Blog / Book of the Month / The Cost of Discipleship / Luke 14:25–35 / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday September 4th 2022 / Season of Pentecost / Mount Olive Lutheran Church

The Cost of Discipleship / Luke 14:25–35 / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday September 4th 2022 / Season of Pentecost / Mount Olive Lutheran Church

The Cost of Discipleship / Luke 14:25–35 / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday September 4th 2022 / Season of Pentecost / Mount Olive Lutheran Church

Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday September 4th 2022: Season of Pentecost / Luke 14:25–35 "The Cost of Discipleship"

Now great crowds accompanied [Jesus], 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 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.

“Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” 

Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in Your sight O Lord. Amen.

Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. We’ve been looking for a while at the various interactions Jesus was having as He traveled from the Mount of Transfiguration to Jerusalem and Mount Golgotha the place of His crucifixion and death. Today’s Gospel reading is another one of those interactions. Now I want you to remember what happened on the Mount of Transfiguration how Jesus’ face and clothing shown like the Sun and how Moses and Elijah were suddenly there to speak with Him of His coming crucifixion and departure and how Saint James and John and Peter were there and how they heard the voice of God the Father coming out of the cloud that encircled them, saying, “This is My Son, My Chosen One; listen to Him!” and [how] when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And [how] they kept silent [about all that had happened that day] and told no one in those days anything of what they had seen.[1] And in the Gospel of Saint Mark we are told that, “as they were coming down the mountain, [Jesus] charged them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead” and how Saint Peter and James and John were left to wondering “what this rising from the dead might mean.”[2]

Why’s this important to today’s Gospel? Well at the Mount of Transfiguration Peter was so frightened and moved with awe at what He was seeing that He wanted to stop and build little booths—shrines if you like—one for Jesus, one for Moses and one for Elijah to honour them and to worship  God and presumably to stay there in this moment that to all the World would look like the height of glory and resplendent radiance but Jesus knew His true glory would be revealed at the cross of His crucifixion on that other Mountain, Mount Golgotha, where He would not be crowned with light but with thorns. His true glory was yet to come.  

Saint Peter’s understanding, and interpretation of, glory and victory and honour is not unique to Peter, and Peter would have to go through a lot personally before his understanding would change, and this is why the blink and you missed it detail found at the beginning of today’s Gospel Reading is so important. The reading starts by saying, “Now great crowds accompanied [Jesus].” Not three men on a mountain side but great crowds, and these great crowds are with Jesus for what reason? Why are they following Him? Do they know where it is that He is going? Do they imagine that His path towards Jerusalem is one of an earthly king coming to conquer and set up a glorious conventional kingdom where they might be granted to sit at His right hand or at His left hand? Do they have an inkling that He will clear out the money changers from the Temple and not just the money changers but maybe they dreamed that Jesus would also drive out the false king Herod Antipas and the foreign governor Pontius Pilate and the Romans? Is this what they hoped for as they followed Him? If this Jesus could conjure bread and fish practically out of thin air what other glories could He deliver to them, how might He make their lives easier and grand and glorious? Even if they believed He could be more than a conventional king did they have the wrong idea about what it meant to follow Jesus?

Jesus had fed the 5,000 before He went up the Mount of Transfiguration with Saint Peter and James and John and when those who had come to hear Him preach and teach on the day Jesus took the 5 loves and 2 fish and multiplied it  “saw the sign that [Jesus] had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!” [And] perceiving then that they were about to come and take [Jesus] by force to make Him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by Himself.”[3] But here the crowds are again, they are again following after Him and Jesus does not want them to have a false idea of what it is to be one of His followers.

Here Jesus teaches the crowds and you and I that we must not love our family more than God, we must be ready and willing to face public ridicule by people who think we are foolish, we must be ready to fail in the eyes of the World, and we must be ready to die if need be to save others from death, that we must not count the things of this World to be more valuable than the things of God. And these lessons would be impossibly hard to understand and embrace except for the fact that Jesus accomplished them all ahead of us. So we can now be confident to walk in His path and follow in His footsteps. Jesus counted the cost of what was ahead of Him, He came to us because His heavenly Father sent Him and He is His Father’s obedient and faithful Son, and as His Son Jesus knew the cost of following the will of His Father. He knew to rescue you from yourself and from Sin and from the World and the clutches of the Devil and Death that He would experience hardship, ridicule and temptations to sin and the pain and suffering of death at the hands of men who hated Him and His Father. Jesus counted the cost and He deemed it worth the goal, that all of it was worth your salvation, freedom and redemption. So in Advent and Christmas we sing, “Then stepped forth the Lord of all From His pure and kingly hall; God of God, yet fully man, His heroic course began. God the Father was His source, Back to God He ran His course. Into hell His road went down, Back then to His throne and crown.”[4] His road would not be an easy one; it would not be all flowers and earthly glory. And Jesus knows that those who follow Him must be prepared for what may come as they walk in His path and follow in His footsteps.     

Think of it like this: If you train to be a boxer and you get into the ring to compete you need to be prepared for the possibility of being hit in the face, or even knocked out. There are boxers that die in the ring they have to be prepared for that when they get into the ring. You need to count the cost of competing, ‘don’t write cheques your body can’t cash,’ the World might have hard words for you when you fail so people say, ‘you’ll need to have a thick skin,’ you’ll need to count the cost, and accept it. From time to time Sin, Death, the Devil, the World might just land a couple good ones and ring your bell but don’t sit out the fight just to avoid a little embarrassment and ridicule, just to avoid the possibility of physical harm. Don’t sit out the fight to avoid death, all men and women face death, sadly even some children do but how will you face Death? How will you face the hardships of life as a Christian? Saint Paul says, “I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air.”[5] Which is to mean, when you run be sure to run the race with a goal, don’t just train by shadowboxing but rather count the cost of following Jesus and I get in the ring even though you could get clocked, even though you could receive a tongue lashing, even though you could lose everything.

This leads up into the heart of what Jesus is saying, if you count what the World values as great and what God values as poor you will be in trouble. Count what the World values as nothing and Christ as everything and you will have a great reward. Do not live in fear, take heart, have courage. How does the hymn go? “What is the world to me with all its vaunted pleasure when you, and you alone, Lord Jesus, are my treasure! You only, dearest Lord, my soul's delight shall be; you are my peace, my rest. What is the world to me!”[6] If you worry about what the World thinks, what the World says, what you do or do not have, or own, or posses in this life then you have not fully considered the cost of following Jesus. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,”[7] as they say, and “one man's [trash] may be another's treasure.”[8] Day by day the World might think it’s trash to follow Jesus but who cares what the World thinks. If the World thinks there’s nothing beautiful about being a Christian who cares what the World thinks, you belong to Christ Jesus you do not belong to the World. Jesus says, “take heart; I have overcome the world.” [9]

Think about Saint Peter and Saint John after Jesus was risen from the dead on Easter Sunday, think about their boldness after Jesus’ ascension and their receiving of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. Think about how the Acts of the Apostles recorded their preaching in the Temple in Jerusalem and their arrest and how nothing would dissuade them from preaching in Jesus’ name, how nothing would dissuade them from preaching the good news of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead and the truth of what happened there at the cross of His crucifixion. Think about how it was when the Chief Priests and the Scribes and the Pharisees, the Sadducees and the Elders of the people “beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and [to their surprise] let them go. [How] they left the presence of the council [of the Sanhedrin], rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name [of Jesus].”[10] God the Father raised Jesus from the dead and they were eyewitnesses of this, so why should they fear death? God rasied Jesus so it is promised that the followers of Jesus will likewise be raised from the dead on The Last Day, so when Jesus says “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple,” He says this knowing where that path will lead, it leads through death to life in Him, it leads through the path He has already faithfully traveled. Saint Peter and James and John came to understand that fully following Jesus’ resurrection and ascension to His Father’s right hand.

You may not be nailed to a cross, you may not suffer the death of martyred for you faith in Christ Jesus; you may in fact die of old age in your bed but whether your life is long or short, whether you have many or few days ahead of you bear your cross and follow after Jesus, come after Him step by step, day by day until your last breath. What did the children of Israel hear in our Old Testament Reading today from Deuteronomy? “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you today, by loving the LORD your God, by walking in His ways, and by keeping His commandments and His statutes and His rules, then you shall live and multiply, … But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, [then] I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish.”[11] Take up your cross and follow Jesus or don’t, that is the choice set before you. That is what Jesus sets before the crowds who are following after Him in our Gospel Reading today.  

And in our Epistle Saint Paul returns the runaway slave Onesimus to his former master Philemon trusting that Philemon will receive Onesimus back not as a slave but as a brother in Christ Jesus and Paul writes the letter counting the cost, knowing that the temptation to sin and sin itself is very real, and like the boxer who enters the ring must know that he might be hit in the face, Saint Paul must send Onesimus back not knowing for certain how Onesimus will be received and Onesimus must return trusting that Philemon will treat him differently on account of Christ Jesus. Regardless as to how Philemon treats Onesimus it does not change the fact that they remain brothers in Christ Jesus and they will be judged by Jesus for how they live together as brothers. Onesimus leaves behind all that he had living as “a son” of Saint Paul who had become like “a father” to him for an uncertain future with Philemon and so it is with all of us.

We must pick up our cross and follow Jesus into the uncertainties of life trusting the One we follow, knowing that He has traversed the straight and narrow path ahead of us. Jesus doesn’t want us to follow Him without counting the cost and as Christians we do not want to paint a rosy picture of what the Christian life truly is to those we desire to reach with the Gospel, we do not want to paint a rosy picture of what the Christian life truly is to our children and friends lest they become discouraged when hardships come and they get punched in the face by life and by those who hate Jesus and who hate them on account of Jesus.[12] Yes there are wonderful friendships that run deeper than the World expects, there are relationships where we can even be closer than biological brothers and sisters, and there are times of great joy and happiness and this is all part of the Christian life yet that is not the full picture of our life in this fallen World and to forget the rest is dangerous to your faith and the faith of those you love. Take up your cross and follow Jesus when the way ahead is easy and when the way ahead is hard. Take up your cross and follow Jesus when your receive kind words and when you receive ridicule, when you receive respectful handshakes and warm hugs and when you receive sucker-punches and right hooks; have a faith that is ready in season and out, faith that follows Christ and His glory, not a faith that follows the World and its false vainglory. Amen.    

Let us pray:

Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.

[1] Luke 9:35–36
[2] Mark 9:9-10
[3] John 6:14–15
[4] Savior of the Nations, Come, Lutheran Service Book, Concordia Publishing House 2006, 332 stanzas 4-5.  
[5] 1 Corinthians 9:26
[6] What Is the World to Me, Lutheran Service Book, Concordia Publishing House 2006, 730 stanza 1  
[7] Mid 18th Century English Proverb, Oxford Treasury of Sayings & Quotations 4th Edition, Oxford University Press 2011, Page 33.
[8] Popular Tales of the West Highlands Orally Collected (1860), Alexander Gardner Publisher Paisley and Paternoster Row London 1890, Introduction iii, Page 23.
[9] John 16:33
[10] Acts 5:40–41
[11] Deuteronomy 30:15–18
[12] When Mike Tyson was asked about his fight plan by a reporter before his 1997 match with Evander Holyfield he answered; “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth,” as Christians the plan is to keep following Jesus no matter what life throws at you.

Photo Credit: Main Photo detail of boxers boxing from pexels