May 31, 2016
18 When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake. 19 Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.”
20 Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
21 Another disciple said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”
22 But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”
Salvation comes to us as the free gift of grace, but discipleship comes at a great cost. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said it well in his celebrated treatise, The Cost of Discipleship, when he said, “When Christ calls a person he bids him come and die.”
Soon we will hear Jesus put it this way, “Whoever wants to save their life will lose it but whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 16:25.
Salvation comes to us as the free gift of grace, but discipleship comes at a great cost. What I am about to say may be offensive and perhaps even wrong, but it has become a matter of conviction for me. The big problem we face in present day Christianity is so many have assumed that salvation and discipleship can somehow be separated—that we can have one without the other.
In today’s text, Jesus is in essence saying, “Anyone can become my disciple but before joining up they must count the cost.”
What’s surprising about today’s text is these were not a couple of slackers who approached Jesus. The first was a Scribe and the second a “disciple.” In other words, they were pretty committed blokes.
So was Jesus being unreasonable here? Was he really saying discipleship requires homelessness or renunciation of one’s family? I don’t think so. My take: Jesus is saying the real measure of discipleship is not one’s “commitment” but rather their “consecration.”
Do you see the difference? Commitment is about activity. Consecration is about identity. Activity is not a bad thing. It’s just not the measure of things when it comes to following Jesus. Jesus is looking for a quality of one’s belonging exclusively to God.
Divided loyalties desecrate discipleship. For loyalty to be loyalty there can be no exceptions. This is what it means to seek the Kingdom only, to make the main thing the only thing, to give up on trying to serve two masters, and on we could go. Jesus will not be run up the flagpole and saluted. He must be exclusively embraced or not at all. Does this happen all at once? Not usually. That’s what discipleship is all about—the ever increasing exclusive embrace of Jesus. Everything else is just playing church.
Is this about becoming a religious zealot? No, it’s about becoming a real person. Jesus’ invitation to follow him exclusively turns out to be the only truly reasonable way. It’s why he is so emphatic about it.
Over the course of time our commitment level inevitably waxes and wanes. That’s why our commitment is not the measure of our salvation. It’s not our commitment that saves us. The measure of our salvation, which becomes evidenced by our discipleship, is the abandonment of our lives, kingdoms, securities and interests in the exclusive trust of Jesus Christ.
What I believe Jesus is saying is consecration invariably leads to commitment, but commitment does not always lead to consecration. We confuse these two realities at the peril of our souls.
1. Does this feel like hard teaching to you? Have you considered this teaching of Jesus to be unreasonable before?
2. If a doctor said you had cancer and there was only one way to cure it would you consider that unreasonable? Why not? Make the comparison to Jesus now.
3. Share with another what keeps you from this kind of exclusivity of loyalty to Jesus?
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J.D. Walt, is a Bond Slave of the Lord Jesus Christ. firstname.lastname@example.org.