The Cost of Discipleship

Eric AtkinsPastor's Blog

Discipleship is More Than

Several weeks ago I was teaching through Matthew 10. We came to the end of the chapter where Jesus tells his disciples, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:37-39, ESV) Jesus is teaching his disciples about the cost of discipleship.

David Platt writes, “we are urged to take the ultimate risk…we must lose our life in order to find it. Pick up your cross, Christ-follower, and die.” (Platt, Exalting Jesus in Matthew) If we are not willing to love Jesus more than our parents, children, or even our own life, we are not worthy of Him. These are weighty words. No one likes to think about forsaking their family for the gospel, but God calls us to love Jesus more than the people we love most. I challenged the people to think about their more than. Is there something they love more than Jesus? So let me ask you, “What’s your more than?” The disciples path to life follows the path to the cross and it’s sufferings.

What a question!

After we discussed the passage, I asked if anyone had any questions. Someone asked, “Had Jesus already revealed to His disciples that He would die on the cross?” What a question! Think about it, we really only understand what Jesus is saying because we’ve read the end of the story. We know that Jesus is going to suffer and die on a cross. We know that he will be buried and will rise again on the third day.

This disciples did not have that knowledge. It is possibly only after the initial announcement of His death that the disciples began to understand. Matthew 16 reads, “From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” (Matthew 16:21 ESV) Even then he doesn’t mention death by a cross.

Would the disciples have understood what Jesus meant? To some degree, yes. They would have been acquainted with Roman crucifixion. It was common practice for condemned criminals to carry their cross, or at least the horizontal beam, to the place of their execution. I believe they would have generally understood that Jesus was talking about the painful journey to your death. Jesus would repeat the saying in Matthew 16:24. And every time Jesus would foretell his suffering, death, and resurrection the disciples were perplexed. Peter even rebuked Jesus saying, this will never happen to you. (Matthew 16:22 ESV)

Do we understand?

The disciples lacked a complete understanding of Jesus’ call for sacrificial obedience. It was not until Jesus was nearing Jerusalem that He told them, “And the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.” (Matthew 20:18-19, ESV) If they didn’t understand before, it should have been crystal clear at this point. Jesus expects His followers to be obedient even to the point of death- that is the cost of discipleship. As Bonhoeffer put it, “When Christ calls a man..he bids him come and die.” We are not exempt from Jesus’ call to take our cross when we follow Him. Are you willing to risk everything for the sake of the gospel?