I love the way our text yesterday in Luke 14 opens up, “Now large crowds were traveling with him.” Here is Jesus, after a shaky beginning in his hometown synagogue at Nazareth (see Luke 4), is at last catching on. Huge crowds are now trooping along after him, perhaps for healing, perhaps for teaching, perhaps because they catch some hope in a new messiah. What better validation for Jesus and his ministry than to be popular, right?
But what does Jesus say to those very people? Instead of encouraging them to assume their expectations, whatever they were, he tells them to count the cost of following him. In the face of his growing stardom, he pronounced some of the harshest words spoken in the entire Bible. Jesus launches an assault against those values we hold most dear…parents, family, possessions, even our own lives. Is this any way to start a new religion? I mean, come on, the crowd now gets edgy and starts to back away.
So I ask you now, do you believe that Jesus’ words…these tough words of counting the cost…are good news or bad news? I started out this sermon thinking they were bad news. Too tough for me! But, perhaps, in your life and mine, these tough words are actually good news. To sacrifice for a good cause, a good life, and a good future is noble. Jesus comes asking us to pay the price. In our better moments, we are just dying to pay the price, aren’t we? His way is narrow. His way is often counterculture. As the Jesuit Daniel Berrigan once said, “If you follow Jesus, you better look good on wood.”
Peace, Pastor Gary