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Count the Cost

September 8, 2013

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Proper 18 (Pentecost 16)                                           Trinity Lutheran Church

8 September 2013                                                                                 Murdock, NE


+ Jesu Juva +

St. Luke 14:25-35


Wow!  Ginormous crowds!  Following Preacher Jesus.  It doesn’t get any better than this, does it? Humongous mobs of people throng to hear the Preacher preach.  This is every preacher’s dream!  Mega.  Massive.  Mammoth.  Super-sized crowds.  Enough to fill a major league stadium.


That’s the ticket when you’re doing church and ministry, isn’t it?  That’s all that matters, right?  The bigger the gathering, the better the pastor, right?  Of course!  “So, better do a headcount Jesus!  Keep track of the numbers.  Total up the score.  Take a poll.  Find out what these seekers want.  Give them what they want. Keep this gig going and build on it.  You’ve got whopping crowds following you.  Don’t do or say anything stupid, Reverend!  You’ve got a mega-church of all mega churches in the making!  Don’t blow it!”


That’s really good advice isn’t it?  You’re shouting out your “Amens”, “Praise the Lords”, and “Mega Dittos”!  You’d love to be a fan of this Preacher Jesus who is having such a mega following.  You want to be a part of doing church where everything is success, prosperity, and boom.  Where following this Preacher Jesus is a piece of cake.  Where being a Christian is a bed of roses.  Easy street.


Not hardly.  Preacher Jesus gives you a wake up call.  Doing church, being a Christian, or a disciple of Jesus means enormous sacrifice.  There is a great cost involved.  Do you really want to be His disciple?  Do you have ears that hear?  All right, then be prepared.  You’d better “count the cost.”  Being a disciple of Jesus means hating your family and your own life more than Jesus [see Matthew 10:37], carrying a cross and leaving behind all that you have.


Don’t you remember?  Jesus’ ministry is going somewhere.  His preaching will get Him somewhere.  And where’s that?  It will take Him to Jerusalem.  Golgotha.  Hung on the cross.  Crucified.  Dead as a door nail.  Giving His divine life into death for the life of the world.


And what Jesus says is a hard sell.  “Listen.  I don’t want to waste your time here.  Now that I’ve got your attention with all this hate language maybe you’ll listen for a change.  I’m laying out for you the best offer of salvation you’ve ever seen.  In fact, it’s the only one that actually works.  Salvation’s only through me.  Only with me.  With my suffering, dying and rising.”


“Hang with me in my death and salvation’s yours.  But you contribute nothing.  Everything that’s yours counts for nothing when it comes to your salvation.  Not even your family.  I’m the only one that counts.  Got ears.  Listen up.”


But you’re not ready to listen. “Look Jesus, our families are all Lutheran!  Some of us even converted to Lutheranism!    Our kids all got gold star attendance awards in Sunday School!  We have a pastor or two in our family trees!  We’re confirmed!  A few of us can recite the entire catechism by memory!  Most of our parents are Bible believing, church going people!  We’ve got sisters who read the Bible!  We’ve got brothers who sacrificed to become parochial school teachers!  Our wives are so pious.  They go to church.  Our family pedigree is impeccable Jesus!”


“Not impressed,” is Jesus’ reaction.  “Family connections don’t earn you heaven.  You’ve got to die to that.  It’s time to get the wax out of your ears and the stubbornness out of your hearts.  Luther isn’t the Savior.  Your parents aren’t.  Neither is your wife.  Only I am.  That’s the truth. I’ll put it in a way that just might get your attention.  I’ll say it to you in terms that just might scandalize you to the core.  Terms so outrageous.  Here goes:  If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters — he cannot be my disciple.    Jolted yet?  Ears to hear yet?”


No.  Not even fazed you trot out your lives. Another trump card.  “Jesus.  You’re not listening.  We’re  consumers.  Shoppers.  Our trendy pastors these days push a vibrant life.  So we all got a life.  Got our act together.  Crooked ways made straight.  Naughtinesses all nice and neat now.  New morals.  Squeaky clean living.  Jesus, we’re good boys and girls!”


“Oh yes.  I see it all,” Jesus responds.  “All your buddies are impressed.  Breathless no doubt.  But I’m not moved.  As far as I’m concerned your lives are rotten to the core.  Why?  Because you think God owes you salvation for it.  Because you think that by your goody-goody life you’ve got God in a full nelson.  Head locked by your piety.  Bear hugged by your spotless life.  I’ll let you in on a little secret.  Salvation’s only through my bloody Cross.  Through my perfect life.  Which I offer for you — all of you — and every part of you — in my Body which hangs dead from the Good Friday Tree.  I guess I’ll have to put it to you outrageously again:  If anyone comes to me and does not hate even his own life — he cannot be my disciple.”


“Listen up boys and girls!  Want to travel with me? Want salvation?  Well, that’s my job.  Not yours, your family or anything else in the lives you make for yourselves.  I alone do the Jerusalem Job.  And I take you into my death.  My Cross counts for you. That’s where you’re safe.  That’s where you’re secure.  That’s where you truly have life.  Now and forever.”


So being a disciple is serious stuff.  Life or death is set before you.  Eternal consequences stuff stand in the Preacher Jesus.    Think about it.  Who in his right mind starts a building project without first counting up the cost?  If your army is only half the size of your enemy’s what do you do?  You negotiate for peace before he gets to your borders.


So go ahead. Count the cost.  Plan accordingly.  A salty disciple  hangs on to nothing of his own before God.  A salty disciple believes that his salvation is only in Jesus.  That salvation is Christ’s doing only in His Bloody Suffering, Calvary dying and Easter rising.  Anything that would hinder, block, or thwart faith’s trusting in Jesus has to be dumped.  Put to death.  Repented of!


Trust only in Jesus and you the salty disciple will suffer the cross.  You will be treated like your Lord.  Mocked.  Rejected.  Persecuted.  Maybe even killed.  No wonder the large crowds dwindled.  Who wants a God like that?  And so at the Cross only a tiny congregation remains.  The Marys and John.  Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus.  The centurion gave the good confession:  “Truly, this Jesus is righteous!” (Luke 23:47)


You’re a part of that first little congregation. You’re died for.  You’re Baptized.  You eat and to drink the Savior’s Calvary Body and Blood.  You belong to a church family that clings only to Jesus for salvation.  Yours.  The world’s.    His sacrifice for you, His salty disciples, is everything.  He leads and carries you to eternal life.


In the Name of Jesus.

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