A STUDY OF THE BOOK OF LUKE
The Cost of Discipleship
Luke 14 SCC 5/22/16
Most of Chapter 14 took place in the house of one of the leaders of the Pharisees on the Sabbath (v 1, 7, 12 and 15) during a rather formal Sabbath Day dinner (v 7). Apparently Jesus accepted the invitation to cover some crucial issues with those following the Rabbinical Jewish leadership. Later, after the meal He was followed by large crowds [who] were going along with Him; and He turned and taught them about what it takes to be My disciple (v 25).
A DISCIPLE COMPREHENDS THE ETERNAL NATURE OF LIFE LIVED ON EARTH
Compassion and mercy has priority over tradition keeping 1-6
Verse 1-2: Jesus is being watched very carefully v 1. The idea is that they watch lurking with intent. Sitting with them is a man with dropsy v 2. This sick man is right there in front of Jesus where he can respond to this man’s need right in front of everyone else. The stage is set.
Verse 3-4: Jesus uses the occasion to question the lawyers and Pharisees v 3. Is this permissible? Luke wants us to reflect on this, ‘have these religious officials learned anything from God’s activity through Jesus ministry on the Sabbath’? No one speaks v 4. This group is so fixed on their tradition that it is safe to say nothing has changed. Jesus acts deliberately and decisively healing the man.
Verse 5-6: Wouldn’t they perform a basic act of compassion and rescue v 5? Of course they would. Even on God’s day of rest these basic acts of human compassion take precedence. God sent Jesus because God desires his people to reach out with mercy and compassion to meet needs. The silence is deafening v 6. Luke wants it to tell us that no response is possible since stand condemned.
NB: Tradition keeping as a form of being devout has no merit with God. Religious ritual prevents compassion and mercy it does not promote it. The nature of religiosity is pride not humility. It frustrates service to others by focusing attention on oneself.
Let God reward you instead of rewarding yourself 7-11
After the healing, Jesus addressed the other guests at the feast v 7. He told them to take the back seats not the seats of honor, for everyone who exalts himself i.e. here on earth will be humbled i.e. when he gets to heaven, and he who humbles himself here on earth will be exalted by God when he gets to heaven v 8-10. The point is not to avoid being exalted but to avoid being exalted by people on earth – work toward you own exaltation, by God in heaven v 11. The front seats in heaven come from the back seats here on earth.
Seek rewards in heaven not on earth by doing things which cannot be rewarded on earth 12-14
Jesus addressed His host and told him do not invite [those who will] invite you in return and that will be your repayment here in this life on earth v 12. But invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed in heaven by God, since they do not have the means to repay you; and therefore you will leave this life with the scales balanced against you, having given more than you have received for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous v 13-14. The point is to offset the balance of justice in your favor so that God will reward you. Never put yourself in a position where God might say to you, “You were paid in-full on earth.”
Pursue those who are not too busy for God’s kingdom 15-24
Someone at the table said, Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God v 15! This pious comment missed the point diluting Jesus teaching. Not everyone will eat then, especially the ones who think they will. So Jesus counters with a story about a man who gave a big dinner but the invited guests gave excuses which all amount to “I have better things to do” v 16-20. The Master essentially tells his servant “Go and invite anyone who does not have something better to do” v 20-24. The point is, being too busy like Israel with religion to have time for God. Often it is the rejected who respond favorably to God. Disciples should seek such people. Gods people must be sought and found in surprising places.
The cost of forsaking all others to totally follow Christ 25-26
Jesus wants those who are contemplating a relationship with him to know what it means v 25. Jesus wants commitment not numbers. The desire to come to him is a good one v 26. Discipleship involves both a start and a journey. Fundamentally, discipleship is a call to allegiance. Jesus is to have first place over all, including family. The call to hate is not literal but metaphorical and means to love less. Following Jesus is to be the disciple’s first love. The pursuit is to have priority over any family member and even one’s own life. If one does not make Jesus the first priority one cannot be his disciple. The point is that only when one forsakes all others is one totally following Jesus. Otherwise family allegiance will have greater pull than Jesus does.
NB: A believer trusts in Christ’s promise of eternal life. A disciple commits to forsaking all others to totally follow Jesus Christ. You can be a believer and not a disciple. Salvation brings the promise of eternal life. Discipleship involves the cost of service and reward. Hating of family members and ourselves is to choose against them as a priority. God said Jacob I loved, but Easu I hated (Romans 9:13) in a context of choosing Jacob over Easu. This battle is fought regularly today in our families. So when that happens are you willing to alienate, or be alienated by your family members to follow Jesus? There is no difference whatsoever between what we do and what we believe.
The cost of bearing burdens associated with following Christ 27-32
Cross bearing could speak to all of the difficulty or hardship one may experience in life by placing Jesus first v 27. That would include even family difficulty caused by making Jesus one’s priority. To follow Jesus means to follow in suffering for unbelief and the world rejects the disciple. This may also include pain of persecution as a result of following Jesus. Two illustrations assess this cost: (1) Assessing the cost of building a tower before beginning construction to increase security 28-30. So with discipleship one should assess whether one is ready to take on the personal commitment and sacrifice required to follow Jesus. Otherwise embarrassment and failure will cause snickering and public mocking. (2) Assessing the cost of war before entering the battle to ensure victory 31-32. So with discipleship one should assess whether on is prepared to follow Jesus. Otherwise its foolhardy to launch into battle unprepared to win.
NB: You can count on fact that following Jesus will be personally costly. One will bear that pain in a variety of ways throughout life. But pain it will include. Difficulty, hardship, rejection, misunderstanding, loss, and even death may be experienced. Calculating the cost, committed to follow, and prepared to do so, ensures a disciple endures.
The cost of distancing oneself from materialistic attachments 33
Jesus says a disciple renounces personal possessions. Attachments might be the most destructive force against discipleship. The will to renounce all possessions and to ally oneself totally to Jesus is the essence of discipleship. Jesus is first. Family, life, and possessions come last. Persevering with Jesus means being attached to him not to possessions or people. If Jesus offers what he says he offers, then there can be no greater possession than following him. He seeks to lead people into the Father’s will. He offers to the disciple the treasures of heaven. Jesus is not a minimalist when it comes to commitment. It’s not how little one can give but how much God deserves.
NB: The problem with possessions is that they can possess us. They tend to take our eyes and affections off of the eternal and on to the temporal. We should use our possessions but they should never use us. The test is whether we enjoy things rather than hoard things. The test is our generosity over accumulating. Giving rather than getting.
Jesus concludes with a warning about saltiness. First, to fail to ally oneself to Jesus only hearing from a distance is a tragic waste of a valuable opportunity v 34. Second, failure to pursue discipleship displeases God v 35. One becomes useless to God then. It’s tragic to lose that opportunity. Discipleship is demanding for sure. Using that as an excuse to not follow Christ is fatal. Resolve to follow Christ. Don’t let your zeal for God be consumed by religious organizations.