The Cost of Discipleship

The Cost of Following Jesus

18 Now when Jesus saw a crowd around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side. 19 And a scribe came up and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” 20 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” 21 Another of the disciples said to him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 22 And Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.” (Matthew 8:18–22)

There are costs to following Jesus. One may think from listening to some evangelists, preach and and others that this is not so.

Some present the gospel as if it is a ticket to a care free, easy, good life full of fulfilled dreams, pleasures and problem free.

Come to Jesus and your problems will be solved! Just try Jesus and you will experience the good life. Some even claim that becoming a follower of Christ will guarantee you wealth and good health. Relationships will be made whole and all your desires will be met in Christ Jesus.

Now picture a lost person hearing these promises. Well all that sounds good. The unregenerate person now thinks Jesus will give him all that he has ever wanted. Jesus will be like the wait staff at a fine restaurant or a butler serving every desire of the rich. I am afraid that many have been talked into being a so-called Christian because of false promises, false promises that are never fulfilled. I have heard so many people say with bitterness in their voice, will I tried Jesus but that didn’t work for me. You have probably heard similar things. Like, I did what pastor so and so said and my life only got harder. They are pretty disappointed. False gospels are preached all around. It is like some of the Christian movies that come out. The terrible sinful person has a hard life. Everything is going wrong. He loses his job, his money, his family. He hears about Jesus, gives his life to Jesus and what happens? HE gets a better job making a lot of money and his family runs back to him and adores him.

There is an expectation on the part of many that this is how Christianity works. Come to Christ ...easy life.

But is that is true, then who in this room is a Christian? I mean really, I’m guessing that all for you here have some challenges going on in your life right now.

Now, I am not saying that everyone who gives a simplistic view of the gospel and describes it as the good life is doing it with malice. If you witness to others then you probably are really excited about the possibility of them being saves. And sometimes in that excitement we may not give a full picture of the gospel.

We may tell our own story one of faith and victory and excitement over our new life. Not to say it’s not hard at times but we may skip that part and just tell of all the benefits.

That’s pretty normal because the believer is excited about being a believer but maybe not for all the reasons a non believer may think.

If you are a true believer here today then I know you would not want to go back to your life without Christ. But it is not because you are now wealthy, and healthy and you have no problems ...right?

So there are benefits, there is joy, there is an excitement about the future. As a Christian though live is not without significant challenges it is a life with God and with Him buy our side and we get His strength. He comforts us in our troubles and promises never to leave us those are incredibly great things, awesome things!

There is hardship but in them there is hope and help. There is sickness but in the sickness there is hope and help. There are difficult relationship but again, in them there is hope and help all of this in Christ, right? So let’s be honest with others about those things and not be like a salesman who in his excitement to make a sell fails to give a full picture of the product.

It is interesting with Jesus how He was so truthful that it seemed brutally truthful at times. He said such hard things at times that people turned away like in John chapter 6 where he speaks of being the bread of life. Or when HE spoke to the rich young ruler and he turned away.

In our passage today, Jesus speaks to two people. To one He tells of the cost of following Him and the to the other He indicates the need for genuine commitment.

In both cases, Jesus does not sugar coat what it means to be His followers. It is a serious matter, it is costly and it requires real commitment. Following Jesus is not a light matter but is a life changing matter for those who have faith.

Let me read the passage again:

18 Now when Jesus saw a crowd around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side. 19 And a scribe came up and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” 20 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” 21 Another of the disciples said to him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 22 And Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.” (Matthew 8:18–22)

There was a large crowd around Jesus and for good reason. He has been healing many, many people including a leper, a servant of a soldier, healed that man long distance, healed Peter’s mother-in-law, cast out demons and we read that He healed many others who came to Him. All of this had the predictable effect of drawing out more and more people who were sick, diseased, deformed, demon possessed, and I’m sure just the curious. Who wouldn’t want to check out these claims and see for themselves what was going on. Was it for real? I’m sure was the question being asked.

Can you imagine how taxing this would be on Jesus. With all this attention how would he get a break? Most of us know what it’s like to be in a demanding situation, well multiply those moments by many times and that is what Jesus was facing. So, he gave orders to go over to the other side.

Going over to the other side, would be to cross the Sea of Galilee by boat. As they were making preparations the first man come to him. This first man stands out because he is a scribble. So far in this book, scribes like pharisees are not spoken well of. This man, the scribe who is a teacher of the law addresses Jesus as Teacher. It is interesting that in the book of Matthew when Jesus is addressed as Teacher it is always by those who do not seem to fully believe in Him.

Now the scribe here professes with his mouth allegiance to Jesus. This is really remarkable what he says, “I will follow you wherever you go.” This appears to be absolute loyalty to Jesus. Incredible really.

An absolute statement. As Christians, isn’t this what is required of us. That we will follow Jesus, period? Isn’t this what we are called too? Aren’t we called to be followers of Jesus, no matter what? Talk about a change in priorities for one who repents and receives Christ! A change from doing our own thing, being our own person, working hard to satisfy ourselves to a radical new path of doing whatever Christ wants us to do, to follow Him. What does this following Him look like, it looks like obeying Him, reading, studying, understanding His word and basing all of what we do on it. When it seems easy to follow Him, when it seems hard to follow Him. It is letting go of our petty ideas of right and wrong and aligning our beliefs of right and wrong on His Word. It is refusing to treat others badly, it is loving, our neighbor, it is praising God and worshiping Him and Him alone.

This is important, listen carefully. Living this way is basing our lives on truth instead of what we might imagine truth to be. Some say, well I don’t believe there is a hell. Well why do you think that, well, I just do that is just what I believe. Well, just because we say we believe something that doesn’t make it true does it. I could say I believe the earth is flat, just because I feel like the earth is flat but that does not make the earth flat does it.

You see, basing our lives on Christ, on His Word is basing our lives on what is really true not just what we think should be true. One is acknowledging God as God and the other is trying be God.

If we are really followers of Christ then we must base our lives on Him.

This man, this scribe said, I will follow you wherever you go. Is that what we will say?

Jesus response is interesting.

He just speaks truth with a harsh reality, really. He doesn’t say ok come on or no you can’t come instead He gives some indication of what it will be like to follow Him. Here is what he says:

“Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” (Matthew 8:20)

The scribe professes absolute allegiance, but Jesus realizes that the man doesn’t know what such a commitment would actually involve. He describes his ministry as even more severe than the lives of birds and foxes. Of course, Jesus had a borrowed home in Capernaum, but he was often not there to use it. He was like a wanderer, a traveler, ministering where people were, meeting people in all kinds of places.

There is perhaps even a deeper meaning Jesus’ disciples must recognize that no location on earth is a true or permanent home. Our citizenship is in heaven (Phil 3:20), and life on earth is lived as “strangers [sojourners, exiles] in the world” (1 Pet 1:1).

The cost of discipleship, following Jesus requires a willingness to deny normal creaturely comforts. As a result, Jesus cannot promise those who wish to “go on the road” with him as many material provisions as they might prefer. Potential disciples often long for the glory associated with following Jesus and forget the deprivation that may often come with it.

It is a simple concept and choice. If all the comforts of this life is what is most important to any one of us then we will live for ourselves and not for Christ. If Christ is most important to us then we will be willing to go without many of the comforts of this life.

Again, it is either living for self or living for the Lord.

Now for the second person who approached Jesus.

21 Another of the disciples said to him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” (Matthew 8:21)

Here we have another would-be disciple of Jesus. Matthew shows the inadequacy of this man’s response. His attitude does not demonstrate sufficient commitment. If the first man was over-eager, this one is under-eager. Jesus had to remind the scribe that sacrifices would be necessary. He must warn this “disciple” that distractions cannot be stand in the way of true discipleship. The man is not ready to follow quite yet. He indicates he wants to follow some day but not his day. “Bury my father” implies at the very least that the man wants to postpone discipleship until after the funeral and the mandatory months of mourning that followed. Quite possibly he is saying even more: the expression may well have been an idiom for let me wait until my father is dead. The man perhaps fears that his family will object. At any rate, other priorities come before discipleship.

This would be like if we simply said, yes, someday I will be a Christian, maybe not now, I have other things I want to do first. I want to pursue my career first, or enjoy this or that sin first, or enjoy being young and single first and then someday I will follow Jesus. This is not uncommon. Maybe most often form younger people who get the idea that living for Jesus is for adults like their mom and dad but not for the young. That is sort of what this man is saying, yes someday I will follow but I’m not ready yet. The sad thing is that he might not make it to someday, and you may not either.

Jesus said,

“Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.”

Jesus has a warning and immediate response. A future opportunity may not come. Many who are alive postpone their response to the direct call of Jesus because of more pressing human allegiances. We and others can allow other responsibilities overshadow the most important of following Jesus.

What would keep you from following Jesus? Is there an allegiance that you hold so close that it prevents you from following Jesus? What do you want more than to follow Jesus?

There is a cost of discipleship. But let me say the cost is worth it. What little we suffer will be very small compared to the grandeur of being a child of God.

Two passages that I want to end with this morning. Both remind of of the important truth that the cost of discipleship is small compared to the incredible glorious truth of being God’s child and being recipients of His internal blessings!

1 Peter 1:6-7

6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:6–9)

2 Corinthians 4:17-18

17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:17–18)

And in closing:

18 Now when Jesus saw a crowd around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side. 19 And a scribe came up and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” 20 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” 21 Another of the disciples said to him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 22 And Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.” (Matthew 8:18–22)