Sermon for Sunday September 8th, 2019, the Twelfth Sunday after Trinity
The Lessons: Jeremiah 18:1-11; Psalm 139:1-5, 12-18; Philemon 1-21;
The Text: Luke 14:25-33
The Topic: The cost of being a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ
The Lord Jesus Christ used two ordinary illustrations to bring home the truth of counting the cost of being his disciple: a man who starts building a tower, but does not finish it because he cannot afford the cost, and a king with a smaller army going to war against a king with a larger army. In each of these cases the worse result is avoided if calculations are made and the cost is counted. If builders and kings, or military commanders, must calculate the cost, in the first case, of building a tower, and in the second, of going to war against a larger army, then anyone who wants to follow the Lord Jesus as his disciple should do so as well.
Imagine an army in which the soldiers all said, “We’ll fight as soldiers only on one day a week, while we live our own lives every other day of the week.” How could a country be defended by such an army? It would be very easy for an enemy to defeat it.
THE SECOND LESSON/GOSPEL LESSON: ST. LUKE 14:25-33
When we examine the sayings of Jesus in this passage, and the high standard of loyalty to the Lord that he expects, we must understand them in the light of these illustrations, and know that without completely giving ourselves and all that we have to the Lord, our spiritual battle against evil is easily lost.
The Lord Jesus used the illustrations of the rash builder and the rash king to show the necessity for anyone intending to become his disciple to count the cost first. There were great crowds of people physically following him, and perhaps the thought that they were doing so made it easier for them to assume that one day they would all inherit God’s kingdom.
The first of his sayings, therefore, sets before these multitudes the kind of love, loyalty and commitment that he requires of every disciple. This saying appears to command the disciple to hate his father, mother, wife, children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life (Luke 14:26). Some interpret this as an exaggeration, but what it really means is that the disciple must love the Lord Jesus Christ so much that his love for parents and family pales in comparison, and also, that if there is real opposition from parents or family members to a disciple’s obedience to God’s will in any matter, he must rather obey God’s will, even if his relatives hate him for doing so, or would rather control his life, rather than let it be governed by the Lord. Why did the Lord give us this hard saying? I believe the Lord knew and still knows how parents and family members easily assume they can control their children or their relatives. This hatred, then, flows from one’s determination to do God’s will, and not be prevented from doing so by one’s own family, or anyone at all.
Now this kind of principle can be illustrated from secular history. When Alexander the Great and his cavalry were pursuing Darius, the Persian King, most of his horsemen gave out, mainly because of thirst from the long pursuit. Then some Macedonians carrying water met Alexander. It was about midday, and all the cavalrymen were very thirsty. Alexander took the helmet of water offered by the Macedonians, and was about to drink some, when he saw all the horsemen around him gazing longingly at the water. Then he refused it, saying, “If I alone should drink it, these horsemen of mine will lose heart.” Now the cavalrymen, hearing this and seeing his self-control and greatness of spirit, called out to him to lead them forward boldly, and began to spur their horses on, insisting they would not consider themselves weary, or thirsty, or as mortals at all, so long as they had such a king.
– p. 351, Bernadotte Perrin (transl.): Book VII, Plutarch: Lives. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard Press: Loeb Classical Library, 1919. Reprinted, 1999.
Though those cavalrymen did not hate water, and certainly very much needed it at that time, their loyalty to their King, Alexander the Great, was stronger than their thirst. However much we love our family, our love for God must be far stronger.
Not only must this be so, but the disciple needs to despise his own life for the sake of his love for Christ. This does not mean he hates himself absolutely, for he cannot even love his neighbor unless he loves himself (Lev. 19:18), but even when it comes to meeting our own needs, fulfilling our own goals, God’s will must come first.
After this saying, follows Jesus’ saying about carrying one’s cross and following him. The cross was the sign of the criminal in the days of the Roman Empire. A criminal would carry the crossbeam of his cross to his place of execution, where he would be crucified. Just as crowds of people saw the Lord Jesus as a criminal on his way to execution, so when a Christian today truly obeys God’s will for his life, people might view him as foolish, misguided, insane, or even criminal. Part of bearing the cross of Christ is bearing his shame, his sorrow, and sharing in some way in the fellowship of his sufferings (Phil. 3:10). This saying of Jesus implies obedience even to the point of death as a Christian martyr, if that is God’s call, but for many others, it means at least being misunderstood, even mistreated, for the sake of the Lord Jesus.
This degree of love for the Lord Jesus Christ calls for careful reflection beforehand on whether one can answer this call and meet this commitment. Therefore the Lord emphasized this point through illustrating the need to count the cost beforehand, shown in terms of a building project and military engagement. The third hard saying in this passage reinforces the point superbly:
So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.
(Luke 14:33, KJV)
From this saying, it is clear that one cannot be a disciple of the Lord without absolutely surrendering oneself to him as Lord, and following him absolutely, being ready to part with all that one has, family and possessions, though not all Christians will have to part with them completely.
CONCLUSION AND APPLICATION
Where do you stand with the Lord Jesus Christ? Are you following him to the point of denying yourself and carrying the cross he has called you to carry for His sake?