THE WHOLE-HEARTED DEMANDS OF GENUINE CHRISTIAN DISCIPLESHIP DEMOLISH SUPERFICIAL EASY-BELIEVISM
For some reason, Christians seem to think that the most effective way to present the gospel message and the call to Christian discipleship is to make the commitment sound as easy as we can. That is not the gospel invitation delivered by Jesus. Yes, faith is a free gift. Yes, salvation is not something we work for or earn. But following Jesus involves a big-time commitment. Here we see the way that the Lord Jesus presents His discipleship demands.
Donald Miller: The Kingdom makes demands. It is the Kingdom of the Suffering Servant. Membership in it, therefore, means sharing Christ’s suffering and living as his servant. Jesus was on the way to the Cross. Those who followed him would have to be willing to bear a cross.
“Now great multitudes were going along with Him; and He turned and said to them,”
Geldenhuys: Ordinary human leaders take a delight in having the masses to follow them. Jesus, however, does not accept a superficial following of Him on the part of the masses, but subjects those who desire to follow Him to the most severe sifting process through the tremendous demands made by Him
I. (:26-33) THE COST OF DISCIPLESHIP = TOTAL COMMITMENT
A. (:26) Supreme Loyalty
“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.”
MacArthur: Now, the key to this passage is to notice three times the simple designation “My disciple.” You see it in verse 26, you see it in verse 27 and you see it again in verse 33. “You cannot be My disciple,” “you cannot be My disciple” and then “can be My disciple.” This is about being a disciple of Jesus, not a peripheral disciple, but being one who truly belongs to Him. That is the intent of the personal pronoun “My.” This is not about a disciple or a would-be disciple or a potential disciple; this is about one who is “My disciple,” that is one who truly belongs to Me. That is what Jesus is calling for in this text.
Darrell Bock: Discipleship is fundamentally a call to allegiance. Jesus is to have first place over all, including family….Following Jesus is to be the disciple’s “first love.” This pursuit is to have priority over any family member and one’s own life, which means that other concerns are to take second place to following Jesus
Morris: Discipleship means giving one’s first loyalty. . . hating can mean something like loving less (Gn. 29:31, 33; Dt. 21:15, where the Hebrew means “hated” and not “disliked”, as RSV). . . Devotion to Christ cannot be anything less than whole-hearted.
Look at how each of these areas of focus correspond to rebutting the excuses that were just offered in the previous section of this chapter.
Anyabwile: for the Christian the family cannot be an idol. We care for our family, yes. We provide for them as a demonstration of faith (1 Tim 5:8) But discipleship will call you to leave family and to reprioritize them in ways completely contrary to the world’s system. We must count that cost.
Deffinbaugh: When Jesus speaks of one’s family as a possession, it, like all other possessions, does something for us. What is it that family is believed to provide, about which Jesus warns?
Think for a moment about all those things which a Jewish family provided for a Jew.
(1) The Jewish family provided status. To be a child of Abraham was to be a cut above all others—at least a cut, but probably more. Being a Jew made one vastly superior to a Gentile. Thus, family gave the Jews status.
(2) The Jewish family was also mistakenly supposed to give one salvation. To the Jew, being a “descendant of Abraham” assured him of having a place in the kingdom of God. This is one of the false conceptions about which John the Baptist warned the Israelites (Luke 3:8). Paul, too, strongly insisted that not all physical descendants of Israel were true Israelites (Romans 9:6). If one’s family could get one to heaven, one would surely have a great sense of dependence upon his family. When an Israelite repented, he was also baptized, indicating a decisive break with all of this mistaken dependence upon his identity as a Jew. Paul, too, shows how his salvation turned his “gold-plated” family pride to “dung.” There were certain elements of Judaism which Paul retained, but there was no dependence upon Judaism for his standing with God, his salvation (cf. Philippians 3:1-11).
(3) The Jewish family also offered one security. An Israelite of Jesus’ day did not measure his future security in terms of his insurance policies, or his Social Security, or even his bank account; he measured it in terms of his family (cf. Psalm 127:3-5).
I believe that when our Lord demands that His disciples must “hate” their family He means that they must give up their dependence upon family, and must depend totally upon Him. To be His disciple is not only to love Him more than anyone or anything else, it is to depend upon Him. Independence of God is at the core of sin, and dependence on Him is at the core of discipleship.
B. (:27-33) Self-Denial
1. (:27) Cross Bearing
“Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me
cannot be My disciple.”
Steven Cole: The cross was an implement of slow, tortuous death. Jesus here is looking at the process of daily death to selfish desires and of the willingness to bear reproach for His name’s sake. Since our Savior suffered the rejection and agony of the cross, if we follow after Him, we must be prepared for the same treatment. If people revile us for being Christians, we must bless them in return (Rom. 12:14). We should never do anything to provoke persecution, but if we suffer for the sake of righteousness, we must entrust our souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right (1 Pet. 4:19).
Anyabwile: Jesus means we must join him in suffering. Every disciple has a cross to bear. We must pick it up and carry it daily. That cross is our dying. It’s our self-denial. It’s joining the Savior in his suffering so that we advance his kingdom. Jesus teaches that cross-carrying is essential – not incidental – to the Christian life.
Geldenhuys: He meant thereby that whosoever desires to follow Him must be willing to hate his own life (verse 26) and even to be crucified by the Roman authorities for the sake of his fidelity to Him. So in a wider sense this pronouncement of Jesus means that only that person who for the sake of His service surrenders all self-seeking and abandons all striving after his own interests can be His disciple.
Wiersbe: What does it mean to “carry the cross”? It means daily identification with Christ in shame, suffering, and surrender to God’s will. It means death to self, to our own plans and ambitions, and a willingness to serve Him as He directs (John 12:23-28). A “cross” is something we willingly accept from God as part of His will for our lives.
2. (:28-32) Counting the Cost – Only God’s Grace Can Provide Necessary Resources
Lenski: Discipleship is no small thing. Jesus magnifies it when he describes it as undertaking to build not less than a grand tower – not merely an ordinary house of shed. He magnifies it again when he describes it as a great war campaign, fighting a king with an army that is twice the size of our own.
We cannot trust in our own resources or we will never commit to the building project or to fighting the war. This is more about coming to grips with our own bankruptcy and our need for the grace of God than it is counting the cost and determining that we have what it takes.
a. (:28-30) Cost to Build Large Structures
“For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost, to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation, and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ “
If you can only afford to build the foundation, don’t bother committing to the project.
Before making a major commitment, make sure that you have the resources and the resolve to follow through on it.
Will you persevere to the end or give up half way through?
b. (:31-32) Strength to Wage War
“Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and take counsel whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks terms of peace.”
Are you willing to endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ?
Steven Cole: Our Lord is not trying to get these followers to muster up enough commitment to become His disciples, but to reckon with the reality that no one has the resources to follow Him, apart from His enablement. Discipleship, then, is not following Christ with sufficient means to do what He commands, but with utter dependence upon Him to enable us to do His will. Both the willing and the doing come from Him, and not from us. The whole concept of the “company of the committed” collapses, simply because no one is that capable or that committed. The key element of discipleship is not obedience, for we are incapable of that in and of ourselves, but dependence, for without Him, we can do nothing.
3. (:33) Consecration of Everything
“So therefore, no one of you can be My disciple
who does not give up all his own possessions.”
Geldenhuys: This does not mean that he must sell all his possessions or give away all his money or desert his dear ones and become a hermit or beggar or wandered, but it means that he must give Christ full control over his whole life with everything that he is and all that he possesses, and that under His guidance and in His service he should deal with his possessions in the manner that is best. . . The important thing is that whosoever desires to follow Him must be inwardly free from worldly-mindedness, covetousness and selfishness and wholly devoted to Him.
Lenski: Jesus now tells his hearers to renounce everything, literally everything they have in and of themselves, because it will all, however much of it there may be, ever get beyond the foundation of a tower, beyond 10,000 against 20,000 troops. They must get what will take them through, clean through from the first clash to a complete victory in the war. When they come to Jesus absolutely empty of anything in and of themselves, then they can truly be his disciples; then he can fill them with his possessions, and with them the tower can and will be built, the battle can and will be won. . . Discipleship and salvation are so great things that nothing of our own can avail in securing them.
Anyabwile: The point is not to count the costs and turn away if it’s too costly; it is to count the costs and embrace them because it is worth it. As someone has said, “Salvation is free, but it will cost you everything.” If we continue, then we are his disciples. If we turn back, then we never knew him. In summary, following Jesus requires we renounce everything we have: our relationships, our desires, our lives, our possessions, everything. None of it will have a hold on us – only Christ. None of it will command our top loyalty – only Christ. None of it will keep us from serving Christ. Our death in discipleship is really our life in Christ. To follow Jesus as a disciple means we exchange the entire world for that kingdom to come.
MacArthur: Jesus is not advocating socialism, or getting rid of everything and living a life of poverty. His point is that those who would be His disciples must recognize that they are stewards of everything and owners of nothing. And if the Lord asked them to give up all they would be willing, because loving obedience is their highest duty and joy
II. (:34-35a) THE VALUE OF SALT = MAINTAIN ITS INTEGRITY
A. (:34) Lack of Integrity Cannot Be Restored
“Therefore, salt is good; but if even salt has become tasteless, with what will it be seasoned?”
Geldenhuys: Salt is valuable only when it possesses its special quality of saltness. So a follower of Jesus is of use and a blessing only when he possesses the particular character natural to a true disciple, and from the foregoing it is clear that the characteristic attribute of true followers of Jesus is absolute unselfishness and self-sacrificing loyalty towards Him.
Lenski: Once the saltness is gone out of salt [impossible in nature], nothing can restore the saltness to that salt again. Both ideas are beyond nature – salt losing its saltness and having it restored. Yet Jesus speaks of both as if men had found the former and had tried the latter. . . The renegade disciple is worse and meets a worse fate than the pagan.
B. (:35a) Lack of Integrity Renders Salt Useless
“It is useless either for the soil or for the manure pile; it is thrown out.”
Donald Miller: Discipleship means total renunciation of self, the readiness to offer up every precious thing if it is demanded in his service (vs. 33). This spirit of self-sacrifice for the sake of Jesus is the “salt” which preserves and sweetens society. Followers of Jesus who do not continue in a spirit of total commitment to him are worse than useless (vss. 34-35).
(:35b) EPILOGUE – LISTEN AND APPLY
“He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”