Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it? When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you? What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before? It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life (John 6:60-63).
Jesus’ teaching often seems hard. These disciples would not endure his teaching. Many left him. The primary problem was that they did not understand his teaching. Today, we find men rejecting parts of his teaching because they are too hard. He warned us that:
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables (2 Tim. 4:3-4).
Sound doctrine must be endured. Those who will not endure can not be saved. We must be among these who will endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ (2 Tim. 2:3,4). We must endure and hear even that teaching which appears to be unacceptable. Abraham heard some horrifying words when the Lord commanded him to offer his son as an offering on a certain mountain, but he endured them. We must walk in Abraham’s steps though the words may seem too hard. “God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able” (1 Cor. 10:13). The teaching of Luke 14 is not too hard for faithful men. It is first principle doctrine, for Jesus used these very principles to convert the multitude to be his disciples.
Two parables enforce Jesus’ conclusion (Luke 14:28-33). The conclusion to both parables is stated in verse 33: “So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.” That is the requirement – forsaking all that we have. He is not talking about leaving all of the material things that we have. We know that because John was the disciple Jesus loved, yet he still owned his own home (John 19:27). We must forsake all that we have in the sense of 2 Corinthians 5:15 and Mark 8:35. Jesus died so that we would forsake all that we have. “And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again” (2 Cor. 5:15). When we forsake all living for ourselves we turn to live only for Christ. There is nothing that we can hold on to if we are going to be Jesus’ disciples. He describes the same principle as plainly in Mark 8:35: “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it.” Jesus warned all men that the gate that leads to life is ‘strait’ (Matt. 7:13,14), which is difficult to navigate. It is not easy to enter. Jesus said “Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able” (Luke 13:24). Jesus knew that the entrance was not easy. These are the very principles he used to make disciples. Now we consider the two parables Jesus used to make disciples which prove the conclusion – the necessity to forsake all in order to be his disciple.
The first parable to illustrate his conclusion is that of a man building a tower. The principle is that he must first count the cost to see if he has enough to build the tower (Luke 14:28). There is a cost to being Jesus’ disciple.
For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish (Luke 14:28-30).
It is only sensible to count the cost before we begin anything, especially following Christ. If we begin the pathway to be like Christ we need to fulfill that goal. What will it cost us to be like Christ? The cost is not in terms of material things. Jesus said that the cost is to forsake all that we have (Luke 14:33), to lose our life for Christ’s sake (Luke 9:24). We should be looking at what we get for the price, rather than just consider the cost! The product we receive is be fully like Christ (Luke 6:40). We get to build a spiritual house or tower – the heart of Christ. It is costly, but look at what we get! The parable of the pearl of great price and the parable of the great treasure in the field teaches the same thing (Matt. 13:44-46). The treasure or the pearl required them to go and sell all that they had. It is not just whether we get the treasure or the pearl. If we don’t get them, we get to end up in torment. Jesus warns us: “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it” (Mark 8:35). If we begin to build and turn back, all that see will begin to mock saying this man began and was not able to finish. Jesus applies this same principle in the next two verses where he talks about salt that has lost its saltness. It is of no value to God or man (Luke 14:34,35). “And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62). Similarly, if we begin the pathway to become like Christ but do not finish, we are a mockery to ourselves as well as to Christ – and are worse off than if we had never started.
For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them (2 Pet. 2:20-21).
What is the cost? Jesus requires a man to first determine that he will pray the price to become like him. This price is not anything of physical value, but includes a willingness to suffer and lose all that we have in order to follow in his steps (1 Pet. 2:18-23).
The second parable is the captain of an army which is going to war against his enemy. It also proves that we must forsake all to be his disciple (Luke 14:31-33). The captain must make a decision to fight or surrender.
Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace (Luke 14:31,32).
The enemy is twice as strong as the king. How does this apply to the disciple of Christ? The disciple of Christ is called to fight and to be victorious in a war (1 Tim. 6:12). He is not called to war after the flesh, with fleshly weapons (2 Cor. 10:3-5), but he is to fight a spiritual battle against spiritual wickedness (Eph. 6:12). Satan is at least twice as strong as we are! We do not want to make peace with our enemy. The price of accepting conditions of peace means subservience. The price of peace with Satan is eternal slavery. It is far too dear a price. Winning the battle is the only other alternative. To win, we must forsake every earthly purpose and goal (all that we have) in order to win the spiritual battle. Timothy was commanded to: ”Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life” (1 Tim. 6:12). If Timothy already had eternal life why command him to lay hold on it? When we determine to follow Christ we agree to go to war against Satan. We must fight with all we are and have, if we expect to win. If we will not forsake all that we have in order to fight and win that battle, we will surely lose that war. If we will not agree to forsake all of our own earthly hopes, purpose and goals to win this fight, Jesus will not accept us as his disciples (Luke 14:33). This is not an unfair requirement, for God reminds us: “Behold, all souls are mine” (Eze. 18:4). We belong to him.
All of this translates to making disciples the way that Jesus made disciples. To make a disciple we must 1) convince a man that all souls belong to God. 2) that man has an eternal inner man which God ordains be formed in the image of Christ. Further, we must 3) persuade him that he needs to turn away from all masters but Jesus. We must 4) convince him to determine to take up his cross daily to put his old man to death so that he can 5) follow Christ in order to grow to have a mind and heart like his. He must count the cost and determine to pay the price, for Jesus to accept him. Once a man has become a disciple of Christ, his old man of self has been crucified with Christ and he is then ready to be buried. Crucifixion takes place when a man determines the he will not longer live for himself (2 Cor. 5:15). Baptism is not a crucifixion – Baptism is a burial. If there is no crucifixion, we can immerse a man in water as many times as we like, but nothing will happen. The crucifixion must take place before a genuine burial can occur. In crucifixion his old man (who was living for himself) is hand the crucified old man of sin is destroyed in the watery grave. Only then can the new man rise to grow in a new life (Rom. 6:4). When this happens all of the old is passed away and literally everything is made new (2 Cor. 5:17) because the very purpose of our existence and actions has changed from living for self to living only for Jesus (2 Cor. 5:15).