The Cost to Follow Christ

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It is important that we understand the cost to follow Christ. However Cost, is a tough concept sometimes
A farmer was approached by a stranger one day and asked how much he thought his prize Jersey cow was worth. The farmer thought for a moment, looked the stranger over, then said: “Are you the tax assessor, or has she been killed by your car?”
In this case the cost was bit nebulous
Luke 9:57–62 ESV
As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
In the ninth chapter of Luke, we find Jesus busily ministering in Galilee. In this passage above, Jesus finds Himself meeting three different people while journeying on the road

The First Person - We Must Lay Aside our Comfort or Posessions

Here was an unnamed disciple. He had the right mind to follow Jesus. In fact, that is what Jesus always commands us to do.
John 10:27
John 10:27 ESV
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.
In fact, it must be appreciated that Jesus did not call this person and ask Him to follow Him (unlike how he called Peter and the disciples;
Matthew 4:19 This man volunteered all by himself.
Matthew 4:19 ESV
And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
Note that this man volunteered all by himself
What was the Lord’s reply?
Luke 9:58 ESV
And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”
Jesus did not give a direct, straight-forward answer to his question. Rather, he described the situation in which he was living. Jesus explained to the man, the level of his comfort and possessions. In other words, Jesus was trying to explain the man that following Jesus may require that even his basic needs be sacrificed.
Later, we do not hear anything about this man. Probably he left the place and that is why nothing is mentioned about him thereafter.
Perhaps, this man wanted to follow Jesus thinking that that would bring him fame and comfort. Jesus, knowing the intent of his heart, explained his situation instead of replying with a yes or no. When his man learnt about the difficulties, he was not willing to follow.
We read of another such person in the Bible. In Mark 10, there was a young man who was confronted by Jesus with a choice between Himself and worldly possessions. However, the young man left the place saddened because he preferred his material possessions over Christ. Many of us today are guilty of the same. How often have you been unwilling to give up something for the sake of Christ and His kingdom?
Following Jesus is costly. Luke 9:23
Luke 9:23 ESV
And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

The second person - We Must Lay Aside our Priorities

Next, Jesus met another person on the road. This man was called by Jesus to follow Him.
Luke 9:59 ESV
To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.”
The usage of the word ‘first’ shows the priorities of that person. He wanted to perform all his commitment to his family before following Jesus. However, it doesn’t sound like an unreasonable request. It was the duty of the eldest son to bury the father.
Notice the reply given by Jesus. Luke 9:60
Luke 9:60 ESV
And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
Sounds harsh? We may wonder… It sounds correct that he must go first and bury his dead father.
We must understand that Jesus would definitely not forbid the man from attending to the funeral arrangements for his father. He Himself went to visit the grieve with family of His friend Lazarus after Lazarus’ death. (John 11:1-16).
Then, what was Jesus trying to mean here?
To understand the true meaning, we must know the Jewish cultural background. On a first reading, it seems like that this conversation took place sometime between the death of the man’s father and his proper burial. However, in those times, Jewish people buried their dead usually within twenty-four hours, and family members sat around the deceased body until it was buried. If the father had died already, his son would not be walking on the road and communicating with Jesus. Rather, he would be sitting at home with his family in mourning. What, then, was the nature of the request? There are two possible situations.
To understand better, let us have a look into the first century Jewish burial practice. After the body was placed in the tomb, it was left to decompose. The entire family mourned for the dead for seven days. Following this primary mourning period was a less intense 30-day period of mourning. However, the entire mourning period was not fully completed until the flesh of the deceased had decomposed usually about a year later. It is only then that the final mourning act takes place – gathering of bones into the bone box. This is usually referred to as the second burial. This burial custom also appears in many other cultures.
So, the situation would be that the father had died, and the man was asking time to be with his family till the second burial. That is why, Jesus was asking him to instead preach the gospel. Jesus meant that unnecessary rituals are less important than the kingdom of God.
B. Secondly, it could be that this man’s father was still alive. On asking for permission to bury his father, he was asking Jesus to let him take care of his father during his last years, until finally he died. This was a common saying of the day. So, the person meant that he would follow Jesus once his family responsibility was over and he had nothing else to do. This meant that the man was asking for a long time.
Jesus was looking for disciples who were ready to give up whatever could hold them back. Jesus discerned that this man was using his family situation as an excuse for delaying his discipleship. He told the person that the spiritually dead can attend to the routine tasks of life, but you don’t neglect your high spiritual calling.
Matthew 19:29
Matthew 19:29 ESV
And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.
The same is true with each one of us. Each one of us, who have accepted Christ as our Saviour, has a call of God in our lives and Jesus wants us to focus on our calling.
1 Corinthians 7:17 -
1 Corinthians 7:17 ESV
Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches.
We may have a thousand reasons to abandon or delay that call of God in our lives, including the claims of our own families. However, none of them are more important than following Jesus.

The Third Person - Our Love For Christ Must be Over and Above Everything Else

Luke 9:61 ESV
Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.”
This person also gives an excuse. He was ready to follow Jesus. He just had one request that he would go and bid farewell to those at his house. Again, sounds reasonable! We find another person making similar excuse in the Old Testament
1 Kings 19:19-21
1 Kings 19:19–21 ESV
So he departed from there and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen in front of him, and he was with the twelfth. Elijah passed by him and cast his cloak upon him. And he left the oxen and ran after Elijah and said, “Let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you.” And he said to him, “Go back again, for what have I done to you?” And he returned from following him and took the yoke of oxen and sacrificed them and boiled their flesh with the yokes of the oxen and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he arose and went after Elijah and assisted him.
Here when Elijah called Elisha, Elisha had similar excuse. He asked Elijah to allow him to bid farewell to his family. Elijah didn’t hinder him.
But what does Jesus reply to this man?
Luke 9:62
Luke 9:62 ESV
Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
What does Jesus mean by the saying?
Jesus lived in an agricultural age and so Jesus used this phrase so that it went home to the personal experience of His hearers. If the plowman has to get his job done well, the eye of the plowman must look straight before him at the line of the furrow which he is making. Looking back, while working, would make his plow line crooked and mar the work entirely. If that happens, the field he is plowing would fail to yield a 100% harvest.
Here, by using this phrase, Jesus meant that once we have decided to commit our lives to God and follow Him, there must be no turning back. The Kingdom of God is more important than our worldly relations. Elijah would have agreed to Elisha’s request, but the call of Jesus is more important and radical than the call of a prophet.
To summarize, as followers or disciples of Christ, we must be ready to sacrifice our comforts, our rituals, our priorities and our relations.
That is what Jesus sums up in Matthew 16:24
Matthew 16:24 ESV
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
What does it mean to take up the cross? Our natural desires and passions must be doomed. We must burn our desires and pave way for the will of God in all areas of our lives.
Illustration: A story is told about a boy who desperately wanted to meet Christ. He was praying hard about it. One day, the Lord told him to walk up the mountain carrying his cross. He took his cross and began his journey. In some time, he began to feel the heaviness of the cross. He cut out a small portion of it and began to walk. Soon later, he still felt the cross heavy. He again cut out another portion and continued his journey. This happened a few more times till he finally reached the mountain top. There, he found Jesus standing at the peak of another neighbouring mountain. Jesus told him, “My son, now lay down your cross and walk over it to me.” But as he laid down his cross, he found that it could not bridge the two mountains. The gap was exactly the same that he had cut down. He realized that had he managed to bear the cross without cutting it down, he would have reached Jesus.
This is true in our lives as well.
Many a times, we try to lay aside the cross in certain areas of our lives. That would make us unsuccessful in following Jesus.
Let’s take a few minutes to ponder our learnings as we meditated on this passage:
The first person was unwilling to let go his comfort. What comfort or possession are you unwilling to release to follow Christ?
The second person had other priorities which he considered more vital than following Christ. What priorities have you placed before your obedience to Christ?
The third person gave more importance to his family than Jesus.
Let us not forget the question asked by Jesus to Peter John 21:15
John 21:15 ESV
When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.”
Our love for Jesus must be over and above our love for anything and anybody else.
Let us whole-heartedly follow Jesus and not let the things of this world get in the way. We are too easily distracted by the urgent things of this life, our material desires and our physical comforts, that we fail in our commitment to our Lord.
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