Luke 9:23-27: The Cost of Discipleship
Would you become a Christian knowing that it would probably get you killed? Throughout Church history many have had to make the choice to follow Christ knowing that it would possibly result in their deaths. Even today in various Muslim, Hindu and Communist countries conversions result in death. This choice to embrace death as the cost of becoming a disciple is the choice that Jesus put before His disciples when He called them to follow Him. Jesus has just revealed that the Son of Man must suffer. He has revealed that there is coming conflict and those in positions of power will be against Him and will attempt to murder Him, and in fact do so. Now He tells His disciples that to follow Him they have to be willing to walk with Him into the fire. If the world hates Christ it will also hate His followers. To follow Christ is to follow Him into this persecution.
How different the call to become Christ’s disciples is from the call that we hear today. Many today are on the defensive as they preach the gospel, so they feel they have to talk about Jesus as a nice guy, the Christian life as the happy and successful life, and try and sell discipleship on the basis of all the benefits you will get. Conversion is presented not as a dethroning of oneself and a turning away from those sins which are contrary to God and Christ had to die to pay for, rather it is presented as a change in self-help programs. The appeal is often made on the basis of self-interest not the glory of God and the seriousness of sin. Conversion is stripped of repentance and conviction of sin. Jesus calls us to follow Him to death.
In one way this would have been a bit of a dampener. The disciples have just returned from a successful mission where they had been able to do all sorts of miracles, the crowds are all excited about Jesus feeding the 5000. This message of impending doom against Christ Himself and those who followed Him would have felt like a bucket of cold water. But Jesus does not deceive those who follow Him; He spells out the fine print, properly preparing His followers for what they will encounter. So as we look at these verses we will divide them under four headings: The call of discipleship; the paradox of discipleship; the warnings of discipleship; the hope of discipleship.