Large crowds are following Jesus. The number of people interested in his ministry is reaching an all-time high. It seems like he should be excited as he is starting to have a significant impact on the world. Jesus looks at this massive group of people and says, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26-27 – NIV 2011)”
I am sure the crowd was immediately stunned at his words. Before they could raise their objections and get answers to their questions, he launched into two parables about commitment. First, there is a man who wants to build a tower. The first thing he does is to calculate the cost because if he cannot finish it, people will ridicule him.
The second story is similar. If a king wants to go to war, the first thing he does is calculate the number of troops under his command. He wants to know if the size of his army is able to defeat the other one, and if not, he will negotiate the terms of peace so that they will not be destroyed.
This is not a call to greater commitment; it is a statement that being a disciple of Jesus is an enormous decision. If we do not take it seriously, we will bring ridicule on ourselves and Jesus. Those who quit their faith halfway through their lives are like a guy with an unfinished tower in his field. If we do not adequately consider the cost, it will be like us being destroyed by an enemy’s army. We will end up humiliated and hurt.
Jesus is actually discouraging people from following him. He wants to make sure that everyone knows the cost of being his disciple and that not everyone can cut it. When people give up and quit the faith, it damages their own life and those connected with them.
As a preacher of the gospel, I want everyone to come to Jesus. I would like to see the entire town in which I live to come to a saving relationship with him. Nothing would please me more, but I am not sure it would make Jesus happy. He is not looking for half-hearted people to give him lip service of their devotion. He is not looking for people who are willing to split their time between being obedient to him and sacrificing for their kids. He has no desire for people who will give him any time they have left at the end of their busy day. He is looking for people who are completely sold out on his mission.
Jesus once asked his twelve closest disciples if his words were too demanding. Peter said, “To whom shall we go. You have the words of eternal life.”
If these ideas seem harsh to you, then don’t follow Jesus. Sleep in and enjoy this life. Take it easy each day, and don’t trouble yourself with the demands of the Christian life. There are far easier ways to live on planet earth than being a disciple of Jesus; the only problem is that they do not lead to eternal life.