Count the Cost

The Parable of the Banquet speaks of grace. And God’s grace is pictured in the parables of Luke 15. But grace, though free, is not cheap, as Jesus points out in Luke 14:15–35. It is costly to God, who provides it in his Son, and it is costly for you, who walk by faith in the Son of God. God calls you to put him first, regardless of the consequences.

Count the cost of discipleship. Jesus demands priority. Hatred of parents may be seen as relatively normal in our culture, but it was (and still is) shocking in the Middle East. Jesus is not abrogating the 5th and 6th Commandments. He is not suggesting rebellion or suicide. Rather, Jesus requires that he be first in your life, so unquestioningly that relationships with others is compared to hatred, see Matthew 10:37, 38. Because Jesus is God incarnate, the commitment required by the First Commandment is a commitment we owe to him.

“[T]he ‘love’ which Jesus demands in the gospel is based on a radical choice. Properly speaking, it is another word for ‘conversion.’ It consists in the complete surrender of the will, in being at the disposal of the Lord in the same way as is a slave.

Herman Ridderbos, The Coming of the Kingdom, p. 316

Reckon up the cost. The builder must calculate expenses, the king needs to weigh his army and strategy–and seek peace! The large crowds (verse 25) had probably not weighed the cost. They were willing to give way to curiosity, but were they willing to be disciples of Jesus? Have you counted the cost? Are you willing to be identified as a disciple of Jesus? Are you willing to confess his name before others? To live in a way, as a follower of Christ, that others may scorn? To give up the things in your life that compete for the unique, central place that belongs to God alone?

Be a disciple of Jesus. Serve the living and true God alone. Jesus did not speak these words, (nor did Luke record them) in order to discourage you from following him. Jesus expects you to count the cost — and to decide that, whatever the opposition, whatever the embarrassment, whatever the cost, you will follow him.

Jesus calls you to a cross. The crowd may have been dreaming of banquets and crowns. Jesus speaks of cross-carrying!

“Where the church is not being conformed to Christ in suffering, it is simply not true to itself as the church; it is without glory, nor will it inherit glory. Just as the Spirit of glory came upon Jesus at his Jordan-baptism opening up before him the way of suffering obedience that led to the cross, so the same Holy Spirit, with which the church was baptized at Pentecost, points it to the path of suffering. The Pentecostal Spirit is as well the Spirit of suffering, although this tends to be ‘the spiritual gift no one is talking about.’ It was in fact, not only to James and John but, through them, to the whole church that Jesus said, ‘You will drink of the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with’ (Mark 10:39). Until he comes again, the concrete form of the Christian’s fellowship with Christ is the cross…. [C]ross-bearing is the comprehensive configuration of obedience to Christ.”

Richard B. Gaffin Jr. “The Usefulness of the Cross,” Word and Spirit, p. 184

The idea of carrying a cross has lost some of the emotional impact it had when Jesus spoke these words. It is not an affliction or a person you have to put up with. Rather, it includes living in the sin-cursed world though you are one who belongs with the risen, glorified Lord. Jesus could call his disciples (and you) to carry a cross, because he was on his way to Jerusalem to do exactly that. He would offer his life in your place. Your following Jesus means that you are identified with him in his death. But remember that union with Christ in his death also means that you are united with him in glory.

Do count the cost — but see that fellowship with God in Christ is worth whatever may be required for you to face. When you do count the cost, you are the kind of disciple that is salt that does not lose its flavor.