In Luke 14, Jesus does something that must strike many of us as odd: He begins to warn people about how much it will cost them if they choose to follow Him. We typically do everything we can to make people feel comfortable, to remove any difficulty from people following Jesus. Yet Jesus Himself did not flinch from the truth. He warns everyone, with utter clarity, that to follow Him means to lose everything else but Him. Family becomes secondary, so secondary in fact, that Jesus can say that we must “hate” father, mother, sister, brother, wives, husbands, and children in comparison. Yes, and we must even consider our lives as a lesser possession than Christ.
He gives a number of parables to drive this piercing truth into the soft flesh of our souls. The one that gripped me this morning comes in verses 31-33 of Luke 14.
Or suppose a King is about to go to war against another King. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with 10,000 men to oppose the one coming against him with 20,000? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace.
In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.
Now, read that again. Carefully.
Jesus is the King who comes with an overwhelming force. There is no hope of victory against the one who could unmake your being with less than a word. Jesus doesn’t say, “It would be a nice idea for you to follow me.” He says, “You are a weak king of your own tiny kingdom, and you have no hope to stand against me.”
Upon realizing this, we weak kings follow the only possible course of action: surrender and ask for peace.
And Jesus, secure in his absolute power, gladly accepts our surrender and gives us His terms: “You will surrender to me your city and all the possessions in it, as well as your wives, your children, and yourselves – down to your very lifeblood. These are my terms, everything or nothing.”
Jesus is not a conqueror who allows us to retain the throne as He passes through to His own Kingdom. No, He is the King who will have peace through one of two ways: our absolute submission to His utter sovereignty, or our absolute subjugation under His conquering power.
This is the cost of following Jesus, from the mouth of Jesus Himself. “…any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.” We cannot retain our own rule and still follow. We cannot name any possession as our own and still follow. We cannot hold any other relationship as more important than our kneeling before Him and still be named a disciple.
But therein lies the hope of glory: when we relinquish our own rule and release our hold on every possession and person, the King gives us treasures that far exceed the worth and goodness of what we have surrendered. Our absolute surrender is the inauguration of our divine adoption! We lose our paltry possessions and laughable kingdoms, but become sons and daughters, with all the rights a privileges of that title, in the kingdom of the Eternal King and Father.
We may become frustrated with children who angrily clutch at some broken toy as if it were worth anything. Yet how often do we, in the shrill tones of ignorance and childishness, cry out in anger when the King-Beyond-kings says we must lay our “treasures” down?
Be warned: following Jesus will cost you absolutely everything. It is unqualified surrender.
Be encouraged: your surrender is your adoption into a kingly house. You stand to gain everything of the goodness of Jesus Christ.