The Cost Of Following Jesus
Chan Gin Kai
Jesus was traveling to Jerusalem, and on the way he encountered three different men. His interactions with them reveal important lessons about the cost of following Jesus.
Following Jesus Requires Sacrifice
As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” (Luke 9:57-58)
Following Jesus sounded glamorous. There were miraculous feedings, healings and casting out of demons. And since the people mistakenly thought the Messiah was going to be a physical king, they thought following him would mean material rewards and perhaps even a prestigious rank when his kingdom was established too. Jesus received many such requests to join him.
But unlike many modern day pastors who “dilute” Christianity or even propagate false teachings, Jesus wanted the man to know the real cost of following him. He didn’t want people following him because it was trendy or glamorous. And he certainly didn’t want people following him for the sake of material blessings too.
Jesus told this man that following him requires sacrifice. While most people focus on building comfortable homes, careers and lifestyles, a disciple of Jesus shifts his focus from material pursuits to serving God and His kingdom. It means we will have to sacrifice whatever clashes with our pursuit of Jesus.
There is certainly nothing wrong in aspiring for good careers, business opportunities and luxuries that make life more enjoyable. But our biggest ambitions, goals and energies should be focused on Jesus. We have to be willing to sacrifice everything for Jesus,
Following Jesus Requires Priority
He said to another man, “Follow me.” But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:59-60)
Jesus was the one who initiated in the next encounter. He called the man to follow him. But the man replied that he wanted to bury his father first. Jesus had not reached out to him at a funeral, and there certainly wasn’t an embalmed corpse waiting to be buried. The man wanted to stay with his father till his father was no longer around, before he would follow Jesus. This man didn’t reject Jesus; he simply prioritised his family.
The man was not torn between right and wrong, but good and better. The man was filial. It was certainly right and good for him to want to stay with his father and take care of him. In fact, it would have been wrong for him to be unfilial. God wants us to honour our parents (Exodus 20:12). But Jesus wants us to prioritise him and the kingdom of God; that would have been better.
We’ve all got various obligations, and as Christians, we need to be responsible. We have to excel in our roles as spouse, parent, child, sibling, boss, employee and friend. We should be exemplary at home, at work and in society. But over and above them all, following Jesus has to be our priority.
Following Jesus shouldn’t be our excuse for neglecting our other obligations. And our responsibilities shouldn’t be distractions that hinder us from seeking Christ either.
Following Jesus Requires Wholeheartedness
Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.” Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:61-62)
Was Jesus so mean that he didn’t even allow a man to say goodbye to his family? Most certainly not. He was concerned for his own mother, Mary, asking John to take care of her when he hung on the cross. But Jesus knew what was in the man’s heart. He knew what would happen once the man goes back to say goodbye to his family – the man would change his mind.
That was why he gave the example of a farmer who plows the field – he must not look back. A farmer plowing a field must look in front, at a distant object, to be able to plow in a straight line. Besides, it is long and tiring work under the sun. One has to be steadfast and never look back. To be “fit for service in the kingdom of God”, we have to be wholeheartedly focused on what’s ahead.
Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14)
Are we steadfast in our quest towards God and His kingdom? Do we look back at the wrong we’ve committed with guilt, and the desires we’ve given up with longing? Jesus persevered on his journey to the cross, and Paul was determined in his work for God.
There’s no looking back when we choose to follow Jesus. We have to be wholehearted.
Chan Gin Kai
Gin Kai is a film producer who believes in the power of media to inspire positive changes. He has spearheaded disaster relief and capacity building projects in impoverished communities across Asia. In church, he serves as a mentor to young professionals in the EDGE Ministry. He describes himself as "just a sinner who wants to get right with God".