Jesus is the worst salesman in history. Salesmen are naturally a little sneaky, and tell a lie or two to get you hooked on what they’re trying to sell. Jesus, on the other hand, didn’t refrain from being brutally honest- sharing the full truth, and nothing but the truth. The truth of the matter is that Jesus wasn’t trying to sell anything. He was letting us know what it would cost to follow Him, and it would be up to us if we wanted to get on the bandwagon. This is what I love about Jesus. He’s honest. He admits that it won’t be easy. He admits that we will face trouble in this world. He admits that we need Him. In this blog, I want to share why Jesus’ price of admission isn’t cheap, but it costs us everything.
The gift of salvation is exactly that, a gift. It is one hundred percent free. We are saved by grace, through faith (Ephesians 2:8). However, the price of following Jesus is much more costly. Don’t believe me? Jesus said it himself. In Luke 18, Jesus is approached by a certain ruler who asks him what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus tells him the basic commandments of the law, and the ruler replies by saying “all these I have kept since I was a boy.” Jesus replies again by saying, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” The ruler heard this and became sad, because he was wealthy. We read this story and are baffled as to why this ruler wasn’t willing to lay it all down to follow the King of Kings. But, we are forgetting that humans desire comfort more than we would like to admit. We strive and seek comfort and ease in our lives. This ruler had it all. He was comfortable and wealthy and giving up his wealth meant forfeiting that comfort. Following Jesus isn’t comfortable, and we can’t expect comfortable lives when we choose to follow Christ.
Jesus elaborates further on the cost of choosing to follow Him earlier in Luke’s gospel:
“Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters- yes, even their own life- such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”- Luke 14:25-27
The first thing to note about this passage is that Jesus is not, and I repeat is not, commanding us to hate our families. Jesus often used hyperbole to get his point across. Remember when he advised that we should gouge our eyes out if they cause us to stumble (Matthew 5:29)? We can’t always take what Jesus is saying literally. Instead, Jesus uses the word “hate” in this context to emphasize the fact that if we are to commit our lives to Him, we must be ready and able to leave behind family and comfortable living. Many Muslim families take their religion very seriously, and if a Muslim decided that he/she was going to follow Jesus and deny the pillars of Islam, that person would possibly be cut off from their family. That is quite the price to pay in order to follow Jesus, but what is so amazing about Jesus is that He tells us the cost upfront, no gimmicks.
The second part of this passage is when Jesus gets real. He commands us to carry our own cross and follow Him. Notice that He doesn’t say “carry your duffle bag full of one hundred dollar bills”. A cross is a torture device, the same one that Jesus hung on. What Jesus is saying by commanding us to carry our cross is that we need to be ready to face hardship, and even death, for choosing to walk faithfully with Him. The question we need to ask ourselves is are we ready to face such suffering?
One of the more interesting passages of Scripture is Acts 9:16, in which Jesus says this to Ananias: “I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” Jesus is talking about Paul, formerly Saul, whom He had just appeared to on the Damascus road. Jesus wasn’t going to shower Paul with blessings, but rather was going to show Him the suffering he would endure for following Him. In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul says this:
“...I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have gone without food; I have been cold and naked.”- 2 Corinthians 11:23-27
It is true that Paul suffered greatly in the name of Jesus. During his second imprisonment, Roman emperor Nero ordered that Paul be beheaded. Paul lived a life of suffering, but for a purpose far greater than the temporal pleasures of comfort and riches. The Lord Jesus used Paul’s miraculous conversion from persecutor to believer and His ministry efforts to influence thousands, if not millions of Christians, to pursue a relationship with Christ. That is worth dying for.
Paul was not the only first century follower of Christ to face intense suffering and persecution for his faith in Christ. In AD 66, the Apostle Peter was crucified upside down on a cross, at his own request because he did not feel worthy to die in the same manner as his Lord. Andrew, Peter’s brother, preached the gospel in present day Russia, Asia Minor, modern day Turkey, and Greece, where he was crucified. The disciple Thomas was killed when he was pierced by the spears of four soldiers in Syria. Philip preached the gospel in North Africa and Asia Minor, where he converted a Roman proconsul's wife to faith. He was killed by the proconsul. Jesus wasn’t kidding when He stated that His followers must carry their cross, and we are not exempt from that reality.
Why Pay the Price?
There are a lot of “fans” of Jesus, but a whole lot less are actually His followers. Fans enjoy Jesus and respect Him, but they aren’t quite ready to give up the comfort and ease of life to follow Him. Fans are a lot like the rich ruler from Luke 18. He was a fan of Jesus and was curious of how he could have eternal life, but when the rubber met the road, he wasn’t willing to lay it all on the line. Jesus’ earliest followers, on the other hand, were more than ready to lay it on the line. They left comfort, ease, riches, family, and friends behind to preach the gospel of their Lord Jesus Christ and ended up paying a high price for that choice. But, what benefit is there to laying everything down to follow Jesus? This is the question that we must understand and we must hold fast to the answer.
The reality of life is this: Christian or not, you will face hardship, challenges, and eventually, death. Why not have Jesus on your side? Yes, you may have to give up the temporary comforts of this world or your fleshly desires, but a relationship with Christ is far more valuable. Jesus answers the fundamental questions of life, the ones that matter. Who am I? I am a Child of God (John 1:12). Why am I here? Because we have a commission to share the good news of God’s grace to all through Christ Jesus (Matthew 28:19-20). What is life all about? Bringing glory and honor to God (1 Corinthians 10:31). Do I have value? Through Christ Jesus, we have immense value (Romans 5:8). These questions provide hope that life is not merely limited to pleasure and experience, but that it finds its ultimate purpose and fulfillment in our Creator God. This is why we have joy, the same joy that Jesus said would be given unto His disciples (John 15:11).
Let’s talk about your value. The truth of the matter is, if God doesn't exist, then you are just as valuable as a rock. You are nothing more than an accident of nature. But, what value do we have in Jesus? You know how valuable something is by what you are willing to pay for it. Jesus paid an immeasurable price at the cross, to bring you and I back to the Father. We can know that we have an immeasurable value because of the price that God was willing to pay to bring us back to Him. Jesus said it Himself in Matthew 10:31, “So don’t be afraid, you are worth more than many sparrows.”
I will never forget Saturday afternoons in the fall at Notre Dame stadium as a kid. Nothing, and I mean nothing, beat sitting on the cold bench with my Dad to watch the Irish. Despite the steep cost of admission, my Dad would always take my brother and I to a game. Similar to overpriced football tickets, Jesus asks His followers to pay a costly price. The disciples lost their families, their friends, and often their lives. The Christian life isn’t about “blessings”. God’s greatest blessing is inviting us to follow Him, to serve Him, to love Him, to glorify Him. It will cost us, but through Jesus’ death on the cross, we find our purpose for being alive and our value, which is immeasurable. Is Jesus worth the price of admission? Without question.