So there was Jesus making His way along the road. And there was the usual crowd, pressing, squabbling, gawking, chattering. Seems a familiar scenario – Jesus and crowds go together, right? No, not this day. This day Jesus turns, faces the crowd and presents them with something they didn’t come for.
“You can’t follow Me” He tells them.
“He’s joking, right? Here we are, right here, Jesus, right behind You. You can plainly see we’re following You.”
“No, you can’t follow Me” He repeats.
Not “you should go home now and come back tomorrow”; not “I need some quiet time”; but simply “You are unable to follow Me! To be frank you don’t have what it takes.”
Well, we know that Jesus was good at drawing crowds but we don’t always realize how good He was at dispersing them. This day He’s sure to do just that. He continues, seemingly determined to spoil their party.
“You want to follow Me? Well there are conditions. Let me clarify. First you need to hate your family.”
“What did You say? Have you been affected by the sun? We thought You were all about love. What do You mean You want us to hate our families?
“Not only that, you need to hate your own lives.”
“Huh? There You go with that ‘hate’ talk again. How can we hate our own lives?”
“And you can only come after Me carrying a Cross.”
“Did You say a cross? You mean a Roman cross, those barbaric instruments of execution? You want us to carry one? Jesus, You’re not making sense here. We came to join the Kingdom You’ve been talking about. Those Romans will be history, won’t they?”
“To follow Me You must utterly abandon all that you’ve accumulated, all your expectations of a normal life, all your plans and all your entitlements.”
“Come on Jesus, what are You getting so intense about? We‘re Your support crowd; we’re Your fan base. Are you hearing us Jesus? This is heavy stuff You’re throwing at us. How about some healings or demon thrashing instead? You know we love You Jesus, but chill out a bit OK?”
“Would you begin a building project without first calculating if you had enough money? I’ve told you the price of following Me. Do you really think you can afford Me?
Or would a king with limited resources contend with a far greater king, without considering first what he may lose? I’ve told you what I expect from you. These are my terms of your surrender to My Kingship. Do you still want to follow Me?”
(Luke 14:25-33, paraphrased by me).
We can rationalise the cost of following Jesus as much as we like. We can renovate the gospel by dumbing down His conditions of discipleship till it tickles our ears just nicely. Over two thousand years of institutionalized Christianity we’ve done just that. The loudest gospel being preached today is not the real deal. It depicts the Cross as a church ornament celebrating a vague, historical event and remains silent on radical commitment to the Crucified One. It courts the fickle, money wielding crowd and spurns the few who hunger and thirst for righteousness. It mass produces believers but is barren of disciples.
But the truth is unless we believe Jesus means what He says and says what He means, our discipleship is a sham. We can’t follow Him, no we can’t, end of story.
The truth is that true discipleship is costly, the Cross is a place devoid of compromise, and Christ demands all of our life in exchange for all of His. The truth is when our hearts burn with love for Christ, others we love may feel hated in comparison and they’re not going to be happy about it.
The truth is when we truly follow Christ it’s not business as usual and anything can happen.
The truth is some days He’ll lead us to the mountaintop, other days He’ll lead us to Calvary.
The truth is there is a difference between believers and disciples: believers merely agree, disciples follow. The truth is it’s those who know they can’t follow who are enabled by Him to follow.
The truth is the Bride follows the Lamb wherever He goes. The truth is the Bride is not a crowd, she is a remnant.
And the truth is, Lord, we don’t know what it will cost us to follow You unconditionally wherever You go, but this we do know and believe: You are more than worthy of whatever the cost. Selah!
© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2014 and beyond. Copyright Notice: Permission is granted to freely reproduce any Bread for the Bride articles in emails or internet blogs, unaltered, and providing this copyright notice is included. To permanently display an article on any static website please contact me for permission.