By Mark E. Hardgrove, D.Min.
Text: Luke 14:25-33
25 Now great multitudes went with Him. And He turned and said to them, 26 "If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. 27 And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. 28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it - 29 lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, 'This man began to build and was not able to finish.' 31 Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace. 33 So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.
According to the Miriam-Webster Dictionary, the word "radical" means "a: marked by a considerable departure from the usual or traditional," it means "b: tending or disposed to make extreme changes in existing views, habits, conditions, or institutions." In our text we see that Jesus is saying some radical things. Jesus wanted more than some type of popular following. He wanted more than people who were looking for the fishes and the loaves, more than those following Him for the miracles and the spectacular. Jesus was looking for a considerable departure from the usual or the traditions of religious conventions of the age. He was looking for people who were willing to make extreme changes in their views, their habits, their spiritual condition, and their religious institutions. And Jesus was willing to call people to a radical relationship with Him, even if it meant that it would thin out the crowd and cause some of the "followers" to turn back. There are pastors who are willing to embrace anything, willing to ignore any behavior, willing to compromise on any moral issue, as long it is means that the pews of the church are filled, but Jesus was not that kind of pastor. Jesus was willing to offend and thin in order to call those who followed Him to a radical relationship of love and commitment.
This isn't the only time we see Jesus doing something like this. In John's Gospel, chapter 6, we read again where Jesus makes some radical statements. He said, beginning at verse 48:
48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. 50 This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world."
Jesus is symbolically speaking of His life, His teaching, and His crucifixion, but they don't' get it.
52 The Jews therefore quarreled among themselves, saying, "How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?"
One might expect Jesus to provide some explanation here, or to smooth it over by saying, "Relax, I'm talking symbolically." But instead Jesus presses on with even more radical statements:
53 Then Jesus said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. 56 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. 58 This is the bread which came down from heaven - not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever."
You have to admit, that's some pretty radical stuff right there. He had a large following. People loved to hear Him teach, they loved it when He did miracles for them, and provided food for them. Of course He was drawing large crowds, but Jesus was looking for more than crowds, He was looking for disciples who would be sold out for His sake. He was looking for believers who were ready to embrace the radical and who would be willing to follow Him for who His is, and not for what He can do for them. How radical was this? In verse 60 we read that "many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, 'This is a hard saying; who can understand it?'" They wanted Him to back off a little, take it down a notch, and keep things light and non-offensive.
What did Jesus do when He heard His disciples complaining? Did He say, "Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to hurt your feelings. I take it all back. Please, just don't leave the church. I'll change the message to massage your egos. I'll soften the sermons and sugarcoat the truth, just don't take your tithes and offerings leave." I'm looking at the text in John chapter 6, and I don't see Jesus saying that. What does He say? In verse 61 we read:
61 When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples complained about this, He said to them, "Does this offend you? 62 What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before? 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe." For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him.
Jesus was calling them out. He knew that there were some who were following for what they could get out of it. They were following Jesus because it was the popular thing to do. Jesus had the fastest growing church in town and everyone wanted to be a part of it, but Jesus was looking for radical faith. He was looking for radical commitment to Him. He asked rhetorically, "Does this offend you?" Then He says, "I know that there are some of you who have been coming to church, some of you who are calling yourselves my disciples, some of you who have been blessed by my ministry, but you do not believe."
What happened next? Verse 66 says, "From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more." He thinned out His church considerably. Why? Because Jesus is looking for more than nominal Christianity where we all call ourselves Christian but it doesn't require anything of us or cost us anything. Jesus is looking for men and women who are willing to roll up their sleeves and follow Him in to the harvest. He said, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few." There were many spectators, but few laborers. There were big crowds, but few laborers. Jesus said to pray to the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers. What are laborers? They are people who are radically saved and ready to "Go therefore . . ."
There are churches that are growing because the pastors have an "anything goes in grace" attitude, and they are willing stroke people, coddle people, placate people, and pat them on the back and tell them that everything's alright, when all the while their people are drinking, and sleeping around, and engaged in pornography, and gossiping, and secretly hiding racism in their heart, and they are filled with greed and consumed with the pleasures of this life, and have little time or desire to radically commit anything of real value to the kingdom of God. Jesus isn't within a hundred miles of a church like that. Jesus will thin a church out if He has to, but like Gideon's 300, He'd rather have a few who are radically committed to Him, then a houseful who are ridiculously compromising with the world.
Look at what Jesus says in our text:
I) RADICAL LOVE
25 Now great multitudes went with Him. And He turned and said to them, 26 "If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.
First, in verses 25 and 26 Jesus tells us that He is looking for radical love. When Jesus says that we must "hate" our father, mother, wife, children, brothers and sister, and even our own life, he is using a type of speech known as hyperbole. In hyperbole you use an extreme example to make a point. We use hyperbole when we say something like, "I'm so hungry I could eat a horse," or when we say someone is as "big as a house." It isn't literal, but the extreme example is intended to vividly communicate a point. By using hyperbole in our text, Jesus is saying is that our love for Him is to be so radical, so above and beyond anything in this life, that our love for everyone else, those we love the most in this live, and even love for ourselves is like hate in comparison to our love for Him.
I know people who love their car more than they loved God, so on the Lord's Day they stay home and wash the car. They love their home more than they love God, so instead of coming to church, they stay home and do yard work. They love their money more than they love God, so they sacrifice Sunday to work that overtime and to make those extra dollars. But Jesus says He's looking for radical love. A love so intense and so profound that when company comes in for the weekend, whether it's mom or dad, or son or daughter, or brother or sister, they already know that you aren't staying home on a church day to entertain them. They can come to church with you, or wait for you to get back, but come Sunday morning or Wednesday night you're going to be in the house of the Lord singing praises studying the Word of God.
Someone said, "Brother Mark, that's radical!" I know! Right?
II) RADICAL COMMITMENT
27 And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.
Second, Jesus tells us that He is looking for radical commitment. Some folk are committed as long as it doesn't make them uncomfortable. If the pew is comfortable, and the air and the sound system are just right, they'll be in church. Some folk will follow God as long as they can keep their comfortable old life and just sprinkle on a little Christianity. They're good Christian on Sunday, but during the rest of the week they pretty much live the same old life they've always lived. They use profanity in their speech, they tell the same vulgar jokes, they have a beer with their buddies, they flirt with women they aren't married to, they watch things and do things that the rest of the world does, and then get up and come to church on Sunday and think that God is pleased with them. Well, let me tell you that Jesus is looking for more than that. Jesus is looking for radical commitment.
How radical? He said that unless we are prepared to pick up our cross and follow Him, then we cannot be His disciple. What does He mean by cross? He doesn't mean that we need to pick up our gold, jewel encrusted cross on a chain, and hang it around our neck. That concept didn't even exist back then. When Jesus said to pick up our cross and follow Him, He was talking about a cross that had one purpose-to inflict a hideous and painful death. Jesus is saying that we must be willing to pick up that cross.
In effect, what Jesus is saying is that we must be willing to lay down our life for Him. We must be prepared day by day to give the ultimate sacrifice in service to the King of kings and Lord of lords. Jesus said that if we lose our life for Him, we will find it, but if we grasp and hold on to this life, and if we are unwilling to give our lives to Him, then we aren't ready to be His disciples. So let me ask you, are you ready to be His disciple? That's radical, isn't it?
III) RADICAL COST
28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it - 29 lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, 'This man began to build and was not able to finish.' 31 Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace. 33 So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.
Finally, Jesus tells us that He is looking for people who are prepared for the radical cost. What does it cost? It costs everything. Jesus told the rich young ruler, "Sell everything you have, give it to the poor, and come and follow me" (Mat. 19:21). It is said of the apostles that they left everything and followed Jesus (Lk. 5:11). In fact, Peter said, "We have forsaken all and followed thee" (Mat. 19:27). Likewise, the apostle Paul said, "But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord" (Phil 3:7-8).
Jesus is telling us to think about the cost. Most of the time we think about the benefits and we sing about the blessings, and thank God for the blessings, but Jesus is reminding us of a radical cost. Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said that people are looking for Christianity without a cross and grace without a cost. Grace is free, but it ain't cheap.
What does it cost to follow Jesus? It cost Jesus everything. He gave His life for our salvation and now He asks us to give our lives to serve Him and give all that we have and all that we are into His hands, because like the little boy with the fishes and loaves, when we give all we have to Him, He can do more with it than we can. He can bless it, and break it, and make it go farther, and do more than we can, and in the end we always find that He gives us back far more than we gave Him.
Jesus said that we must understand that there is a radical cost in being His disciple. Some folk have never counted the cost. They thought it was all about getting stuff. They thought it was all about prosperity, about heath and wealth, and about abundant living, and good times. But Jesus is talking about a radical cost and He tells us to count the cost, to be prepared to give whatever it takes, even if the cost is radical.
Let's be honest, some folk are fine with Christianity until standing up for what is right costs them their job. Some people are happy to come to church, sing a little song, and do a little dance, and go home, but when standing up for the Word of God and for holy living cost them some friends, they start backing off. Some folk are fine in a ministry in the church until someone criticizes. Some people like being on a board until they are asked to give up time, talent, or treasure for the cause of the kingdom. There is a cost, and it is a radical cost, and Jesus said that we need to count the cost, because until we are prepared to forsake everything, to give it all up for Jesus, then we cannot be His disciples.
I know . . that's radical, it's over the top, and there are people sitting here today saying to themselves, "I'm not ready for that kind of commitment."
Well I can promise you that you can find a church and a pastor that will tell you that you can live any way you want, do anything you want, live half in the church and half in the world, and you're still going to stumble into heaven. But Jesus said that until you're ready to get radical, you can't even be His disciple, much less make it to heaven.
God is looking for radical believers. People like David who will face down a giant. Radical! People like Elijah who will stand alone against 450 false prophets, the king and his wife Jezebel. Radical! People like Mary was willing to carry the Son of God, knowing that people would never believer her story and would talk about her. Radical! Jesus is looking for believers like the apostle Paul who gave up everything to follow Jesus, and in the end, gave his life as a martyr. That's racial love and radical commitment from people who were willing to count the radical cost live in obedience to God.
Are you ready to get radical for Jesus-to love with a radical love, to make a radical commitment, and be ready for a radical cost? When you get to that place, then you are ready to be a disciple and you are ready to rock this world with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Are you ready for that? Because if you're not ready, then you need to get ready!