SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSONS
Commentary by Walter Albritton
February 24, 2008
Total Commitment Required of Those Who Follow Jesus
Key Verse: Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. – Luke 14:27
Most people love a bargain. We love to buy something that has been marked down three times. But genuine discipleship is never available at bargain prices. The cost of true discipleship has never fluctuated. From the earthly days of Jesus to the present hour, the price has always been total commitment. Nothing more, nothing less, and nothing else.
In other words, the partial surrender of one’s life to Jesus is not what God desires from us. It may be nice but it is not enough. Nice is not new. New life, a radically changed life, results only from full surrender. Anything less leaves one a quasi-disciple, one who has the appearance of a disciple but in reality is not one. All of us know what these “make-believe” disciples are like because our churches are full of them – nice people who want to enjoy the benefits of church membership without paying the costly price of discipleship. They are the “crowds” that follow Jesus today.
Some people argue that the Bible is difficult to understand. And there are passages that only the erudite seem capable of interpreting. But most of what Jesus says is not complicated.
In the passage before us Jesus says that unless you carry the cross and follow him, you cannot be his disciple. He says unless you hate your family and even your own life, you cannot be his disciple. He says also that no one can become his disciple without giving up all his possessions. The English translation of Jesus’ words is plain enough. Our initial response is disbelief; surely our precious Lord did not make these astonishing claims. But he did and our task is to try to understand what he meant.
It helps to look at the context. Jesus spoke of radical discipleship to the “large crowds” that were following him. We can picture dozens of people traveling down the road with Jesus. They were laughing and talking, amused perhaps by the attention this strange Galilean was attracting. No doubt most of them were just “along for the ride,” with little interest in answering Jesus’ call to discipleship.
Then Jesus stopped in the road, compelled to explain to the “happy-go-lucky” crowd what his mission was all about. His words startled them. He wanted their attention and he got it. But Jesus was not speaking against “family values” or advocating self-hatred. He was not asking them to abandon their houses, land, and possessions. He wanted them to get their priorities straight. Like many of us, their priorities were in disarray.
Jesus’ words in another setting: “But seek first his kingdom and his
righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew
6:33). The key words are “seek first.” True discipleship requires that our
number-one concern be the
Like it or not, the challenge Jesus offers us is “all or nothing.” He wants us to put him first so that nothing will stand in the way of our obedience to his will. Doing the will of God must be our first order of the day, every day. Jesus must be our “first love.” Genuine discipleship springs from falling in love with Jesus and learning to love him more than anything or anyone else in the world.
Our possessions can hinder us from doing the will of God. They can become so important to us that we lose sight of our primary mission – to live in the world as people sent on assignment from God. Jesus knew that he had been sent into the world. He had an assignment; he was faithful to it. Just before his crucifixion, he spoke (in John 17) of sending his disciples into the world.
Life takes on rich, new meaning when we love Jesus supremely and consider ourselves as disciples on assignment in the world. Our mission station is where he has placed us at any given moment. Thinking like this we can often sense the Spirit at work, using our deeds and our words – and even our pain and suffering – to attract others to Jesus and the kingdom.
Whatever is going on, he is with us and his grace surrounds us. Our constant cry must be, “Lord, purify my desires so that I may love you with my whole heart and desire nothing more than to carry my cross and follow you daily. Fill me so full of Christ that others may see him in me. Mercifully grant me the joy of completing the assignment you have sent me on. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
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