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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
August 21, 2016
The Purpose and Cost of Following Jesus
John 7:2-10; Luke 9:51-62; Matthew 8:19-22
The beginning of 1861 was full of patriotism and excitement. Even before President Lincoln’s inauguration, some Southern states had seceded from the Union. The cry in both the North and South quickly became, To Arms! In the North, it was to “Preserve the Union.” In the South, it was to “defend the homeland.” In both areas the coming war was seen as something grand and glorious. The armies raised were all volunteers who were eager to be part of the grand adventure to come. The soldiers on parade were magnificent in their uniforms with the weapons they carried glittering in the sun. What young man would not want to be part of this noble affair? There was little thought to what war was really like. Both sides thought the war would only last a few months.
By the end of the year both sides understood the true nature of war. There was grandeur and glory alright, and both sides still felt their cause was noble, but this was not the Sunday picnic they had envisioned. It was not a congenial shooting match or a day of relaxed hunting with friends. Camp life was uncomfortable, the marches exhausting, the battles bloody and as many watched their friends being laid in the grave, they knew they could meet the same fate in the next battle.
So it was and still is with the cause of Jesus Christ as well. Those who saw the miracles of Jesus healing people, casting out demons and feeding thousands with what amounted to the lunch of a boy, were very attracted. When they heard the gracious words of His teaching and the hope it gave, they became even more desirous of following Him. The same is still true today when people hear about the life and ministry of Jesus. By every measure being a disciple of Jesus Christ is a grand and glorious adventure, but it is not easy. It is not the wonderful life described by evangelists who are anxious to get you to raise your hand, walk the aisle and pray a prayer as if those things could save you. It is not a life of security and comfort in this life they often make it out to be or one of health and wealth so often marketed by Charismatic preachers. Jesus actually said the opposite, for there is a purpose in following Jesus, but the focus of that purpose is not you. There is also a cost in following Jesus, and that cost can be very high. Yet, there is no better life than being a disciple of Jesus, and any cost paid, no matter how high, is cheap for the value received.
Turn to John 7 and put a book mark at Luke 9:51. This morning we will be examining the purpose and cost of following Jesus.
The Setting – John 7:1-2
John 7:1 – “And after these things Jesus was walking in Galilee; for He was unwilling to walk in Judea, because the Jews were seeking to kill Him. 2 Now the feast of the Jews, the Feast of Booths, was at hand.”
The reference in verse 1 is to the antagonism that had developed between Jesus and the religious leaders since the beginning of His ministry. They were so full of hatred against Jesus that they wanted to kill Him, and that had been true since Jesus had healed the man at the pool of Bethesda on a Sabbath day a year earlier (John 5:18). For that reason, Jesus focused His ministry in the region of Galilee and surrounding areas outside of Judea in order to avoid provoking them further too early. Even so, as we have seen in our study of Jesus’ Galilean ministry recorded in the other Gospel accounts, Jewish religious leaders would come up from Jerusalem periodically to hear Jesus, and the antagonism between them continued to increase. Judea was still not a safe place for Jesus.
The Feast of Booths occurs in October and it is one of the three feasts in the Jewish calendar in which males were supposed to appear before the Lord. The other two are the Feast of Unleavened bread (Passover) and Feast of Weeks (Deuteronomy 16:16). Multitudes of people would travel to Jerusalem for this celebration. The question that was in the minds of many people was when Jesus would come. That was also on the minds of Jesus’ brothers.
Family Conflict – John 7:3-9
3 His brothers therefore said to Him, “Depart from here, and go into Judea, that Your disciples also may behold Your works which You are doing. 4 “For no one does anything in secret, when he himself seeks to be [known] publicly. If You do these things, show Yourself to the world. For not even His brothers were believing in Him.”
Jesus’ brothers, which Matthew 13:55 names for us – James, Joseph, Simon and Judas – were also somewhat at odds toward Him. They would later believe (Acts 1:14), but they did not believe at this time. Their statement to Jesus was pointing out what they saw as an inconsistency in Him. They were much like the rest of the people and thought Jesus might gain high public office, and perhaps even bring about the overthrow of Roman oppression and reestablishment of Israel as an independent nation, but they did not believe Jesus was the Messiah, God in human flesh who had come to redeem them from their sins.
From their point of view, Jesus should head down to Jerusalem and take advantage of the opportunity to prove Himself to His disciples and the multitudes that were gathering there. They reasoned that by demonstrating His mighty works publically before the people, then they would acclaim Him and He would achieve His goals. They were basically telling Jesus to quit restricting Himself to the back country areas of Galilee and Decapolis, and go to Jerusalem where He could gain the attention of the world.
Please note that what Jesus’ brothers say affirm the reality of the miracles Jesus had been doing. They do not question His amazing works in the least, and they do believe He can do them. What they do not believe is that Jesus is the promised Messiah who would redeem them from their sins. They do not believe He is the Son of God. To them, Jesus was just their older brother who was a powerful miracle worker, perhaps a prophet, but who was also delusional (Mark 3:21).
Jesus’ response is recorded in verses 6-8. Jesus therefore ^said to them, “My time is not yet at hand, but your time is always opportune. 7 “The world cannot hate you; but it hates Me because I testify of it, that its deeds are evil. 8 “Go up to the feast yourselves; I do not go up to this feast because My time has not yet fully come.” 9 And having said these things to them, He stayed in Galilee.
The word, “time,” in verse 6 is kairovV, / kairos which refers to the proper or appropriate moment or opportunity as opposed to crovnoV / xronos which speaks about the chronological time of day, month or year. Jesus was very aware that He was living according to God’s schedule. This is part of what it meant for Jesus to do the Father’s will rather than His own. Jesus’ brothers could go to the feast in Jerusalem whenever they desired because they were living according to their own desires and schedule. Jesus lived by God’s schedule.
In addition, Jesus’ brothers were not facing the hatred of the world that Jesus was facing. They could go to Jerusalem and little attention would be paid to them for they were no different from anyone else. But Jesus was hated by the world because His righteous life and righteous teaching condemned the evil ways of the world. Jesus was gentle and kind, but He was also straightforward about sin and particularly so with the hypocrisy of the Jewish religious leaders, and they hated Him for it. The same is still true today.
We are to speak the truth in love, but regardless of how loving you are, when you tell a person that they have a sin problem and are in need of a Savior, they are going to either repent or will hate you for it. People who like their sin do not want to be told it is evil and brings about God’s condemnation. They would rather go merrily on their way to hell than have you warn them to flee the wrath of God to come. You often do not even need to say anything. Just your example of living righteously will convict them and they will hate you.
This brings up a corollary point. If the world does not hate you, perhaps you should ask yourself why? Are you living righteously enough to have those in the world even notice? Or are you a spiritual schizophrenic who lives one way among Christians and another way among non-Christians? Be careful of wanting praise from the world, for it usually comes only after you compromise your faith.
Jesus told His brothers to go to the feast without Him for His time and not yet fully come. Jesus knew His enemies had evil intentions and were looking for His arrival. If Jesus went as part of the large crowd with His family and disciples, He would attract their attention immediately. Instead, Jesus stayed in Galilee for a while longer. However, it was not very long before the Father did prompt Jesus to go to Jerusalem. 10 But when His brothers had gone up to the feast, then He Himself also went up, not publicly, but as it were, in secret.
Some claim that verse 10 is a contradiction to verse 8 and a few have even said Jesus lied to His brothers. Such a statement says a lot about those commentators. I should point out that the KJV & NKJV translates verse 8 better by taking the alternate reading, “8 “You go up to this feast. I am not yet going up to this feast, for My time has not yet fully come.” This reading is attested to by many early manuscripts including one of the earliest, p66, and is the simplest solution. Jesus had not made a definite statement about not going to the feast, but had left the option open.
Jesus now begins His journey to Jerusalem for the Feast of Booths, but He goes as if in secret rather than publically. This is not to say that He tried to hide Himself, but rather that He did not seek to promote Himself and His arrival. This was opposite of what Jesus’ brothers had thought He should do. Jesus’ time had not come for a public arrival as the coming king. That was still six months away at the Triumphal entry just before the Passover.
Jesus said in John 6:38, “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Hm who sent Me.” That same purpose should be the hallmark of every disciple of Jesus. If you are going to be a follower of Jesus Christ, then your purpose must also be to do the will of the Father. This little conflict Jesus had with His brothers shows that Jesus’ commitment to do the Father’s will extended even to the precise timing of what He would do. So it should be for those who are Christians in striving to even submit the timing of our actions to the Father’s will as best we can possibly discern.
John’s account continues with the events that took place once Jesus got to Jerusalem. Luke gives an account of two important lesson Jesus taught His disciples along the way.
The Purpose of Jesus – Luke 9:51-56; Matthew 8:19-22
51 When the days were approaching for His ascension, He was determined to go to Jerusalem; 52 and He sent messengers on ahead of Him, and they went and entered a village of the Samaritans to make arrangements for Him. 53 But they did not receive Him, because He was traveling toward Jerusalem.
Luke 9:51 corresponds with John 7:10. Jesus set out for Jerusalem even though He knew it would increase the hatred of the religious leaders for Him which would eventually bring about His crucifixion, burial, resurrection and ascension. Jesus and the disciples travel the most direct path to Jerusalem through Samaria even though Jews and Samaritans generally did not like each other, a fact confirmed when a Samaritan village rejected the efforts of Jesus’ disciples to find accommodations there.
This rejection incensed some of the disciples, verse 54 – When His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” This kind of reaction is why Jesus called these two brothers, “Sons of Thunder” (Mark 3:17). They wanted to make this village a dramatic example of God’s judgment. At least they understood something about Jesus’ earlier lesson about having the faith of a mustard seed, but they completely missed Jesus’ purpose in coming. Jesus reminded them in verses 55-56.
55 But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; 56 for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” And they went on to another village. There will be a time when God will judge those who reject Jesus (2 Thessalonians 1:6-10), but this was not it. Jesus’ purpose in coming was to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10) by giving His life as a ransom for their sin (Mark 10:45). Those who follow Jesus must understand that and make it their own purpose. Christians are human so we still have a natural bent toward desiring revenge on those who treat us sinfully, but we yield that to God and instead seek to warn even our enemies of God’s wrath to come and give them the gospel. Faith in Jesus Christ is the means of salvation.
The Cost of Following Jesus – Luke 9:56-62; Matthew 8:19-22
57 As they were going along the road, someone said to Him, “I will follow You wherever You go.” Jesus and His disciples would meet many people as they travel to Jerusalem for multitudes were traveling there for the Feast of Booths. In our text, three people express a desire to follow Jesus, yet Jesus’ response is not what might be expected. If Jesus’s purpose was to gain a political following as His brothers thought, then he would have welcomed and encouraged each person even if they did want to delay full commitment. In politics, any commitment is welcome as long as it is positive. Any politician would be thrilled if you gave them the maximum amount permissible under the law, but they will still be happy if it was only $20. Any politician would be thrilled if you did volunteer work for their campaign, but they would still be happy if it was just putting a yard sign on your front lawn. Jesus does not do that. Instead, he challenges each one with what would be necessary if they really wanted to follow him.
Luke does not identify the first person other than that they said, “I will follow You wherever You go.” The parallel passage in Matthew 8:19 is more specific in identifying him as a “certain scribe” and that he addressed Jesus as “Teacher.” That is significant when it is remembered that the scribes were generally antagonistic toward Jesus and some of them were seeking Jesus’ death (Matthew 16:21).
Even more striking is that this scribe calls Jesus, “teacher,” and he means it. The scribes were well schooled and trained in the law and took for themselves the title “rabbi” or “teacher.” They did not like to use that title except for those who had earned a right to as they had. Yet in this passage there is a scribe that has the humility to address Jesus, who did not have the same kind of formal education, as “teacher.” This is the equivalent of a PhD University professor addressing a home schooled traveling lecturer as “doctor.”
Even more astounding, this scribe makes a statement of unconditional allegiance to Jesus saying, “Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.” There is no indication in either Matthew or Luke’s account of any sort of condition or limitation on his statement. This appears to be the genuine expression of this man’s belief and desire.
I do not doubt that there are many people today who come to Christ in this same manner. They are impressed by what they have learned about Jesus and seen in the lives of the true followers of Christ they have met. They want the peace, joy and hope that He offers. They want to be part of something bigger than themselves. They respond to the love they have heard about and seen and they profess love for Jesus as well saying, “I will follow You wherever You lead me.”
However, the sad truth is that neither the scribe nor many people today have ever thought through what it might mean to actually follow Jesus Christ. The positive things they have seen are so wonderful and they are strongly attracted to them. But following Jesus Christ is not always positive from the human perspective. Jesus even warned that His followers would be hated and persecuted by the world.
Jesus does not speak either positively or negatively to the scribe. He simply tells him what His own life is like with the inference that if the scribe will really follow Him, then Jesus can offer no more than what He Himself has.58 And Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” This does not mean Jesus could not find a place to sleep, but that there was no permanent place. He traveled and stayed with friends or wherever He could for the night. In short, Jesus tells the man that following Him required the life of an itinerant preacher who has no true home in this world.
As a quick footnote let me add that Jesus’ identifying Himself with the phrase, “the Son of Man,” is a claim to be the Messiah. Jesus is fully human, but He stands apart from all other humans for He”the Son of Man,” not “a son of man.” The Messianic nature of this phrase is most clearly seen in comparing Daniel 7:13 with Matthew 26:64 where in both passages “the son of man” is next to God the Father in the clouds of heaven.
The Scriptures are silent about the response of the scribe. Neither in this passage nor in the parallel passages do we ever find mention of this man again. It is an argument from silence, but the silence here is strong evidence that this scribe did not follow Jesus. He expressed a nice sentiment, but it was not a commitment he would keep if the cost would be that high.
That is still a common response today. Many express a nice sentiment in proclaiming their love for Jesus, but once they find out that to truly love Jesus also means being obedient to Him (John 14:15, 21), they depart. These are the people that have entered the broad gate, often lured through it by false prophets handing out false gospel tracts with a free but fraudulent fire insurance policy printed on one side and an invalid ticket to heaven on the other. There is no true repentance. There is no true conversion from sin and death to righteousness and life (Romans 6). There is no transference from the domain of darkness into God’s kingdom of light (Colossians 1:13). Like Demas described in 2 Timothy 4:10 as “having loved this present world, has deserted me and gone,” those who love the comforts of this world more than Christ will ultimately not follow Him. They build their houses on shifting sand and will have a tragic end.
Luke 9:59-60, 59 And He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.”
In this case, Jesus called on this man to follow Him, but the man, whom Matthew 8:21 states is another disciple, though not one of the twelve, requests a delay before he follows. He would like to come, but he wants permission to be allowed to bury his father first. This seems reasonable at first glance. Sons were generally obliged to arrange burial as a final act of devotion (Genesis 25:9, etc.), and it was considered both a duty and a kindness (Micah 6:8) that ranked higher than other services requiring attention. However, Jewish custom directed burial to take place soon after death (John 11:1,14,17; Acts 5:5,6,10), so a question arises about this man’s request. Why is the man with Jesus at this point in time? There are two possibilities.
First, the man could have just received word that his father had died and his conversation with Jesus occurred before he headed home, or he was on his way home when he met Jesus. The other possibility is that the father is very much alive and this man is using the phrase, “bury my father,” as a reference to a son’s duty to help his dad in the family business until after the father died and the inheritance was distributed. It is reported that this phrase is still used this way in places in the Middle East. If so, then he was asking Jesus for permission to remain at home until his father died and he received his part of the inheritance after which he would then follow Jesus.
Which is true? The scriptures do not say. But we do know that Jesus’ reply was specifically to this man much as Jesus reply to the rich young ruler to go and sell all he had and follow Him was specifically to the rich young ruler. Jesus knew the heart of the man and he replied specifically to what was there that would block him from following. Luke 9:60 records Jesus’ response, 60 But He said to him, “Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God.” Jesus tells him to become an itinerant preacher.
Regardless of this man’s actually motives, Jesus cut to the core of the issue when it comes to following Him. When He commands us to follow, it is time to go and nothing else is more important. Let me quickly stress that Jesus is not saying that we should not participate in funerals and take care of those arrangements for our loved ones. What He said here is specifically to this man because He knew what was in his heart. Either he was greedy and wanted his inheritance before following Christ, or this man was so tied into his family that he valued them more than Christ. In either case, the issue is following Christ. Jesus said in Matthew 10:37, “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.” When a person becomes a Christian, they become part of the family of God and the primary allegiance must shift to God the Father instead of the earthly family. While familial love is important, the greater love has to be to God. Old Testament law prohibited both the High Priest and those under a Nazarite vow from becoming unclean at a funeral even for a father or mother (Leviticus 21:11, Numbers 6:6 -7) . Their lives were to be completely consecrated.
Luke 9:61-62 records a third scenario, 61 Another also said, “I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home.” It is reasonable to assume the man is on his way to Jerusalem, so why would he need to say good-bye to those at home? He only needed so send word that his plans had changed and that he did not know when he would be home again.
He receives a very direct response in verse 62, But Jesus said to him, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” This statement is easily understood by anyone that has ever had to plow or walk a straight path without a line to follow. The only way to keep your furrow straight is to keep your eyes focused straight ahead at a particular spot. If you turn to look behind you, your furrow will veer and become crooked. A plowman that leaves crooked rows causes problems and would be fired.
If you are going to follow Jesus, your focus must be on Jesus. If you start looking elsewhere, you will veer off the path and cause lots of problems.
The point Jesus makes in these three responses is simple. The cost is high to follow him, but there is nothing more important. You must be willing to go where He sends you and trust Him to provide. Walking with the Lord takes priority over family and inheritance, and once you begin that walk, keeping looking forward to where the Lord is leading you and don’t look back.
What keeps people from following Jesus? For many it is the allurement of the things of the world. They sacrifice the eternal for that which is only momentary. Following Jesus may cost you the things and pleasures of this world. Will you still follow? Many others are blocked by fear of what friends and family might think. Would you follow Jesus if you knew it meant your family will reject you? That happens much more often than you might think.
I know that some here today have not made up their minds about Jesus’ claims and promises. Do not let pleasure, the things of this world, or the pressures of family or friends keep you away. Jesus’ claims are true. He is God in human flesh, who lived a sinless life, voluntarily died as the substitute payment for sin, rose from the dead three days later and offers forgiveness to anyone that will place their faith in Him to follow Him. I urge you to not delay any longer. It is time to believe and act on the truth by repenting of your sins, asking Him for forgiveness, and starting your journey of life with Him.
Some of you here today profess to love Jesus and you want to follow him, but you are hesitant about the sacrifices that might mean to your lifestyle or your relationship with family and friends. It is time to get off the fence. You know that Jesus wants more of your life and commitment from you in both personal worship and devotion as well as serving Him with the gifts He has given you within the body. Any sacrifice made to do those things is more than worth it. Stop finding excuses to wait for a more convenient day. Jesus has called and He is moving on. Will you go with Him or be left behind?
Sermon Notes: The Purpose and Cost of Following Jesus
John 7:2-10; Luke 9:51-62; Matthew 8:19-22
By every measure being a disciple of Jesus Christ is a grand and glorious adventure, but it is not _________
There is a purpose in following Jesus, but it is not you. There is a ____to following Jesus, and it can be high
The Setting – John 7:1-2
Jesus ministered in ___________to avoid the Jewish religious leaders that wanted to kill Him.
Jesus was supposed to celebrate the Feast of Booths, but __________would He come?
Family Conflict – John 7:3-9
Jesus’ brothers tell Him to go to Jerusalem to __________Himself to the world and increase His following
Jesus’ brothers affirm Jesus was a ___________worker, but they do not yet believe He is the Messiah
Jesus was living according to the Father’s _________________
The world pays little attention to those who are worldly, but will ___________those that are godly
Jesus would stay in Galilee until after His brothers had departed – and then goes __________in God’s timing
Jesus’ purpose was to do the Father’s will (John 6:38). That is also to be the ___________of every Christian
The Purpose of Jesus – Luke 9:51-56; Matthew 8:19-22
Jesus set out for Jerusalem though He knew it would antagonize His _______- part of leading to His passion
The rejection of the Samaritan village incensed James and John and they wanted ____________
Luke 9:55-56 – Jesus’ purpose was to seek and ___________the lost, not destroy them.
Christians are to yield their vengeance to God and instead seek the _____________of even their enemies
The Cost of Following Jesus – Luke 9:56-62; Matthew 8:19-22
Jesus meets many people on His way to Jerusalem, but He is not a _____________seeking followers
Matthew 8:19 – the man is a humble ________who makes an unconditional statement of allegiance to Jesus
The ____________must be considered before there can be a true commitment to follow
Jesus explains to the Scribe what it would mean to follow Him – the life of an _________________preacher
There is no record the Scribe did follow Jesus – the cost was too ____. That is still a common response today
Luke 9:59-60 – Jesus called on a man to follow Him, but the man wanted to _________his father first
Perhaps the man had just received _______his father had died & had not yet left for home or was on his way
Perhaps the man was referring to helping in his father’s business _____his death, then getting the inheritance
Jesus knew the _____of the man and challenged him on the very point that would block him from following
When Jesus commands us to follow, it is time to go and nothing else is ________important – Matthew 10:37
Luke 9:61-62 – A nearly silly _________for a man who already left home and was on his way to Jerusalem
To plow a straight furrow, you must keep your eyes fixed straight ___________at a target spot
To follow Jesus, you must keep your ___________on Him for you will veer away if you look elsewhere
The cost is __________to follow him, but there is nothing more important
You must be willing to go where He sends you and trust Him to provide
Walking with the Lord takes ___________over everything else
Once you begin to walk with the Lord, keep looking forward so that you will not stray.
The ____________of the things of this world keeps some people from following Jesus
The ____________of rejection by family or friends keeps other people from following Jesus
Do not allow these things to block you – Jesus’ claims are ___________, what will you do?
The sacrifices are worth it! Do not make ____________or be hesitant to follow Jesus.
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Write down all the verses mentioned in the sermon and look them up later. 2) Count how many times the word “follow” is used. Talk with your parents about what it means to follow Jesus and how to do it.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon. Why did the Jewish religious leaders hate Jesus? Why was Jesus unwilling to walk in Judea? What time of year is the Feast of Booths celebrated? Who were Jesus’ brothers? What did they think of Jesus at this time? Why did they think Jesus should go to Jerusalem? Why wasn’t Jesus willing to go with them? Are you living righteously enough to have those in the world even notice? Why did Jesus head to Jerusalem later? What are some ways for you to determine God’s timing for the things you do in life? Why did Jesus and the disciples travel through Samaria? Why did the Samaritan village reject them? Why were James and John so incensed? What did this reveal about their faith? Why were they wrong? What was Jesus’ purpose in coming? What is to be the Christian’s purpose in following Jesus? Why was it remarkable that this scribe would commit himself to follow Jesus wherever He went? What did Jesus tell him it would be like to follow Him? Do you think this scribe followed Jesus? Why or why not? What sacrifices have you had to make to follow Jesus? What responsibilities did a son have in burying his father? How soon after death were Jewish people buried? Why was this man on the road to Jerusalem if his father had just died? What would the phrase “bury the dead” mean if used while the father was still alive? What do the Scriptures teach about priority of family and the priority of loving God? What would happen if while plowing you looked behind you? What is the analogy of that and following Jesus? Have you repented of your sins and placed your faith in Jesus Christ? If not, what is holding you back? What do you need to do to resolve those issues? How well are you following Jesus? Are you making any excuses to put off following Him with full commitment? If so, what needs to change? When will you do it?
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