Luke 14:27 And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
Likewise, Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me (Matthew 16:24). And again, Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me (Luke 9:23).
Following Jesus was fun and exciting most of the time. There were miracles, parties and speeches—you never knew what would happen next. And it seemed like things would keep getting better as Jesus’ influence grew. But then, seemingly out of nowhere, he would talk about the cross—not only for himself, but also for his followers.
Spartacus led a failed revolt around 71 BC, which led to the crucifixion of six thousand of his followers. Jesus’ disciples knew about this, so it likely made them nervous whenever Jesus talked about the cross. We don’t know the thoughts of Judas Iscariot at this time, but he had no intention of dying with Jesus Christ. Any talk of the cross was not for him.
Many believers have been crucified literally, but crucifixion is also a metaphor for the Christian life. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me (Galatians 2:20), wrote Paul. Paul identified with Christ’s death and resurrection so thoroughly that he felt dead to the world and alive to God. This should also be true for us.
Once we take up our cross and follow Jesus Christ, we are less concerned for the present world, since we are on our way to a better one. We care less about the stock market, the super bowl, or even a nuclear war. The present world is fading away, and the eternal one is almost here.
Luke 14:28-30 Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, This person began to build and was not able to finish.
There is a large building where I live that has never been completed. Construction stopped due to a recession, and a great deal of money was lost. The uncompleted building is a disgrace to the community, and to whoever started it. Jesus is saying that it’s better not to start the Christian life, than to start and not finish. Like getting married, we should not come to Christ, unless we are resolved to stay with him.
Luke 14:31-32 Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace.
After advising people to think carefully about their decision to follow him, Jesus encouraged the right decision. A little king with ten thousand troops was being challenged by a big king with twenty thousand troops. The outcome was certain death for the little king, so he sent for terms of peace. But this could be expensive.
Luke 14:33 In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.
Jesus wants us to think about this carefully. He is the big king, and we are all little kings, defending our little kingdoms. Opposing Jesus is certain death, and peace will cost us everything. All we have, and all we are, must become his, or we will certainly perish. This seems rather drastic until we understand that surrender makes us part of his glorious kingdom. Surrendering to Jesus Christ is like Cinderella saying yes to Prince Charming. We give up our rags to receive his riches.
Luke 15:8 Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one.
Ten silver coins were about ten days wages, and may have been her life’s savings. She probably counted them often, but then one day, she discovered one of them was missing. To her alarm, she counted them again, but there were only nine.
Archaeologists have turned up many silver coins, showing it was not uncommon for them to be lost. This dear woman quickly lit a lamp and began to sweep her house. Many homes were windowless, with only dirt floors, so her search would not be easy. We can imagine her joy when she saw a glint of silver, picked it up, and recovered what was lost. This made her so happy that she rejoiced with her friends and neighbors (Luke 15:9).
Luke 15:10 In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.
The world does not rejoice when a sinner repents, because it does not matter to them. Demons cringe when a sinner repents, because they have lost one of their own. The church is happy when a sinner repents because their fellowship is enlarged. But angels rejoice when a sinner repents because they see a change of destiny—from hell below to heaven above. There is a party in heaven whenever a sinner repents, and the celebration will never end.
Luke 15:11 There was a man who had two sons.
One was lost in a distant land; the other was lost in his own back yard. The younger son asked for an early inheritance so that he could get away from his father. He went to a distant land and spent his fortune on wild living (Luke 15:13). When the money was gone, and his life became unbearable, he began the journey home. As he went, he rehearsed a speech that he planned to say to his father. Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants (Luke 15:18-19).
But as he came up the road, his father saw him, and ran out to meet him. The father threw his arms around him and kissed him (Luke 15:20). The son tried to make his speech, but his father called for a party. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found (Luke 15:24), he said.
Sadly, the older brother began to complain. All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him! (Luke 15:29-30).
The older brother’s attitude shows that he was just as lost as his younger brother had been. There was no love in his heart—only bitterness, pride and self-righteousness. His sins were not as obvious, but they were just as deadly. Here we see that some who seem to be near to God are really far away from him. They too must find their way home through faith and repentance.
Reflection and Review
How is following Christ like carrying a cross?
Why is it wise to surrender to Christ?
How can self-righteousness keep us away from God?