The Cost of Following Jesus

MEMORY VERSE: “And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after Me, cannot be My disciple.” —Luke 14:27

MARK 8:34-38; LUKE 14:25-33

THE cost of discipleship is indeed very high. Today many of the denominational churches are endeavoring to impress prospective new members with the idea that belonging to the church is good business: that it widens one’s circle of friends, and causes one to be looked up to in the community. But this was far from Jesus’ approach, for as our memory verse states, Jesus explained that no one could be his disciple unless he bore his cross and followed him in the way of sacrifice.

This raises the question of what crossbearing really is. Through the centuries it has come to mean almost any sort of unfavorable or difficult circumstance in which a Christian might find himself. Doubtless this viewpoint has been a blessing to many, but crossbearing as mentioned by Jesus is far more meaningful than this.

In the first place, that which is often referred to as crossbearing is not something which the individual voluntarily takes upon himself, but is a circumstance in life which is often thrust upon one, and which cannot easily be avoided. Contrary to this, Jesus invited those who would be his disciples to take up their cross. This suggests that the cross to which Jesus referred is something which is voluntarily taken and borne, not just a happenstance of life which might be painful and discouraging.

Jesus, of course, at the close of his ministry, carried a literal cross, at least a part of the distance from Pilate’s judgment hall to the place of crucifixion. However, not many of Jesus’ followers throughout the age have had this privilege, and we think that Jesus, knowing the circumstances under which he would finish his sacrificial death, spoke of the cross as a symbol of voluntarily laying down one’s life in the divine service.

It was the custom of the day, under Roman law, for a prisoner condemned to death by crucifixion to carry his own cross to the place of crucifixion. Jesus knew this, and used the idea of carrying a cross as a symbol of sacrificial death—of following him. This is one of the conditions of true discipleship. One who is enlightened with the truth concerning discipleship knows that when he presents himself in full consecration to do the Father’s will, he is agreeing to follow Jesus into death.

There is no other way for anyone to be a disciple of Jesus than to suffer and die with him. This is made very plain throughout the New Testament. It is referred to as being “planted together in the likeness of his death.” And the assurance is given that those who do thus die with Jesus will, in the resurrection, live with him.—Rom. 6:5

Jesus said of those who do take up their cross to follow him into death that they can lose their lives by attempting to save them. The point is that these, in dedicating themselves to follow Jesus into sacrificial death, give up the hope of earthly life, and if they shrink from completing their sacrifice they prove unworthy of the exalted spiritual life with Jesus, and thus they lose their lives altogether. Jesus’ question, “What shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” could just as properly read, “in exchange for his life.”

In Jesus’ statement that it is necessary for one to hate his father, mother, wife, and children, the thought is “to love less.” A true Christian does not hate anyone, especially members of his own family. But he must love these less than he loves the Lord, in the sense that he esteems it more important to please the Lord than his own family or relatives. The Lord comes first in every Christian’s life.

No wonder Jesus taught that anyone considering being a disciple of his should first sit down and count the cost for, as we have noted, the cost of discipleship is very high indeed. It means, as Jesus said, a forsaking of all that we have in order that we might be fully devoted to the Lord. Obedience to the laws of the kingdom during the Millennium will not require sacrifice in the sense of giving up life. Obedience then will lead to restoration to perfect human life.


What are the terms of discipleship?

What is crossbearing as Jesus used this expression?

Did Jesus ask his disciples to hate?

Dawn Bible Students Association
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