Counting the Cost of the Cross
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand?” (Luke 14:26-31 ESV)
Most Bibles give this portion of Scripture a heading like, “Counting the Cost of Discipleship” or something similar. That heading, and others like it, aren’t in the original manuscripts, but instead added in modernity and used to help current readers understand what a given section of the Bible is discussing; they make the Bible more accessible and user friendly. This particular heading is an apt description of what Jesus is striving to communicate to his closest followers.
For Jesus, this was a significant series of instructions to be offering. He was waist-deep in his public ministry, with large crowds following him. He had become known in many regions for miracles, counter-cultural teachings, and had much fanfare. Only a faithful few followed Jesus because they believed him to be the Messiah. Among those faithful few were his disciples. For these guys, being Jesus’ public right/left hands would have been revolutionary. Mere months prior they were fisherman, tax collectors, and other vocations. Some were of note, but most likely never dreamed of the notoriety they now had.
Jesus, knowing all this and more, creates the opportunity to turn to his closest, faithful followers (and subsequently us), and teach us the essential principle of counting the cost; knowing what it’s going to cost/take to accomplish a given goal or task set before us, prior to engaging in it. In the context of this passage, Jesus helped his disciples see that the fanfare and glory of the moment is only temporary, and for the cause of which they had espoused, great sacrifice would be required. The cost was very high.
This remains the case for the modern Christian, especially as we consider Good Friday.
Reflecting on this idea, what encourages me is that Jesus did not just teach this—he patterns the principle for us in Scripture with his conduct. He counted the cost of atoning for the sins of all humanity throughout time and space. And despite knowing the full weight of the forthcoming traumatic events of the cross…was willing. Consider Luke 22:39-46:
“And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. And when he came to the place, he said to them, ‘Pray that you may not enter into temptation.’ And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, ‘Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.’ And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.”
This passage reveals to us that Jesus not only prayed for another way, but did so repeatedly. And still willingly chose: “Nevertheless, not my will, but yours [God, the Father], be done.”
Tomorrow is Good Friday. It provides Christians with a needed time to remember, reflect on, and count the cost of our salvation. It provides pause to stand in the shadow of the cross, stare at it in our mind’s eye, and consider the following:
These realities must never be forgotten or neglected.
Thus, my challenges for us this Easter are very simple. They come down to questions of our willingness to consider the cost as Jesus taught and exemplified. Please join me in prayerfully considering the following questions and their implications…
Are you willing to truly reflect on and count the cost of what Jesus sacrificed for you?
Are you willing to count the cost of being a follower of Christ?
Fellow Christians, it is my strongest encouragement to you that you consider these things. It is further my sincere belief that a healthy, personal respect for the trauma and cost of the cross will bring new life to your celebrating of Easter Sunday and the gospel in a fuller way than you have ever experienced before.