Christian Living

The High Cost of Following Jesus

the cross-the high cost of following Christ

Many people buy into the lie that Jesus wants you to believe in Him so that He can fix your life. Many people think following Jesus is the key to a prosperous life. I have heard preachers say that if someone wants to be a better athlete, a better doctor, a better musician, then come to Jesus! The truth is, Jesus never promised that following him would make your life better. In fact, He constantly warned that following Him may make your life worse!

Take Luke 14:25-33 for example. Jesus tells any who are interested in following Him that they must be willing to sacrifice three things.

In following Christ, you must be willing to sacrifice life’s closest relationships.

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. (Luke 14:26)

Following Jesus obviously does not mandate animosity toward one’s family (cf. Matt 5:44). Rather, he is talking about comparisons. The Hebrew idea of comparing love and hate has more to do with position rather than emotion. For example, Genesis 29:31 talks about how Jacob loved Rachel but “hated” Leah. Well, the context makes it clear it is talking about being loved less than Rachel (NASB translates it as “unloved”). Further, Matthew 10:37 gives a similar statement to Luke 14:26 and uses comparative language, “He who loves father or mother more than Me…”

So what Jesus is saying here is that following Him is costly! He must always be the priority. So much so, that you must be willing to give up your family in preference to obeying Jesus.

In following Christ, you must be willing to sacrifice your own life, your own desires.

…and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. (Luke 14:26b-27)

The high cost of following Jesus involves sacrifice of priorities. Jesus demands that our entire life must be submitted to Him. Every dream, every ambition, all of it is to be submissive to His will for us.

The extent of this submission is a willingness to carry your own cross. Crucifixion was a common means of execution under Roman occupation, and Jesus’ audience would have recognized this as a call to be willing to go to extreme torture and death for His sake. This is the kind of loyalty that Jesus demands–a loyalty which is willing to give up not just your own dreams and desires, but even to death if necessary.

Thus, following Jesus means submitting everything to Christ, even unto death if necessary!

In following Christ, you must be willing to sacrifice your possessions. 

So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions. (Luke 14:33)

The idea here is not giving away your possessions to achieve disciple status. The idea, just like the other two, is in following Christ we are to be so committed that we are willing to part with all our possessions.

An illustration of not being willing to do this is the Rich Young Ruler (Matt 19:21). The final test of the young man’s willingness to follow Jesus was to give up everything and follow Him. However, because the young man was very rich, he went away sad, unwilling to depart from his abundant possessions.

Following Christ and being His disciple in this passage is synonymous with seeking eternal life. People came to Jesus because they recognized He had the answer of eternal life (Matt 19:16). Jesus ensured that people would not get mixed messages about what following Him would mean.

Luke 14:28-32 gives two mini-parables which act as illustrations of the necessity of counting the cost before following Jesus. The price to pay in following Christ is complete submission. Don’t come to Jesus because He will fix your marriage or because He will help you be successful in life. No, you must come to Jesus because He is your King. As King, He is deserving of your complete and total submission. And that is what following Him means.

Peter serves at Shepherd's Theological Seminary in Cary, NC as the professor of Old Testament and Biblical Languages. He loves studying the Bible and helping others understand it. He also runs the Bible Sojourner podcast.

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