Costly Discipleship l Luke 14:25-35 l Chapel Hill Church Gig Harbor
This is my granddaughter, Cici. I actually call her “Chuchu,” which is Portuguese slang for a certain type of squash…but it also means “cutie.” Chuchu and I are fishing off the Ancich dock. The fish is a pink and plastic…and “fishing” means dropping it into the water, screaming as she does, and bringing it back up as she cries, “Reel it in, reel it in!” …and doing this a thousand times! I realize…unabashedly…that Chuchu makes her way into my sermons on a regular basis. Get used to it! Family is the most important thing to me in this world…and grandparenting is one of the greatest illustrations of God’s love toward us. It’s the best. And I see all the grandparents nodding.
Which makes this morning’s text so very challenging. And that’s saying a lot…because for the last many weeks, all of Jesus’ teaching has been challenging. As he draws closer to Jerusalem and to the cross, there’s an urgency in his message as he makes clear the great cost of following him. There is no “bait and switch” in Jesus. No soft sell. He calls himself great Divider. He is the Narrow Door. He calls us to repent! Last week, he told us, “I don’t want religious Dabblers; I want disciples.” And this morning, we discover how great is the cost of that discipleship. This passage Professor Edwards describes as the “…most demanding charge on discipleship” to be found in Luke’s gospel. And that’s saying something. So, brace yourself!
“Now great crowds accompanied [Jesus], and he turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:25-33
An article in the Wall Street Journal appeared last week titled “Why Gen Xers Aren’t Going Back to Church.” It described the fall-off in church attendance post-Covid, especially among Gen Xers. The article called it “Quiet Quitting;” those who once were faithfully attending and active are just…fading away. Quietly quitting. This is a nationwide issue and many churches, including our own, have employed a variety of tactics to encourage…entice…welcome…people back to church in person. The question on every pastor’s mind these past few years has been, “How can I get these people back? How can we grow the church again?” Greater use of virtual media, carefully crafted sermon series, seminars that provide advice on marriage and parenting and finance and mental health…lots of churches are trying lots of things to make church more attractive and Christianity more appealing.
But at this point in Jesus’ teaching ministry, he seems to have the opposite strategy. He has huge crowds following him…and it’s as if he’s thinking, “What can I say that will thin these crowds? That will make them turn tail and run? What can I say to drive people away?” We have a class called Chapel Hill 101, designed to introduce potential members to our church and…encourage them to join! Well, this passage is Discipleship 101…and Jesus isn’t enticing anyone! He’s almost daring them to walk away. He makes three assertions about what it means to follow him…and if that is too great a price to pay for someone, he ends with the same, hard punch-line. “…he cannot be my disciple.” Hard words…but we need to receive them. So…are you ready?
Here are the three demands: We must Love Jesus Supremely…Follow Jesus Unquestionably…and Relinquish all to Jesus Sacrificially. “If you don’t love me supremely…you cannot be my disciple. If you don’t follow me…