Jesus wasn’t hesitant when He spoke to those who wanted to be one of His followers. He raised the bar so high that many, maybe most of them turned and went back home. To follow Jesus meant giving up more than most in our culture could even consider. Let’s face it, we find it difficult to get small group members to commit to a group covenant!
So… What does Jesus expect of those who are His disciples? Jesus expects His disciples too…
1. Make our relationship with Jesus more important than the relationship we have with anyone else, even our own their families. Jesus said, “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.” (Luke 14:26)
2. Give up the comforts of home, even be willing to be homeless for His sake. On one occasion a man said to Jesus,“I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus response was as follows, ““Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” (Matthew 8:20) If we are unable to give up the comforts of home then we need not consider being one of Jesus’ disciples. Leaving the plush life and warmth of our homes may be a request Jesus makes of us.
3. We must be willing to set aside cultural norms when they contradict God’s norms. Also in Matthew 8… a second man wanted to be a follower/disciple of Christ but then said to Jesus, “first let me bury my father.” Jesus response sounds uncaring and unkind. Jesus said to the man, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.” Many Jews regarded the commandment to honor father and mother as the supreme commandment. Jesus is telling this man that no matter what it is that seems to be more important than following Him, even if the culture sees that thing as supreme above all other expectations, that following Him trumps even that thing.
4. A Disciple of Jesus cannot love money. A rich young man once approached Jesus and asked Jesus what he needed to do to have eternal life. Jesus didn’t see salvation apart from being a disciple. In fact, when Jesus responded to the young man He said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” (Matt. 19:21 – 22) Jesus is telling the young man that he must be willing to give up all his treasure if he’s going to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. Loving and living for money and following Jesus cannot co-exist. You know why? Because, as Jesus reminds us, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” (Matthew 6:24)
5. A true disciple cannot remain silent about Jesus, their rabbi. In the book of Mark when Jesus speaks of following Him, He includes this convicting statement… “whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:38) Jesus is telling those who would choose to follow Him that, if you’re going to follow Him, no matter what your friends, co-workers, or family members think of you or says about you, if you’re going to be one of Jesus’ disciples, you will speak of Him to those in the generation in which He has placed you, no matter what the cost… embarrassment, ridicule, loss of relationship, no matter what it costs you.
6. A disciple of Jesus Christ must be willing to die for Him. Jesus said, “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:28) Every person within earshot of this statement had most likely seen a crucifixion. They were fully aware that anyone who was crucified had to carry his own cross beam through the streets where crucifixion would take place. They were from Galilee. Less than 20 years before Jesus made this statement a group of Jews tried to throw the Romans out. The Romans won the battle and lined the streets with crosses and hanging on those crosses were the bodies of more than 2,000 Jews. These people realized that Jesus was speaking of dying for the sake of Christ.
And then, as if Jesus wanted to be certain we knew that NOTHING should come before Him, He declared, “any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:33)
So… Here’s the question… At what point, if ever, do we make small group members aware of these expectations?
Maybe a better question is this one… In our longing to “get people to join the church and stick,” have we purposefully ignored these expectations of Jesus?
Maybe an even better question than that one is this one… Has our paradigm of discipleship devolved so much that, when we read these, we perceive them as being out of touch, out of sync with reality, and no longer valid?