The Cost of Following Jesus

Grace  to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen

Who  knows the cost of a gallon of gasoline?

How  much do you pay for iced tea at McDonalds

What  did you get on sale this week when you went shopping?

But  the cost of following Jesus? The cost of this life of faith? Who can draw up a  nice list of two columns and plug in numbers to figure out just what it is going  to cost us?

Without getting caught up in “what ifs” and conjecture about the future, it is nigh impossible to say with any certainty what this life of discipleship will cost us personally.

Who  can truly count the cost?

Jesus  makes it clear, of course, that discipleship will be costly and that Love of God  is to come before all other earthly loyalties. The costs will touch our  relationships, our pocketbooks, our standing in society. We are called to love  Jesus more than family, more than friends, more than money, more than honor,  more even than this precious and fragile life that is all too  fleeting.

For  many of us, though, costly discipleship is an abstraction that doesn’t much  bother us. We’ve heard the sermons, and the stories of bold and brave  Christians. We can talk about Christians fed to lions, or about those who died  in concentration camps for hiding Jews in their homes. We can imagine ourselves  to be steadfastly faithful in the face of terrible persecution in much the same  way a child can imagine himself to be the hero in a game of pretend-such  imaginary games are relatively easy since we don’t  really  expect it to happen, and our  imaginations are not vivid enough to paint a realistic picture of what terrible  persecution is really like.
Though even they cannot know  the future either, I expect our Christian sisters and brothers in Egypt and  Syriaright now have a clearer understanding of discipleship’s high cost than we  do, as many of them are facing destruction of their houses of worship, their  homes, their businesses, enduring torture, and even being murdered for their  faith. We shake our heads sadly, but instead of thinking “that’s what following  Jesus should look like,” we think to ourselves, “how tragic-but I’m glad that  doesn’t happen here.”

Except  Jesus doesn’t say anywhere that being an American should make discipleship any  cheaper for us than it is for persecuted Christians, as if there’s a  discipleship exchange rate and the dollar is up against the Egyptian Pound.  There is no discipleship blue-light special that comes with our nationality. If,  by the grace of God, we follow Jesus into the future, this faith will be costly to us in ways we cannot now  fully understand and comprehend. No matter where we are. If it isn’t costly, it  is only because we have chosen lesser gods.
Still, knowing only that this  life of faith will be costly leaves many questions about the future unanswered.  The crosses that each of us bear are not all exactly the same. Who can truly count the  cost?
We baptize many infants who haven’t the tiniest  inkling of what God might require of them. We confirm teenagers who have almost  certainly never known someone martyred for the faith. We confess the creeds as  adults at various stages of life who have no idea what sort of sacrifices will  be asked of us in the remaining years of our lives. The future eludes our  understanding.

I  have no idea if I will someday be called to spend my life’s waning years tending  the failing health of a loved one. I have no idea if you may someday be called  to bear witness in the midst of a painfully debilitating illness. I have no idea  if following God will cost me my livelihood or my freedom. I have no idea if  someday you might be called to martyrdom. None of us can know what hardship our  own life of discipleship might hold.
We can guess, and we can  wonder. We can take seriously that there will be costly sacrifices to be made  for the life of faith, expecting that if we truly want to follow Jesus, we must  know that it will bring us hardship. We can pray for the grace to remain  faithful when the cross we bear weighs heavily.

But  beyond that, who can know what the future will hold? Who can truly count the  cost?

There  is One, and only One who perfectly counted the cost of self-giving love, and the  cost he counted was steep indeed. For Him, it would be torture, abandonment,  rejection, and death-all at the hands of those he loved and desired to save. As  Jesus was offering this hard admonition to us to join in his life of suffering,  he knew that the passing of days and hours brought him closer and closer to the  final confrontation with death.

Jesus  tells his followers that this path will wound families and strike deeply at our  most cherished human relationships. As he speaks these words, he draws ever  closer to the piercing of his own mother’s heart and soul with a sword of grief,  as her beloved Son suffers and dies.

He  warns his disciples that theirs will be a life of poverty, in which earthly  goods will count for nothing, just as every day is bringing him closer to the  total poverty of self-emptying on the cross, giving his own flesh and life up to  the grave.

Jesus  tells a parable of a man intending to build a tower, who lays out his plans,  knowing fully what it will cost him, just as he, Jesus, offers himself as the  strong tower of refuge where the righteous may run in and be saved (cf. Prov.  18:10).

Jesus  tells a parable of a king going to war, who fights only when he knows that his  forces are such that the victory will be his. God counted the cost, and in His  overwhelming love for us, He deemed that cost worthwhile. He sent out only the  best to wage war on that imposter king, the prince of darkness. The beloved Son,  Jesus Christ, was the only certain victor in  such a confrontation. The cost was counted, and the victory  assured.

The  irony which runs through this passage is that when we are asked to count the  cost of discipleship, we do so in the knowledge that the greatest self-emptying  sacrifice has already been endured, the most secure tower has already been  built, and the war has already been won. When we called to count the cost of our  salvation, we are actually counting the cost paid by Jesus, and only secondarily  do we consider the burdens we will bear by virtue of our relationship with  Him.

It  was once reported that after a fiery speech calling for a unified Italy, a young  man approached Garibaldi and asked him “If I fight, Sir, what will be my  reward?” Swiftly came Garibaldi’s answer, “Wounds, scars and perhaps death. But  remember, that through your bruises Italy will be free.” Whether or not the cost  of following Jesus is worth it to us depends on whether or not we truly believe  that the victory is assured. He’s asking for faith. The young man believed  Garibaldi’s assurance that Italy would indeed be free-that the risk to his own  life was worth it. And he fought for that cause.

The  cost asked of us, then, is not the cost of fighting a war on our own, nor is it  the cost of building our own tower up to heaven that we might reach God. In the  Bible, we have stories of men who waged war without waiting for God’s help, and  a story of men who set out to build their own tower to heaven. These projects in  self-sufficiency do not end well. Nor are we being asked to give our lives for a  losing cause. Jesus is not calling his disciples to senseless  waste of human life and efforts.

Instead  he is calling us to trust that the victory of life and salvation is assured, the  mightiest fortress-tower has already been built, and the war has already been  won. He’s asking for faith. If we trust in him, and join in on that winning  side, we will still suffer “wounds, scars, and perhaps death,” the marks of the  cross, but we will also rise with Him and share in his conquering resurrection.  In calling us to follow Him, Jesus is inviting us to participate in that  victory, in his own life of self-giving love, a costly love, but one that pours  joy, healing, grace and peace into the life of the world.

A Message  from Rev Allison  Michaelbrought to you by  Grace Lutheran Church, Web and Park Street, Mountain View, Arkansas.  For prayer or more information, contact  Pastor Kenneth Taglauer by email: [email protected].  A Pass it On Project

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