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Saturday, July 2, 2016

The Cost of Following Jesus

The Cost of Following Jesus

Jesus traveled all around Israel preaching and teaching and healing as He went. The blind, the lame, the mute, He healed them all!   And He even raised the dead. (Matthew 9:22)    Scripture says that Jesus had great compassion on the sick and on those who had no hope and He was there to comfort and heal.  He went about preaching and teaching and healing.  And of course the word got out and crowds soon followed after Him wherever He went.  The masses brought their sick to Him to be healed and they listened to His sermons wondering if He might be the Messiah that had been promised to them by their prophets.

The Jewish religious leaders soon became upset.  When they heard that the crowds loved Jesus and were following Him everywhere, they were afraid that they might lose some of their influence over these people.  The religious leaders spoke for God to the people and they enjoyed the power and authority they held over the people of Israel.  When the Pharisees and priests heard that Jesus was healing people, they were frightened and angry.  Instead of listening to Jesus to see if perhaps He spoke God’s Words, most of them closed their minds and hearts to Him.  And they tried to put Him to death for healing a lame man on the Sabbath.

One of the religious leaders did come to Jesus one day when He was in a large group teaching and healing.  The religious leader spoke to Jesus and said: “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” (Matthew 8:19) Jesus smiled at him and replied: “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”  (Matthew 8:20)

What did Jesus mean when He discouraged the religious leader from following Him by telling him that essentially He, the Lord and Savior of the world, was homeless and had no safe comfortable place to sleep at night?  It’s true, Jesus and his disciples lived upon the charity of sympathetic people.  Scripture says: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that through He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:9)  

Perhaps Jesus wanted the religious leader to know up front that following Him would not be easy.  That each of His followers must endure hardship and every believer would carry a cross.  The Master (Christ) would be persecuted and so would the Master’s followers.  The Lord Jesus would give his life for his own and his followers might also be called on to become martyrs for their faith.  Many who would consider following Christ would turn away because of the difficulties of the journey.  It would seem that this Jewish religious leader who wanted to follow Christ turned away when Jesus told him that there would be hardships. We don’t hear of him again.  Jesus calls us to follow Him and never turn back no matter what.   

Scripture says: Now if we are children, then we are heirs, - heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory.”  (Romans 8:17)  And also: “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering as though something strange were happening to you.  But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed. “(1 Peter 4:13)

Another disciple also came to Jesus and said that he wanted to follow Him but first he must go and bury his father.  This time Jesus replied: “Follow Me, and let the dead bury the dead.”  (Matthew 8:22)   I am not sure what Jesus meant here.  He always insisted that children should honor and respect their parents.  I think Jesus meant that following Him would sometimes cause family problems, even family breakups.  Some families would even disown a family member if he or she continued to follow Christ.  And in these cases Christ’s followers should choose Christ over their rejecting family.   

 Jesus also said: “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth.  I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.  For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.  A person’s enemies will be the members of his/her own household. Anyone who loves his father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me.  Anyone who loves his son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And anyone who does not take his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me. Whoever finds his life will lose it and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”  (Matthew 10:34-42)

Tough words! Christ calls us to love Him first. He wants the real thing!  Not one who starts out with Him for a little while but then rejects Him.  Such a person is unworthy of Him. Christ doesn’t deserve their unfaithfulness.  But He is not telling us to reject our families.  They may reject us, but we don’t reject them.  With Christ we will love our family members more than we would without Him. We are called to love Christ and love our family too. Children must love their parents, and parents must love their children.  But if a follower of Christ puts family ahead of Christ, the follower is unworthy of Him.  Those are the words of Jesus.

 When we read the whole Bible and not just this one passage we can see that Christ always calls families to love each other and take care of one another.  But sometimes when we try to follow Christ it may anger a family member or go against what they want us to do.  If that happens we must not be discouraged from following Christ because of the disapproval of our relative.  And we must not reject Christ even though the loss of a family member’s love may be deeply upsetting and painful for us. When a problem comes up, we must do what we believe is right, what we feel Christ is calling us to do, even if it causes our dearest family members to be angry with us.  They may want us to do something that we know is very wrong.  It may be difficult to say no to family. Christ wants first place in our lives and for us that means doing what we believe is right and good and staying away from what we feel is wrong even when family members feel differently.  That is how I interpret Christ’s words and I may be wrong.

Those who are best prepared for the life to come, are those who sit loosely here in this present life.  It was on the condition of being prepared for suffering that Christ took on his disciples back when He walked the earth.  And He still wants our first allegiance today if we are to follow Him.  It is our duty, not only to believe in Christ, but to be ready to suffer for Him.   We don’t only follow Him in the good times, but we are to be there through the difficult times too.  If Jesus Christ is worth anything, He is worth everything.  He gave His all for us so we should give back our all for Him.  It’s the least that we can do.  


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