesus set a really high bar for what it means to be a disciple. Any way we choose to look at the text, Jesus makes some stark demands, stressing the importance of prioritizing our relationship with Him above all else, allowing that life of faith to guide all that we do, and standing well above all earthly attachments.

When I read this text, I often think to myself that perhaps instead of having a treasurer among the disciples, Jesus should have had a marketing director to help soften the message. Because I imagine many who heard this message opted to walk away. But in the end, Jesus is correct, it is prudent to seek a full understanding of our commitments before engagement. It is vital that we take note of what things will cost before saying “yes.”


When I first moved to the United States, shopping was one of the most challenging activities I had to accomplish. Not only was there an overabundance of choices for everything, I also had to remember to add taxes to displayed prices. As a college student with minimal financial resources, my walking trips to the tiny, ancient-looking Walmart in Holy Springs, Mississippi, were a sort of adventure because, more often than not, I only had enough money to purchase my bare necessities. Any miscalculation had the risk of leaving me standing at the checkout without enough money. My first trip to the store caused incredible frustration as I was tracking the prices all along, calculating how many cents I had left for other expenses, when suddenly the final cost was revealed. To my surprise, it was higher than I expected. Later on, talking to my older sister, who had already gone through these experiences, she reminded me that there was always more to the number that was displayed. More to what I was able to see in the moment. Therefore, I should carefully calculate the total cost.


Count the cost. This phrase not only encapsulates my early experiences in America but deeply resonates with Jesus’ message in Luke 14. Jesus challenges his followers to consider what it truly means to follow him, bringing to light that discipleship demands a priority shift that might cost us more than we expected. It may cost us everything we hold dear on a personal level. In this scripture, Jesus isn’t merely suggesting a casual affiliation—perhaps that’s why he didn’t choose a marketing director. Jesus is calling those who choose to follow him into a profound, all-encompassing commitment that surpasses all earthly attachments.

If you think this stuff is hard… you are not wrong. In the Gospel of John, chapter 6, we see that many of the people who attempted to follow Jesus faced the same challenge. Verse 60 tells us that many of the followers of Jesus at the time found his message to be intolerable and opted to walk away. When Jesus asked the disciples if they, too, wanted to leave, Peter rose among them and declared, “Lord, where would we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are God’s holy one.” He is saying, “We have already committed, signed on the dotted line, we have seen and understand who you are and have placed our whole reputation on the line for this.” 


In the Gospel of Matthew, after Jesus expressed the challenges of discipleship and told his followers, “It’s easier for a camel to squeeze through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter God’s kingdom…” (Matt. 19:24, CEB) Peter expresses his feelings saying, “Dude, we have left EVERYTHING to follow you…” Again, this expressed that they were committed, sold out, completely in, and willingly participating in the new thing God was doing in Jesus.

Standing at a distance from those realities, in the comfort of our homes, and with the privilege of being able to gather across time and space through the magic of video recordings, zoom, social media, etc. We may feel like this doesn’t apply so much to us. But anybody who has journeyed through the realities of disaffiliation understands the pain of losing something dear for the sake of the Gospel. Anybody who has had to assert or justify their existence, belovedness, or humanity to others understands the cost of losing something for the sake of Christ. Anybody who has had to stand in public opposition to systems of oppression, people in power, or institutional stubbornness knows the danger and weight associated with proclaiming heavely realities on an earthly plane, that is the kingdom of God here and now.


The more I hang with this text the better I understand that it is not these words that need to become softer, but the worldly realities that prevent ALL PEOPLE from receiving the good news, freedom, and liberation Jesus came to proclaim. As Dr. King reminds, the long arc of the moral universe that bends towards justice requires deep commitment and great endurance.

Few people in our moden history has understood the call to count the cost quite like Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Bonhoeffer was a theologian who embodied the cost of discipleship during the Nazi regime in Germany. He profoundly interpreted call to abandone all that he held dear in life to do, God’s work and live God’s will. In his seminal work, The Cost of Discipleship, Bonhoeffer asserts that “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” This stark statement reflects the gravity of the choice to follow Jesus—it is a call to lay down one's life, in one form or another, in pursuit of a greater good. Bonhoeffer himself lived this truth, ultimately paying with his life because of his staunch opposition to Hitler and his regime. His commitment to Christ led him to resist the evil of his time despite the personal cost.


This idea of 'costly grace,' a term Bonhoeffer used to describe the high price of true discipleship, is a grace that is costly because it compels us to submit to the yoke of Christ—a yoke that is simultaneously a burden and a liberation. It is a burden because it demands that the leave behind all our individual pursuits, desires, and even relationships when they conflict with our primary allegiance to Christ. Yet, it is a liberation because, in aligning ourselves with Jesus, we undertake a path of profound purpose, deep peace, and eternal impact.


For those of us walking the path of discipleship today, Jesus’ message in Luke challenges us to consider what we are willing to sacrifice for the sake of the Gospel. It prompts us to ask ourselves:

  • Are there aspects of our lives that we hold more dearly than our commitment to Christ?

  • What might it look like for us to truly 'count the cost' in our current cultural and personal contexts?

The journey of discipleship is not one of comfort or convenience. As we see in the lives of the disciples and in Bonhoeffer’s example, it is a path marked by trials and sacrifices. Yet, it is also a journey accompanied by profound peace and joy, found only in the knowledge that our lives are aligned with the divine will.

How we might live out this radical discipleship? What next step can you take to journey closer to God? Let us be inspired by those who have walked this path before us, and may we find the courage to embrace the cost, knowing that the rewards are eternal and immeasurable. As we navigate the complexities of our commitments and the challenges they present, may we always return to the foundational truth that in losing our lives for Christ’s sake, we find them.

Week 4- Luke - Discipleship Guide
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