Sunday, January 17, 2016

Sermon: Luke 14: 25-35 Count the Cost

This morning I want to start by finding out a little bit about you, everyone in church this morning. I’ve got a little quickfire quiz, to see what you like or don’t like. It’s very simple - I’ll give you two options, if you like the first, stand up, and if the second, sit down. Here we go:

1 Ice cream or custard?
2 Going by boat or going by plane?
3 Mashed spuds or chips?
4 Chocolate or crisps?
5 Liverpool or Manchester United?

We all know each other a little bit better now - some of the questions might have been hard to decide. Some might have been really easy to decide. You like one, and don’t like the other. You know which one you would put in first place.

Today in our Bible reading, that’s what Jesus wants us to do as well - to put something or someone in first place. Now I don’t know about you, but when ... read the passage, were you shocked by what you heard? Jesus says something that is really hard to understand. Look at verse 26. ‘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.’

Jesus wants us to hate people? Hate the people who are closest to us? Mum and dad, brothers and sisters, husband or wife and kids? Really? Hate? That’s such a strong word. Maybe you’ve heard that shouted at you - I hate you! Or maybe you’ve shouted it yourself...

Is this really what Jesus said? He wants us to hate people? Jesus, who shows us God’s love? Jesus, who loves us? To quote those well known philosophers, Will I Am and the Black Eye Peas - where is the love?

But Luke helps us to understand what Jesus means. Verse 25 sets the scene for what Jesus says. ‘Large crowds were travelling with Jesus, and turning to them he said...’ There’s a big crowd following Jesus. It looks great. Lots of people wanting to be with him. But Jesus says what they need to do to follow him.

You see, Jesus is on the way to Jerusalem. He’s going up to die on the cross. He knows this already. From chapter 9 he has set his face to go to Jerusalem, and now we’re in ch 14. He knows what is in front of him, so he wants the crowd to know as well. He doesn’t want to have thousands of half-interested people going along for the craic. He wants followers, disciples, people who are committed 100%.

Think back to the quiz we did at the start. You had two options, and you had to pick which one you liked the best. Maybe you liked both, but had to choose one. The Jews had a way of speaking that to make a choice, you hated the one you didn’t choose. It’s a way of showing what is Number One in your life. Jesus isn’t saying hate people, especially your family. He’s saying ‘put me at number one - be committed to following me.’

This isn’t always easy. Following Jesus never is. Because Jesus goes on to say what else you have to do as you follow him. ‘And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.’ Now Jesus isn’t saying that we should get two bits of wood and make a cross and carry it around with us. What he means is to follow him, to give up our own wants, and to follow him.

He’s telling the crowd who are half-interested and wanting to see a miracle that it’s difficult. He says that they need to count the cost, to weigh it up, to make a careful decision before they commit. Are they really ready to follow him, with all it means? Are we ready to follow Jesus and keep on following Jesus? Jesus gives us two pictures of what it means to follow him.

The first, is a man building a tower. I’m going to build a tower right now. The biggest tower of Jenga bricks you’ve ever seen. It’ll be so big that I might even live in it. Maybe I could get my picture in the Impartial Reporter as the minister building a tower inside the church to live in it. So let’s get started. That’s the first bit of wall done... oh. I’ve run out of bricks. I can’t afford to finish it. What would happen when people saw it in the paper and heard what happened? They would laugh at me! They’d think I was silly.

Jesus says to be sure that when you start to follow him that you’ll keep going, that you’ll be able to do it. Otherwise it’ll be like that tower that was started, and everyone laughs at him.

The second picture is a king. Have we a king? He wants to go to war with another king. Have we a second king? King 1 has ten thousand; He has to decide if that’s enough to go against King 2’s twenty thousand. Are you willing to keep going even when things are against you? Even when you’re outnumbered?

Jesus says to count the cost. To make sure you’re ready and able and willing to follow him. It’s not easy, but it is worth it. You see, Jesus had already counted the cost to him. Remember where he is, and where he is going. He is on the way to the cross. He has counted the cost, and decided that it is worth it to die on the cross in order to save us, to bring us to heaven, to have us with him for all eternity.

Because Jesus gave up his all for us, it’s easy for us to give up things to put him in Number One, to follow him. He helps us as we follow. He wants us to follow him. But we need to count the cost, to decide if we’re ready to follow.

I’ve brought with me something from our table. What’s inside? Salt. Now I know it’s bad for you, but sometimes you need a wee bit of salt to add flavour to potatoes or whatever you’re eating. But it’s only good if it’s actually salt. If I put this on my dinner today and it’s just what stones painted white, it wouldn’t be very nice. I wouldn’t be able to eat my dinner. I’d have to throw the ‘salt’ away. Jesus calls us to be the salt of the earth, to add flavour. But if we turn back, if we realise the cost is too much, if we stop following him, then the salt will lose its saltiness. It’ll just be white stones.

Jesus wants us to follow him, to put him number one. It’s worth it, because he is worth it. He counted the cost and came to save us. He calls us to count the cost, and follow him. Let’s pray.

This sermon was preached at the Church Family Service in Aghavea Parish Church on Sunday 17th January 2016.

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