“Going Along” With Jesus
Now large crowds were going along with 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. “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. “For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? “Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ “Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and consider whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand? “Or else, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. “So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.
“Now large crowds were going along with Him;…” Early in His ministry, Jesus attracted large crowds who were “going along.” They were not identifying themselves with the Teacher as disciples, they were simply curious. There was no cost to listen and observe. They were “window shopping.” They were “kicking the tires.”
Curiosity is necessary but is it enough? Jesus demanded more of them than just “going along.” Contrary to modern sales techniques, Jesus did not focus on the positive results of following Him, and there are many, but rather He explained to them that it would cost them something to be true disciples. When we have opportunity to teach the curious it is neither our job to minimize the cost nor to negotiate the cost. The cost has already been determined. The “sticker price,” the Word of God is set by God.
Jesus 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. “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple… “So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions” (Lk. 14:26, 27, 33).
Notice in these verses the personal nature of discipleship. Discipleship has to do with things that are one’s “own.” He must hate is “own” family and his “own” life. He must carry his “own” cross and give up his “own” possessions. Since discipleship requires decisions about one’s “own” things, I cannot make those decisions for you and you cannot make them for me. In Mt. 20:15 the landowner answering the complaint of the workers who worked all day and received the same wage as those who worked only part of the day said, “Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish what is my own?” Yes it was his right. If a person does not want to give up what is his “own” he cannot be forced to do it. A disciple must willingly and voluntarily relinquish that which is his “own.”
If God demands that we love one another, that husbands love their wives and their children, how is it that one must “hate” his family? A similar statement in the book of Matthew clears up any misunderstanding. “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me;…” (Mt. 10:37). To “hate” is to “love less.” To be a disciple, the Lord must come first, even before family. The same is true of one’s “own” life. Maintaining our life cannot be more important than serving the Lord. The result of such devotion is equivalent to carrying one’s own cross. Carrying a cross implies exposure to a horrible death, a willingness to suffer the greatest evils in His cause. That is quite a cost and it must be counted before one contemplates becoming a disciple.
Jesus also said that to be a disciple one must “give up all his own possessions.” Jesus told the rich young ruler to sell his possession and give to the poor (Mt. 19:21). While that is a specific command to the rich young ruler it still is necessary for a disciple, every disciple, to give up his own possessions. We sing a hymn, “Trust and Obey.” One line in that song, I believe, expresses what the Lord was requiring. “But we never can prove the delights of His love, until all on the altar we lay.” Everything must be laid on the altar. A disciple is one who commits all that he has. He puts all under the control of the Master.
Jesus’ demands are radical, but they are necessary for one to be a disciple. The cost is great but the benefits are greater. We should consider discipleship as a commitment to a prolonged spiritual warfare. Many decide to follow because of emotions or empty enthusiasm but those will not sustain discipleship. Being a disciple will continue to cost us. That is what we need to understand when counting the cost. Finishing is important. Someone said that stopping at third base adds no more to the score than striking out. Jesus said, “You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved” (Mt. 10:22).
We need to ask ourselves the question, are we just “going along” with Jesus or have we become His disciples?
By Karl Hennecke
From Expository Files 16.11; November 2009