Date: September 8, 2013 AD
Text: Luke 14:25-35
In the Name of Jesus. AMEN!
Beloved in the Lord, St. Luke makes special mention of the crowds this morning. He says, “Great multitudes went with Him.” As the Master makes His way to Jerusalem more and more people are being gathered to His side. The festival season is at hand. Soon millions of Jews will descend upon Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover, the Feast of Unleavened bread, and the Festival of First fruits with Pentecost only fifty days later. Along the way many of these pilgrims heard of one claiming to be Messiah and many of them have begun to follow this Jesus of Nazareth to the Holy City. They follow hoping He’s the one and desiring to be His disciple. But they follow not fully understanding the kind of Messiah He is to be for them. They follow not fully ready to embrace a Christ who suffers and dies and rises. They follow not knowing the cost of their discipleship.
Thus, “great multitudes went with Him and He turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to me . . .” All that follows builds on this conditional clause, “If anyone comes to Me.” So, again our teacher stops His journey in order to teach the “great multitudes”, in order to teach you and me the cost of coming to Him, the cost of discipleship.
To be a disciple of Jesus means to be a student of Jesus. It means to learn from Him, not just about Him. It means sitting at His feet as He sets before you life and death, good and evil. It means to actually be in a state of learning, a state of discipling, not just for one day a week, not just for two years out of your life. I wonder how many Christians, how many of you, count the cost of following Jesus.
It seems that more and more emphasis these days is being put on the gathering of “great multitudes” rather than the teaching and journeying, learning, and memorizing, studying, and walking upright with the Lord. Churches, and therefore also Christians, these days are all ablaze with the gathering of “great crowds.” To gather these great crowds many denominations, congregations and pastors have begun to make Christianity easy, to make the cost more affordable. In some of these churches you can be instructed in the Christian faith in one six hour class, be baptized the next day, and commune at the next service. Easy Christianity. In other churches you can be sure to hear about the 12 easy steps to a happy life or the 40 days of purpose. Easy Christianity. In these “multitude churches” you won’t be bothered about the wrong things you’ve done. There’s little to no talk about sin. The definition of Good and Evil are all up to you. Your conscience won’t be troubled. Easy Christianity. This “easy Christianity” is so easy in fact that you can worship the way you want. Different styles are offered at reasonable times so you can sleep in. Easy Christianity. You can commune the way you want; common or individual cup, often or not at all, wine or grape juice. You can believe whatever you want; Jesus only, or Jesus and Me, or Jesus and Allah or Buddha and so on. You can live your lifestyle, however God created you.
In churches like these all you hear is love, love, love, love, but its a love that is never defined, a love that is never really manifested, or enfleshed.
Beloved, all of this is our post-modern, very much American, easy Christianity. The cost is minimal in this life but eternal in the next. The consequences are set before you today by God Himself, “But if your heart turns away so that you do not hear, and are drawn away, and worship other gods and serve them, “I announce to you today that you shall surely perish; you shall not prolong your days in the land which you cross over the Jordan to go in and possess.”
But we must ask ourselves, “Is this the kind of discipleship Jesus is impressing upon us in our text? In another place he says, “and when I am lifted up I will draw all peoples to myself.” (John 12:32) When I am lifted up? Does this mean when He is exalted? No! For John tells us this means the death He was about to die. You and I and all who would be disciples of Jesus are called to the cross. If anyone comes to Him, we must come to Him through His cross. For we are called to build a tower we cannot afford, to wage a war we cannot win, and to bear a cross we cannot carry. Easy Christianity will have none of this because easy Christianity serves the old Adam, the sinful heart that each of us possesses until it stops beating.
The Christianity of the Cross, however, must have all of this. Such is the cost for your salvation. The cost is all your efforts; all your worldly ambitions, the exhausting of your strength, the gold in your purses, the glories of your heart, the false adorations of the soul, everything that you would normally invest in your own happiness, even the very breath of your nostrils, even your life. The cost, beloved, ultimately is your death, the death of the sinner, the death of sin. The cost is the very thing your old Adam doesn’t want to pay. Are you ready to pay the cost to be a disciple of Jesus Christ? Are you ready to surrender everything and conform your life, your thinking, your loving, your doing to that of Christ Jesus? Are you ready to be gathered to Christ, drawn to Him at the foot of His cross when He is lifted up? The old Adam in us says, NO! I won’t do it! There are other churches! There are other pastors! There are other theologies that I can believe and also do! So I’ll go there. I’ll do that! I’ll strive for the easy. I’ll not give up my life so quickly. I refuse to be uncomfortable, to sit here and listen to you tell me what to do and what to believe.
But you see beloved, the Christian life is not easy. Jesus doesn’t want you to be misled by the many false prophets who go about their days proclaiming “peace, peace, when there is no peace” (Ezekiel 13:10, 16). They preach and teach an easy Christianity, even a Christ-less Christianity, one that is at peace with the world, embraces the culture and indulges in all of its vulgarities. But such a Christianity does not exist according to our Lord’s words today. The faith by which men and women and children are saved is that which is rooted in the death and resurrection of Jesus. You see beloved, those who would “come after me” are to follow Him into Jerusalem and to behold the cross, His cross, as their cross. That is the life and purpose of the Messiah; to suffer and to die, to give His life as a ransom for your sins and the sins of the world! That is the life to which all “who would come after me” are called. It is life rooted in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is a life rooted in the life of Jesus who died to sin for you and me and who rose again so that we who die with Him are also raised to newness of life towards our God!
Therefore it can truly be said, the Christian’s source of life is Christ’s life, Christ’s Word and Christ’s Sacraments. For His Life giving grace comes to us through His Word, through baptism, absolution, and holy communion. These means of grace connect disciples to Jesus. And all who are connected to Jesus by faith receive from Jesus all that He has purchased: the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting! All who would be disciples will draw their life from His lifeblood, will receive their nourishment, their strength, their ambitions, their hopes, and their victorious peace from Him and through Him alone.
In the divine waters of Holy Baptism, you who must die to sin, do! You really and truly die. You are crucified. But you are not crucified alone. You are crucified with Christ, united to Him, to His death, to His atoning blood for the forgiveness of your sins.
In Joshua chapter 9 it was the Gibeonites who heard of the Israelite’s army, who knew they could not win the coming war and save their lives. So, they clothed themselves in the fashion of poor pilgrims. They humbled themselves and sought to make peace with Joshua by becoming Israel’s slaves and in so doing they saved their lives from destruction.
In the same way you have been clothed in Him who became a servant, suffering the humiliation of the cross on your behalf and gaining your eternal peace with God. “As many of you who are baptized into Christ Jesus have been clothed with Christ” (Galatians 3:26-27).
You see beloved, you bring nothing to baptism but your sins, your humiliating heart. And you leave baptism resurrected, clothed with the righteousness of the suffering servant. You are now His. You are now His slave, to live for and to die for. To live is to Christ, to die is to gain. God has saved you from yourself, the world, and the devil.
God has built the tower you cannot build and goes there to prepare a place for you so that when He returns you may be where He is.
God has won the war you cannot win, descending into Hell proclaiming the victory over sin, death, and devil through His own death and resurrection. The cost has been counted, suffered, paid in full. And now, all of this is freely offered to you and me and the whole world in baptism, the Divine Word, Absolution and the Blessed Supper.
A’. Costly Christianity / Costly Discipleship
I wonder, dear Christians, how many of you ponder the greatness of this Christian faith, the cost of your salvation and the cost of your discipleship. After all, as we have heard, it is anything but easy, that is if we want to be found faithful to our Lord and His Word on the last day. Winning our salvation was not easy for Jesus and living in that salvation is not easy for us. It is not easy to daily die and rise again in the faith. It is not easy submitting ourselves to the Word as handed down to us through the centuries. It is not easy saying “no” to sin. It’s not easy going against the flood of this world’s distractions and temptations shunning wrong and doing right. It’s not easy to worship regularly, to come to Sunday School and Bible Study. Its not easy to memorize scripture and the catechism. It’s not easy to wrestle with doctrine. It’s not easy to tithe faithfully and to extend our hands in love and service to our neighbors. Its not easy to bear the marks of the cross in our everyday life. It simply is not easy to be a Christian, a faithful disciple of Jesus. There is a cost! The cost is the cross of Jesus which you already posses in your baptism.
Conclusion: Great Disciples instead of Great multitudes
Beloved, while many churches these days are out to get the multitudes, telling them basically whatever they want to hear, catering to the old Adam in their hearts, Jesus is calling to you today. He is calling you to a different life, His life, a life given you through Word and Sacrament and received by you through faith. He is calling you to come after Him and follow Him into death, even death on a cross. He is calling you to forsake everything. He’s not so concerned about the numbers as He is about His disciples, though He does want all to be saved. For on the last day, when He separates the wheat from the chaff, the sheep from the goats, the believers from the unbelievers, He will not say, “Wow! Look at all those people you gathered in! Wow! You really gathered some great multitudes!” No, His Words will be, and I pray He speaks them to you and me alike, “Well done, my good andfaithful servant.” Indeed, God grant that we may be found faithful with our families, bearing our crosses, and with our time, treasures and talents in this life that He speak these words to each of us as we’re ushered into the land He is about to give us. AMEN!
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your heart and mind through faith in Christ Jesus. AMEN!