As the large crowds followed Jesus, I wonder if Jesus was searching their hearts as to why they were following him?
Were they following him because of the miracles? Because of his great teachings? Or was it truly because they believed he was the Messiah and wanted to follow him?
And so he issued a very strong challenge, saying,
If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters–yes, even his own life–he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. (26-27)
In other words, “Are you really wanting to be my disciple. To be my disciple is costly. It may cost you your family and even your very life.”
Jesus never promised that life would be easy if we followed him. In fact, he promised exactly the opposite. Carrying a cross wasn’t pleasant. Neither the carrying of it, nor what happened when you finally put it down. But Jesus said that unless you carry that cross, unless you are willing to suffer whatever trials you may go through because you’re following him, you cannot be his disciple.
Easy words? No way.
He then challenged us to count the cost of following him. We are to count the cost in two ways. First, the cost of following him. And he compared it to a person building a tower. If a person doesn’t count the cost beforehand, and cannot complete the tower, everyone will ridicule him. In the same way, anyone who starts following Jesus and then gives up because it’s too hard will be put to shame.
But there’s another cost to count. The cost of not following him. Jesus said,
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 ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 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. (31-32)
The truth of the matter is, we are either at peace with God or at war with him. You may not think you’re at war with God, but if you choose to reject Jesus, that’s exactly what you are. The Bible says that God sent his Son to reconcile us to himself. But there’s no need for reconciliation where there is peace.
So Jesus tells us, “Think very carefully whether you can really afford to be at war with God. When a king considers warring against another nation, they take into account if they can possibly win. And if they can’t, they do all they can, as quickly as they can, to make peace.”
We need to do the same. Although in our case, God has already sent out the peace offerings. But it has to be on his terms, and that’s by accepting Jesus’ payment for your sins on the cross. If you accept it, you will find life. But if you reject it, and you die in that rejection, you will find out just how terrible the enmity between you and God is.
So make peace with God while you still can. God has called us to be salt in this world. To flavor our world with his love and his light. Don’t be cast out as worthless because you chose to reject him instead.