The journey continues. And I know that this is starting to sound a bit like a broken record, but we are following Jesus who has set His face to go to Jerusalem. And even though we’ve repeated this since the journey began, maybe we haven’t actually stopped to talk about what that means. When Luke tells us “that Jesus set His face to go to Jerusalem,” he assumes that we know what happened to Jesus in Jerusalem.
This is Luke’s shorthand way of saying that Jesus is going to suffer under Pontius Pilate, crucified, die, buried and on the 3rd day rise again.’
If we convert Luke’s shorthand into longhand, ‘Jerusalem’ is where the Son of God will be subjected to the extreme psychological and emotional suffering of the gross humiliation, the deep mental anguish and heartbreaking disappointment.
It’s where He will be inflicted with the physical pain of flogging that cuts through tissue and muscle, and steel spikes driven through flesh and tendons and bone, and death that comes so slowly until the body is totally and completely spent and He “breathed His last.”
And Jerusalem is also the place of victory and life and joy and a glorified body and ascended to the right hand of God the Father almighty until all of His enemies are a footstool under His feet and “a new creation” replaces the old.
All of that agony, suffering, pain and death. And all of that resurrection, life, peace, joy, celebration and “every knee bowing and every tongue confessing that Jesus Christ is Lord,” all packed into that little phrase, “He set His face to go to Jerusalem.”
The end is as high and wonderful and glorious as the highest heavens are above the earth. But the cost is as low and terrible as the deepest hell. BUT JESUS COUNTED THE COST. Every bloody cent and every blood-sucking sin that would He would have to bear. “He set His face to go to Jerusalem.”
And for all of us who put our faith and trust that His journey to Jerusalem means the forgiveness of all of our sins, and the His resurrection from the dead means our reconciliation with the Father, and His ascension to heaven means that He is working ALL THINGS FOR OUR GOOD, we say, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing…” “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” (Rev. 12-13)
But then come those words that send an ice cold shiver down our spine. “COME, FOLLOW ME.” A most gracious invitation if only we didn’t know where He was going and the COST of following Him.
Jesus called the 12, “Come, follow me.” And they left everything and followed Him. Along the way, He confided in them that He was going to Jerusalem to suffer and be crucified. And they tried to change His mind – maybe for His sake but probably for theirs. Once they were in Jerusalem and it became obvious that He meant what He said, they all bolted.
Luke writes, “Now great crowds accompanied Him.” They liked everything that they heard from Jesus and they liked what they saw.
In a ‘dog-eat-dog’ world He preached ‘humble yourselves” and “love one another.”
In a world filled with empty promises, He made things happen. If they were sick, He healed them with the touch of His hand. If they were hungry, He multiplied bread and fed them till they couldn’t eat another bite. If they ran out of wine at a wedding, no problem for Jesus. Just fill the jars with water and leave the rest to Him. If a child died, just call Jesus and He would wake her up.
This is the Jesus that people love to follow. Who heals your diseases and cures your arthritis, and makes you happy and healthy and successful and wealthy and even the sky is not the limit with Jesus.
“Now great crowds accompanied Him.” Everyone wants to be on this bandwagon. There’s no ‘cost’ to ‘accompanying’ Jesus. “GREAT CROWDS” CONTINUE TO ‘ACCOMPANY’ JESUS TO THIS DAY. As long as it doesn’t COST ME ANYTHING, what’s to loose?
But then comes the reality check. ‘If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, HE CANNOT BE MY DISCIPLE. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me CANNOT BE MY DISCIPLE… any one of you who does not renounce all that he has CANNOT BE MY DISCIPLE.”
“Accompanying” Jesus is a much different thing than “DISCIPLESHIP.” “ACCOMPANYING” Jesus requires no commitment. There’s no ‘cost’ to accompanying. You can ‘ACCOMPANY’ Him until you decide you’ve had enough or you’re tired or board and then find something else that might work better for you.
But “DISCIPLESHIP” means that you walk with Jesus and live by His Word TO THE END; when it’s easy and when it’s hard, when it’s rewarding and when it’s not, when you’re in church and when you’re at home and the office and the classroom and grocery store and all by yourself and no one else will ever know.
He “set His face to go to Jerusalem.” The “great crowds accompanying Him” don’t yet understand what that means. They don’t know Luke’s shorthand yet. How could they?
But once they do, they will all bolt. Once they see WHERE His is going and to WHAT He is going, not one will ‘ACCOMPANY’ Him. The ‘cost’ is too great.
Jesus identifies those things that are nearest and dearest to us as the very things that discipleship will ‘cost’ us – parents, spouse, children, siblings, your own life, every possession we have or would like to have. Each is capable of becoming the cross that must be borne if we are to ‘follow Him’ and take up His call to “be my disciple.”
It’d be easy to list the ways that LOVED ONES and LOVED THINGS come between us and Jesus. But I think we all know how it works, and we’ve all been caught between that rock and a hard place, between a parent and Jesus or a spouse and Jesus or a child and Jesus, or our goals and Jesus or our money and Jesus, or …. you fill in the blank. And we’ve all bolted. And we just hope that Jesus will understand.
The devil has infiltrated us to the most personal and dearest points in our life so that even those whom we are to love the most and those things that are meant for good and pleasure and enjoyment, can become the very things that stand between us and Jesus.
Our problem is that we don’t know how to ‘HATE’. Or better put, we ‘HATE’ poorly. We ‘HATE’ what we should ‘LOVE’ and we ‘LOVE’ what we should ‘HATE.’ Eve should have ‘hated’ the fruit on that tree and the word of the serpent, but she ‘loved’ it and ‘hated’ God’s Word. And Adam should have ‘hated’ his wife for holding that fruit up to his lips for him to eat. But he didn’t. Adam ‘loved’ his wife and ‘hated’ God.
We are to ‘HATE’ what would separate us from that which we should ‘LOVE.’ And what we are to ‘love’ above all ‘loves’ is God. “You shall have no other Gods.” “We are to fear, LOVE and trust in God ABOVE ALL THINGS” and all people. Which means that at times, we must ‘HATE’ those whom we ‘LOVE’ with what Luther calls ‘A HOLY HATE’ based on Leviticus 19:17, “You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him.”
“Now great crowds accompanied Him.” And Jesus turned and invited them to be “disciples.” And not just ‘disciples’ but “My disciples,” for there are many who are ‘disciples’ of other gods and other lords, for whom the ‘cost’ is much less and the ‘price’ is much easier to pay. And we have all chosen to be disciples of other gods and other lords, because we felt that the ‘cost’ was much less and the ‘price’ more affordable than the ‘cost’ of being a disciple of Jesus Christ which is nothing less than “take up your cross and follow me.”
If we will be honest with ourselves we must confess that even if we have “counted the cost” of being a disciple of Jesus Christ and even if we have set the full measure of our heart and our mind on “paying that cost” that we may attain the prize, we all fall dreadfully short. In fact, we have nothing to pay the price with; nothing to count; nothing that is ‘worthy.’
Which may help us to understand Jesus why Jesus connects ‘discipleship’ to ‘baptism’ as He does. “Go and make DISCIPLES of all nations, BAPTIZING THEM in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
Jesus Christ paid the full price for OUR DISCIPLESHIP in Jerusalem with HIS CRUCIFIXION on the cross and HIS RESURRECTION from the dead.
St. Paul reminds all who have been baptized, “Do you not know that all who have been baptized into Christ have been baptized into His death. We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” (Rom. 6:4-5)
In holy baptism, the ‘COST OF DISCIPLESHIP’ has been paid in full. The COST that Jesus PAID in Jerusalem was all FOR YOU. And the ‘prize’ that He earned has been ‘gifted’ to you – at NO COST to you, freely given, by grace alone for Christ’s sake alone.
Through the sacrament of Baptism – you are counted as a faithful follower of Jesus who has journeyed with Him all the way to Jerusalem, and have been crucified with Christ and buried with Him and raised with Him, and even now, you are seated at His banquet table enjoying the FEAST OF VICTORY with all who have “fought the good fight and finished the race and kept the faith.” (2 Tim. 4:7)
AND SO WE “COUNT THE COST” OF DISCIPLESHIP, NOT ‘SO THAT’ WE MAY WIN THE PRIZE, BUT BECAUSE WE ALREADY HAVE IT. We ‘hate’ what we should ‘hate’ that we may ‘love’ God with all our heart and mind and soul and our neighbor as ourselves, not as the ‘price’ that we must pay, but as the offering of thanks and praise to our Lord who has counted the cost and paid it in full and given us the prize, which is to hear Him call us, “My disciples.”