Contrary to our modern church marketing approach, when Yeshua preached, his message dwindled down the numbers. Through parables, Jesus kept the secrets of the kingdom hidden for those who would be willing to search and find them for themselves. Often times, in fear of rejection, the disciples would tell Jesus that a saying was too “hard” to hear.
“When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this?” (John 6:60-61)
Self Seeking Followers
What Jesus was after was not a multitude of followers, but a multitude of disciples. The twelve did not understand this. Jesus knew, that if he would only develop followers, then they would abandon him at a moment of inconvenience. Jesus knew the hidden heart of a self-seeking follower. Mainly, they only follow when it services their own interests.
Although followers can make up a large number for a marketing campaign, in reality, they don’t mean much. Knowing this, Jesus gave difficult language around what it means to be His disciple in order to discover the original intentions of a person’s heart.
“Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:25,26)
Jesus says, “if a person does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters” they cannot be His disciple. How can this be true? After all, God is the one who created the design of the family in the first place. Wouldn’t this go against God’s nature?
I can only picture the bystanders around Jesus at the time, asking themselves “you mean I have to hate my mother to follow this guy?” The answer is a resounding yes. Did this offend the original audience? Does it offend those today who reads the passage? I imagine so. But before anyone chooses to close their Bibles or to pick up a spiritual stone to throw into the abyss of their belief, they should first consider reading the entire passage.
The Cost of Following Jesus
“Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:28-33)
With these words, Jesus crushes the dreams of those who desire to follow him safely at a distance. If he is to be followed, he must be seated into the primary position of one’s heart. He is not a second or third option or even a last resort. He’s the first choice of a disciple and the only option.
Charles Spurgeon, in his sermon entitled “Counting The Cost”, says this, “Hence in this particular instance one might even think that he was repelling men rather than attracting them to his leadership; but, indeed, he was doing nothing of the kind. He understood right well that men to be truly won must be won by truth, that the truest love is ever honest, and that the best disciple is not he who joins the class of the great Master in a hurry, and then afterwards discovers that the learning is not such as he expected, but one who comes sighing after just such knowledge as the teacher is prepared to give.”
Spurgeon points out the heart behind Yeshua’s comments. His desire was not to offend his followers or for them to hate their mothers, brothers, or sisters. The opposite was true. Jesus’ main desire was for them to know the truth, and for the truth to set them free. John 8:31-32 testifies to this.
“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)
Defined By Truth
Because Jesus loved his followers, He told them the truth - even if they didn’t want to hear it. Why would loving a brother or sister more than loving Jesus not be a good idea? Because a person cannot truly love someone without the love of God (see 1 John 4:8)
Logically, Jesus sets them up for success by asking them to first consider the costs of following Him. If they truly understood the impact of their choices, would they make the same choice? The same is true for us today. Many Christians spend a lifetime going to church only to renounce their faith later on. The question must be asked, did they consider the costs? Did they lay the right foundation? Or, did they use Jesus as a last resort to service their own personal wants and needs?
Jesus, in the most loving way, tells his followers to consider the cost of following Him. He does not say this to alienate people away from himself. The opposite is true. He speaks the truth so that they can be positioned for the greatest life to ever be lived. A life with Jesus in second place is not a life at all. In fact, it would be better to live life without Him. With Jesus, there is no plan B.
“Jesus replied, "No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God." (Luke 9:62).
A person that has not considered the costs set’s themselves up for future failure and disappointment. Jesus reveals no one who is a true disciple has one hand on his kingdom and one hand on something else. He warns us to consider the cost of following him.
So, what is the cost of following Jesus? Well, quite simply, we are. We are the cost. Are we willing to lay down ourselves at the foot of the cross to follow Jesus? Those who are Jesus’ disciples have died to themselves so that they can fully live through Him.
Jesus Considered The Cost
When considering the costs of following Jesus, we must understand that He has already done the same for us. On Calvary, Yeshua gave his own life so that we wouldn’t have to carry our own anymore alone. He freely gave, so that you can freely receive.
He has left us with a choice to follow Him with no other available options. In Matthew 8, Jesus reveals to use that a disciple is one that lets go of all the excuses in why they have not made God their only option.
“Now when Jesus saw a crowd around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side. And a scribe came up and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Another of the disciples said to him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.” (Matthew 8:18-22)