October 1, 2019
Pastor Gunnar Ledermann
Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “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.
“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’
“Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.Luke 14:25-33
I love mortgage payments, taxes, student loans and credit card debt. Some of you are looking at me with eyes that say, “Pastor, I don’t think you understand what the word love means.” A mortgage, taxes, student loans and credit card debt bring stress and anxiety into our lives. They can break up marriages or keep children living at home with mom and dad into their 30s, but we have to pay them if we want things like a house or an education. There is a cost to everything in our lives. Even, in our gospel reading from Luke 14, Jesus says that there is a cost to following him, to carry your cross as a disciple of Christ.
As Jesus traveled around with great crowds gathering to him, he knew they needed to understand what being his disciple would mean. At first glance, following Jesus may have seemed easy for most of the people in the crowds. Jesus was able to make the blind see, the deaf hear and the paralyzed walk, and being on the Jesus health plan did not have any political baggage or require an advanced degree to understand. Jesus also fed thousands of people with a regular sized picnic basket of bread and fish, a miracle. He also loved to spend time with people, especially the ones who didn’t seem worth everyone else’s time. At first glance, the crowds following Jesus seemed to have the idea that being his disciple wouldn’t cost them anything because Jesus never asked them for anything, but then Jesus turned to them and said, 26 “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 I am sure many in the crowd looked at Jesus with eyes that said, “Jesus, I don’t think you understand what the word hate means.”
Jesus had to be clear with the crowds that following him would not be cheap. Instead, being Jesus’ disciple would come at a great cost. Jesus said that you and I must hate our family, even our own life or we cannot be his disciple. This statement sounds like an impossible price on its own, but even more so when we compare it to Jesus’ approval of a man’s words earlier in Luke 10 that sum up what we are to do, 27 “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Love seemed to be what Jesus expected from his disciples, but now hate. In order to help us understand what Jesus meant by hate, we need to understand what the opposite of hate is. The opposite of hate was not love, but something else. Jesus does want us to love. He wants us to love God, one another and ourselves. The Greek word for love, αγαπαν, is what we are called to do. On the other hand, we are not commanded to love with the Greek word φιλειν. The love associated with the word φιλειν is that love of affection or friendship. The hate that Jesus spoke of was the opposite of an affectionate or friendly love. Understanding this distinction and living it out is the high price paid by a disciple of Jesus.
You must count the cost of following Jesus to be his disciple. Jesus wants you to love yourself and your family with a love that loves God first. That kind of love only comes by faith. In our reading from Proverbs 9, God spoke through Solomon saying, 10 “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” With faith, you understand that you need God’s undeserved love that brought him to send his one and only Son, Jesus, to die for your sins and give you eternal life. This faith also understands that anything that would harm your relationship with God is bad and threatens where you will spend eternity.
Practically, this means loving God more than your family and even yourself. It means that you may not get to have affection and friendship with your family members if they want you to love them more than God by doing things that go against his Word and threaten your faith. It also means your own life will change; your own desires or plans will have to change to line up with God’s will. This is not easy because our sinful nature that opposes God lives inside of us, and we live in a sinful world where the devil has real power to hurt us and our faith. Jesus knew this would be hard, so he told two parables about stopping to count the cost. First, he said that you have to make sure you have enough money before you build a tower. Otherwise, you might just get the foundation laid and then not have money for the rest of it. Second, he said that if you go into battle with half the manpower as your opponent, then you need to decide to fight because your army is twice as strong or ask for terms of peace without a battle. Jesus wants you to understand the cost of being his disciple because it is high.
Jesus does not want you to count the cost to follow him so that you give up. When Jesus was in the world, it conspired, arrested, rejected, mocked, beat and crucified him. The world hated him, but there is comfort in that for you because he said John 15:18 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.” You are hated because you are a disciple of Jesus. And, that hatred is hidden and twisted. That hidden hatred comes from the devil whom we hear about in 2 Corinthians 11:14, “And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.” And in John 8:44, “When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” The devil is a liar and will say whatever he can to get you to give up on Jesus. And not only the devil but in Matthew 7:15, we are warned, “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.” Even those who seem like they are Jesus’ disciples may be false prophets working to turn you away from him. The sinful world causes the price of following Jesus as his disciple to skyrocket as it makes life harder on you and I. Jesus knows the cost to follow him is high and he wants you to be ready, so that you do not give up and so that you can keep going.
Jesus paid the highest cost to save you from this hard life. Jesus showed the world perfect love every day of his life, but he was hated. He was put to death an innocent man, and he allowed that to happen to save you. Each time you listen to your father and mother when they tell you it is ok to do what makes you happy without regard for how God fells about it, Jesus obey our Heavenly Father perfectly. Each time you let your wife’s worries defeat you rather than turning to God in prayer and the Bible for assurance or guidance, Jesus went to his Heavenly Father in prayer and the Word for strength. Each time you let your children’s activities take priority over time in God’s Word, Jesus welcomed the little children to come to him and hear about his kingdom, love and forgiveness. Each time you and your siblings conspired against one another, Jesus loved and forgave his disciples, whom he called brothers, even when they doubted his promise to rise from the dead. Even after giving into the sinful world so many times, Jesus gave up his life for you. God saved you from all the times when you showed affection and friendship to the world at the expense of your faith. You have been saved, not because you carried your cross but as God tells us in 1 Peter 1:18-19, “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.” Jesus paid the highest cost to save you and nothing can change what he has done for you.
Sharing the high cost Jesus paid to save you is the greatest way to show real love to your family. Paul Tautges said, “Make church attendance such a habit that there’s never a need for your kids to ask, “Dad, Mom, are we going to church tomorrow?”” Today we are installing our Kingdom Kids teachers. Their purpose is to teach the children about Jesus, but they can only teach when the children are in church. Now, that is an encouragement to bring your children to church, but more than that it is a reminder that parents are the primary source for their children to hear about Jesus. A child spends the vast majority of its time with its parents, so what a child sees their parent do regarding their faith has a major impact on them. The attitude we pray for in our own lives and the one we pray for our children to have is described by Paul in our reading from Philippians 3:8, “What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.” Passing on our thankfulness, comfort, contentment, hope, future, joy, etc. that we have in Christ is the greatest possession we can give to our children.
We pass on all that Jesus did for us to our children by carrying our cross. Jesus said, 27 “And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” You and I have our own crosses to bear because we are not yet free from the sinful world. Sometimes the cross we bear is because of a sin we committed and sometimes it comes from someone else’s sin, and sometimes it is the rejection by one’s own family because we believe in Jesus. When our families watch us carry the weight of our cross, we have the chance to tell them why. Jesus paid the high cost to save us and what is waiting for us in heaven is worth even more than what makes us comfortable now, even getting along with family. God gives us a glimpse of the end of our crosses in Revelation 21:3-4, “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”” When the end of this world comes, we will be in heaven with Jesus’ disciples who have true love for their Savior and true love for one another.
A mortgage, taxes, student loans and credit card debt bring stress and anxiety into our lives, but we have to pay them if we want things like a house or an education. There is a cost to everything in our lives. Even, in our gospel reading from Luke 14, Jesus says that there is a cost to following him, the crosses we bear because of the devil, the broken world and our own sinful nature. The world wants you to hate the free grace God showed to us in Jesus. Refuse the world holding onto Jesus and fighting with the message of Jesus. Refuse to let your family be lost to the world by refusing to accept them only as your family during your short time on earth and by pointing them to Jesus so that you can be a family by faith that lasts forever. May the gracious promise of forgiveness and eternal life through Jesus be your strength as you carry your cross as a follower of Christ, knowing the cost to you and appreciating the cost Christ paid for you to be with him for eternity in heaven. Amen.