Sermon: Counting the Cost of Discipleship (Luke 9:56-62)

Luke 9-56-62 Click for audio

Counting the Cost of Discipleship


So far in the ministry of Jesus on earth things have gone pretty well.  He has travelled and healed, worked miracles, and been able to teach and preach the message of the Kingdom of God.  Jesus is the people’s Messiah.  Probably at this point His biggest challenge was the crowd.  The Bible tells us that He was limited in where He could go because the crowd was always there, always wanting more.  The crowd and His disciples followed Him wherever He went.

Jesus also knows that the tide is about to turn.  From here on out being a follower is going to require an unprecedented amount of loyalty and sacrifice.  Being a disciple will have an extreme amount of cost for the would-be follower.

Jesus has never painted a rosy picture for His disciples but has told them the truth about their commitment to Him.  He continues, in this text, to share with them what they are about to get into.  He’s not trying to discourage them from following, but He does want them to know up front what the cost will be.  He wants everyone on the same page as far as requirements of discipleship.  He isn’t trying to make following Him sound like a walk in the park.

Do you know what the cost is?  Have you considered the cost?

We live in a day when Christianity is often viewed as something that will make you feel better about yourself.  It’s as if its some sort of therapy for your self-esteem.  Many people want to go to church so they feel better about themselves.

We also live in a day when the church is to open its doors to any and everybody.  In today’s world we are to be seeker friendly and water down the gospel so as not to be offensive.  Pastors and church leaders will come up with various schemes to try and make the church more appealing to lost people so that the lost will want to come and enjoy themselves with everyone else…is this loving?  Is it loving to manipulate and sell someone something?  Is it loving to sugar coat sin and the requirements of Christ so that they will be easier to swallow?  Jesus didn’t.

I think it’s time the church started acting like the Lord in terms of being the true church and not some social club.  It’s time we start examining the Scriptures to see even what we are to be about and to do.  It’s time pastors and church leaders stop trying to sell people a bill of goods simply to stroke their own egos.  It’s time we start looking at Christianity not as the title to a social group but the name of followers of Christ.

Jesus gives us a reality check here in this passage.  Here again are His terms of discipleship.  Please don’t think this is Pastor Brian on a soapbox, this is Jesus not me.  If you wish to disagree and complain, take it up with Him…

In our text today, we are going to see some misunderstandings concerning following Christ.

Please hear God’s Word…

Luke 9:56-62

56 And they went on to another village.

57 As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”

58 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.”

59 To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.”

60 And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

61 Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.”

62 Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Father, grant us the commitment needed to be followers of Christ.

1. Being a Christian Requires Switching Kingdoms (9:57-58)

57 As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”

58 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.”

Our text begins with a man who approaches Jesus with a statement about being one of His followers… I will follow you wherever you go.

This man’s desire is admiral.  This desire exceeds the trivial ideas of being a follower of Christ today.  This man had some level of commitment and interest in being a disciple.

Jesus does not want anyone to come to Him and be a disciple under false pretenses.  He’s not like the army recruiter who paints the glorious picture and promises everything only to get you to sign on the dotted line.  Jesus is truthful and wants everyone to understand what they’re getting into before they sign up.

So He tells this man that following Him will require significant commitment and struggle.  Jesus says that the wild animals in the woods have dens and nests.  He on the other hand doesn’t have a home or even a place to lay His head.  Jesus’ point to this man is that if you want to follow Me, don’t think your physical life is going to improve.  Don’t think comfort is awaiting you.

He wasn’t discouraging this man, but telling him the truth.  Jesus was causing this man to consider the fact that following Him would require commitment and cost.

Matthew 8 we see that this man is a scribe.  He addresses Jesus with honor, calling Him teacher.  This man, no doubt, had earthly ambitions.  He saw the miracles, crowds, and enthusiasm.  He wanted a part of the good things.  He thought being a disciple was going to be a benefit to his earthly life and that He might gain something in the process.

Jesus wants this man to understand completely that He is going to the cross and there is no wealth involved, in fact, Jesus as the leader doesn’t even have a place to lay His head.

This man didn’t realize what was ahead of him and what he was getting himself into.

Lk 18:18 And a ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Lk 18:19 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.

Lk 18:20 You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.'”

Lk 18:21 And he said, “All these I have kept from my youth.”

Lk 18:22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”

Lk 18:23 But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich.  

This ruler’s stuff was more important to him than Jesus was, so he was denied permission to inherit eternal life.

Understand that following Christ as a disciple will cost you some of your material goods.  Jesus probably will not ask us to sell our homes, or give all our possessions away.  He will ask us to give away some.  Are you willing to be a Christian under these circumstances?

2. Being a Christian Requires Switching Loyalties (9:59-62)

59 To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.”

60 And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

61 Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.”

62 Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Next, we read about two individuals that were asked by Jesus to follow Him.  Remember when Jesus called His original disciples?  He looked and Peter, James, John and the others and said, come follow Me.  The Bible tells us that immediately they dropped everything and became followers.  Their loyalties were different.  Their loyalties were still being conformed to Christ along the way.

Here we see two people who have conditions on following Christ.  They are not going to chase hard after Jesus but are going to on their timetables and in their way…so they think.

Both would-be followers on the surface seem to have a good reason to delay their discipleship.  Jesus shows them and us that He must take priority over all things…even things that are good.

There is a pattern.

The next two vignettes appear in parallel form: Invitation/petition to follow + proposal to delay discipleship until something is accomplished (first) + reference to the kingdom of God included in the rejection of the proposed delay. –Joel Green (NICNT Luke 407)

We see a very similar example again, like last week from the example of Elijah and Elisha.

1 Kgs 19:19 So he departed from there and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen in front of him, and he was with the twelfth. Elijah passed by him and cast his cloak upon him.

1 Kgs 19:20 And he left the oxen and ran after Elijah and said, “Let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you.” And he said to him, “Go back again, for what have I done to you?”

1 Kgs 19:21 And he returned from following him and took the yoke of oxen and sacrificed them and boiled their flesh with the yokes of the oxen and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he arose and went after Elijah and assisted him.

There are many parallels between the ministry of Christ and Elijah.  That’s why some, when asked, said Jesus was Elijah.  When Elijah calls Elisha to be his follower, Elisha is allowed to return home first and say goodby to his family.

Here in our text today, Jesus draws a line and says no.

I searched for the answer from many theologians and have heard many options as to why this was the case.  I remained unconvinced.

In the case of the first man, Matthew calls him a scribe, he wishes to go home and bury his father and Jesus refuses to grant him permission.

Now to bury one’s father seems like a legitimate reason to delay following Jesus.  Some scholars say, his father wasn’t dead but elderly and what his request really was about was to go home and care for his father until he died and was buried and then he would follow Jesus.  Others think that this was really an excuse because, in Jewish tradition a body had to be buried within 24 hours of death.  They go on to say why was he in the crowd if his father had died, he would have been home caring for the burial.

As far as the second person is concerned, it was a seemingly understandable request to desire to go home and say your goodbyes.  After all, Elisha was given permission.  Again, Jesus says no.

Why did Jesus deny these requests?

Again, some theologians say that He is sovereign and in both cases knew that these were simply excuses to delay following Him and so they were denied.

I really think there is a simpler answer.  I believe these were real requests.  I believe the man desired to go and bury his father and the other desired to go and say goodbye.

I think we’re told why their discipleship could not be delayed…

Lk 9:51 When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.

Notice, the days were drawing near for the Ascension.   This would be after the resurrection when Jesus would go back to heaven.  Jesus had a divine schedule to keep.  He had to be in Jerusalem at a certain time because in God’s plan the events were decreed from before the foundation of the earth.  When the Bible says, he set his face to go to Jerusalem, there was nothing even Satan and his army could not stop the King from keeping His promise to be the Savior.

The reason that Jesus denied these requests was because He had to leave and leave immediately to keep His destiny with the cross.

His call was to follow immediately, just as He had required of His original followers.

The other part of the call was to follow, not only immediately but without conditions.

The call today for us is the same.  Jesus may not call us to leave family and friends behind but He very well could.  Would we follow?

3. Our Cost of Discipleship

We are to understand our obligations as Christian followers/disciples today…

The disciple of Jesus is a person who is being continually conformed to the image of his Master (Rom. 8:29). He is the one who is constantly changing, growing, knowing. He has not yet “arrived,” but he is continually striving for the goals set by the Master (Phil. 3:13). He is a serious and responsible person in his relation to others. The disciple has a mission to the world. He knows who he is, what he is to do, and how he is to do it.– BIBLICAL VIEW OF MAN The Basis for Nouthetic Confrontation* by ED HINDSON

We don’t know what became of the three in our text today.  Once the first man heard that Jesus had no home and if he was to follow, he wouldn’t either, did he turn back or did he drop everything and follow.  Did the second man let the responsibility of burial fall on those who were not followers of Christ?  Did the third person realize the cost of following Jesus and like Christ, set his face to go to Jerusalem?  We’re not told.  Luke leaves this open-ended.  Perhaps he does so because we are those in the story.  Perhaps he doesn’t tell us what they did because we are to hear and obey the same call.

Is Jesus calling us to follow Him?  I believe He is.  We are called to be Christians, little Christs.  We are called to model our lives after His.  Sometimes there is a huge cost, sometimes the cost isn’t as big, but there is always a cost.

The call to follow Christ is ringing out, will you follow unconditionally or is there something else you feel you need to do first?

Mt 16:24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 


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