This week’s Gospel reading, from Luke 14:25-35, portrays Jesus urging his followers to consider the cost of discipleship. Following Jesus may be a costly matter. Within this passage, Jesus lays out the practical details first and then follows them with an illustration of the principles.
What is the principle? In verse 28 it is that of obtaining and considering a construction estimate. The result of not getting an estimate, in verses 29-31, is that the building project will not be completed and the man will be mocked.
In verses 30-32 the principle is that of a king considering the amount of military force he has before attacking an enemy who may well be more powerful than he is. If he does not think he can raise an adequate force to overcome the enemy he will seek a diplomatic solution to the conflict.
Verse 33 ties us back to verses 26 and 27. Being a disciple of Jesus requires us to lay down all that we have, all our earthly security, all our hopes, all our dreams. It requires us to follow him regardless of the outcome. Verse 27 says that the disciple is to “bear his cross” (NKJV). This, we realize is no decoration but rather a device to inflict a slow and painful death.
Are Jesus’ disciples willing to follow him even if it costs their life? It is a large cost to consider. Yet this is the demand Jesus makes. He came and gave his life. If we receive his life in place of ours, we must also be willing to lay down our lives.
How do verses 34-35 relate? Jesus suddenly talks about salt which could lose its flavor and be worthless. If the Christian is not distinctly Christian, he has chosen to take up his own life again rather than Jesus’ life on his behalf. Jesus’ call is certainly to a radical type of discipleship which will be reflective of his priorities and his resurrection.
If this passage seems to leave us without hope, realizing that our commitment is imperfect and worthy of being thrown out, the worthless salt, we should consider again the way Jesus comes for those who are imperfect. He himself perishes for us outside the camp, bringing us forgiveness, as we read in Hebrews chapter 13. The same Lord who calls us to unflinching discipleship also calls us to trust in his forgiveness.
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