The Cost to Follow Jesus

The call to witness to Christ everywhere including the workplace is no less than a call to discipleship.  To be a disciple is to live a new life in Christ that actively participates with God in his mission of salvation, distinguished from the mere observer who sits content to see life pass by.  It is a life marked by unwavering commitment to follow Christ even at the risk of losing one’s life.

The cost of discipleship is a recurring motif in the Gospel of Luke.  On a broader context, 2 themes support this motif as they re-appear throughout the narrative: one pertains to the willingness to renounce self and earthly attachments; the other refers to the persecution that comes with being a Christ-follower.

Peter, James and John relinquished everything in obedience to Jesus’ call to follow him (5:10-11), and so did Levi, the tax collector (5:27-28).  In both accounts, they “left everything and followed him.”  “Take nothing with you for the journey,” says Jesus as He sends them out to preach and heal in his name (9:3; 10:4).  As followers, their primary concern is to share in Jesus’ mission, trusting fully on the sufficiency of His word that the Father will meet their needs (12:22-32).  Joel Green nicely captures the essence of Jesus’ message:

In Luke, one’s basic commitments are manifest in the disposition of “all one has.” Accordingly, the distinctive property of disciples is the abandonment with which they put aside all competing securities in order that they might re-fashion their lives and identify according to the norms of the kingdom of God. [1]

Jesus makes clear that the disciples’ commitment to him takes precedence over all other human obligations.  It is a tough condition when we consider the strong and tightly-knit family relations deeply ingrained in mid-eastern culture.  Asked by would-be followers for permission to first bury one’s father (which, as tradition dictates, takes a year), and to say goodbye to family before following him, Jesus replied: “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God…” and “No one who sets his hand to the plough and then looks back is fit for the kingdom of God” (9:59-62). In another episode, Jesus said: “No one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age and in the age to come eternal life” (18:28-30).  What did Jesus mean?

Put God first above everything.  “A response to a call from God entails rearrangement of a whole network of allegiances… “the nets” (economy) and “the father” (family) must be left behind (Mark 1:16-20).”[2]  It means a willingness “to live without these loved ones, not so being attached to them that their well-being, or even one’s own survival, is one’s first priority.”[3]  In obedience to the Father’s call, Jesus ‘left family behind’ to live among us; He gave up His life that we might have new life in Him for eternity.  It is the same degree of faithfulness required of a disciple.  “The radicality of Jesus’ words lies in his claim to priority over the best, not the worst, of human relationships.”[4]

Jesus told His disciples, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected… he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life” (9:21-22). This suffering extends to His followers; it means to carry our own cross daily (vv. 23-27).

Jesus’ warning to so-called followers of his time is His same warning to us today: renounce the social status and privileges that come with worldly attachments.  There are no concessions.

True disciples find security in their identity in Christ.  Loyalty to culture and its idols shifts to a loyalty to God.  Disciples draw on His power and authority, not dependent on the power derived from social networks, material possessions or a privileged place in life.  Disciples commit to turn from conforming to worldly expectations that offer no eternal value but to live in obedience to God.  They carry the Good News as they offer relief to the downcast, the poor, the oppressed, the sick, the foreigners, widows, and orphans–all who are weak, downcast and powerless–for they are God’s concern.

“Anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple” (14:27). To renounce everything involves sacrifice.  In bearing the pain and suffering that comes with serving in Christ’s name, we find joy in extending God’s justice, mercy and grace to those whom the world has marginalized and abandoned.  By giving our unreserved commitment to Christ, we can fully participate in His mission to draw people to Himself while looking forward to the promise of eternal life in His glorious reign.

 

Marian Nacpil

Notes:

[1] Joel B. Green, Luke: New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1997), 567.

[2] Miroslav Volf, Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness and Reconciliation (Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 2006), 40.

[3] Sharon H. Ringe, “Luke,” in P. Borgman, The Way According to Luke: Hearing the Whole Story of Luke-Acts (Grand Rapids, MN: Eerdmans, 2006), 200.

[4] Fred B. Craddock, Luke: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching (Louiseville, KY: Westminster/John Knox Press, 2009), 144.

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