A Sermon Based on Luke 9:51-62 for the Fourth Sunday After New Sunday
by Rev. Andrew Eckert, Oklahoma
Jesus sets before you today the cost of discipleship. If you wish to follow after Him, what price can you expect?
In summary, there are two requirements for discipleship: First, give up any hope of a permanent home in this present world. Second, give up any family ties on this earth.
These are not easy requirements. A man who came to Jesus said, "Lord, I will follow You wherever You go." But Jesus replied, "The Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head," as if to say, "Do you think it is easy to follow Me? I am not going to a particular place where I will stop and live, and there put down roots. No, I wander the earth, and I will finally die a homeless Man. Are you ready for that kind of life?"
Why does Jesus make it so hard? He does not; not really. He does not want anyone to try to be a disciple without first seeing how difficult it is. It is not a hobby or an occasional pursuit. Always, Christ must be first for you.
If you follow the holy Son of Man, then this world, so full of sin, cannot be a permanent home for you. Your permanent dwelling awaits you in heaven. Here on earth, no place is your true home. Home is where the heart is, so your real home is in your Father's House in heaven. That temporary building that you call home is really only a halfway house, or a rest stop on the way to the real destination.
More than that, as Christ's disciple you must put Him before the whole world. He should be everything to you. What is this world compared to the Lord? What is His kingdom compared to the riches and comforts of this transitory earth?
But human hearts are so fickle. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. One moment your whole heart is yearning for Christ. The next moment, you are yearning for some earthly bauble or trinket. The flashy allure of gold and silver idols captures our eyes. These are not necessarily physical, but may be the love of a friend or the joy of security. But all love and all earthly safety must be set aside, and all your life put in constant danger for the sake of your Lord. Otherwise, you are not worthy of Him.
As I'm sure you are aware, in your heart you are not worthy of the Infinitely glorious Savior, the adorable Son of God. Although you must strive to count Him alone as your treasure, you must also confess that you have failed to do so. You have held idols in your heart that distract from true discipleship. If Christ counted those things against you, you would not only be unworthy, but you would be cast away into eternal fire that consumes forever in agony.
But He will not let that happen to you. He has already stopped it, and made you eternally safe in Him.
For this Lord, what would you not sacrifice? Surely all should be laid at His feet in humble offering.
Yet there are some things your flesh does not want to surrender. What about family? Would you be willing to sacrifice your family's love for Christ? Would you be willing to make yourself an outcast to the ones you love for Him?
If you follow the true faith, but your family does not, then there will be division between you. It may be very polite division, or not. It may be open hostility, or not.
In Muslim countries, if you converted to Christianity, your own family might put you to death. Probably, you will not face that much hostility. But who knows what the future of this nation may bring?
People want to think that Christ wants you to do anything and everything for your family. But He does not. You must not sacrifice your faith for your family. If the choice must be made, then you must even surrender your ties with them for the sake of your Lord.
May God never demand that of you! Yet you must be ready even now, or you are not worthy of Him. How hard it is to sacrifice the love of your family, which you can see, for the love of Christ, which is hidden!
May the Spirit give you strength to do what flesh cannot. For your flesh, like that of all men, is too easily swayed by earthly loves. Too easily, family can draw you away from worship, away from Bible Study, and thus away from Christ. What Christ demands is difficult, more than the flesh can achieve.
When a man came to Jesus, but wanted to delay his discipleship for the sake of his father's funeral, Christ rebuked him with harsh words. "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God." Whatever the exact situation of the man, the point is clear: The kingdom of God and the preaching of the word are more important than anything.
How harsh and difficult are the demands of Christ!
Another man wanted to go and bid farewell to his family. Christ said that no one who looks backward is fit for the kingdom. The man would be always thinking of those he left behind, and yearning for those he loved.
But who could blame these men if they failed to follow Christ? Could you or I have done better than them? I doubt it. The demands that Christ makes go beyond our strength. Yet that does not mean that you should simply ignore them. As a disciple, you must try and work with all your might for the Savior who gave His all for you.
Yet you will inevitably fail. The call of earthly loves, or the appeal of earthly comforts, will eventually get the better of you. For that is what it is to be a sinner. In your heart there cannot be perfect devotion for Christ until this sinful flesh is done away with in the new Creation. Until then, your discipleship must be flawed and weak.
Will Christ cast you away as you deserve? No, for He is compassionate and slow to anger. Although you should always be absolutely loyal to Him, and you are not, yet He is always, always absolutely loyal to you. Nothing can stop His devotion for you. His grace is never flawed or weak.
He is the One who fulfills all things for you, and has made you worthy by giving you His glory. So you are counted as a perfect disciple of your Lord. He left the perfect House of His Father to become homeless and penniless. He forsook all that earth could offer, and made Himself the lowest of the low, so that you are lifted up on high. He died a death where the consuming fire of His Father's wrath fell only upon Him, so that you will live on in unending comfort and majesty forever.
He made Himself an outcast in His family. Not only did His earthly brothers and sisters think that He was out of his mind, and tried to stop Him, but it was even worse than that. His own Father in heaven, who had loved Him from before the foundation of the world, also rejected His Son. Christ endured this ultimate family division upon the Cross, as the Father's rejection turned the sun in the sky dark as night, dark as the pit of hell. For you, Christ even endured this.
Christ never looked back to heaven, yearning to return instead of redeeming you. He kept on, straight and steady, as He set His face stubbornly, like rock, firm and unyielding, ever putting the mission of death and resurrection as the one and only goal of His life. He sacrificed all. He gave up all comfort, and embraced ultimate agony and torture.
To Jerusalem He went, to offer Himself as the price for you. He followed His Father's will without wavering, until He was received up again by His Father.
So you are not a disciple because you have done enough. You have never done enough for Christ. You are His disciple because He has made you one. He did not simply show you the right path and expect you to follow it. No, He walked the path for you, and when He was done, declared you His perfect disciple.
For ultimately, the cost of discipleship is not what you pay. It is what Christ has paid for you.
Therefore, look in faith to your true home, the New Jerusalem in glory. Look in faith to your new family, with the Church as your mother and Christ as your brother and God as your Father. Into this family you have been adopted, and into that household that lasts forever.
God keep you in this faith, even when worlds burn in fire, and the new creation is revealed. In His Name and to His glory. Amen.
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