The Cost of Discipleship (reposted from 2016)
April 2, 2020 @ 8:52 PM by: Jennifer Frank
Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.
How many disciples did Jesus have?
In John six we read Jesus calls himself the Bread of Life. He tells his disciples that unless they are willing to drink his blood and eat his flesh, they have no life in them. Upon hearing this, many of his disciples say “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” And they turn back and desert Jesus. He was left with 12 disciples.
A few weeks ago I told the children a story about my encounters with sheep. My grandparents and uncle both had sheep farms in Northern Ontario and at the age of two I went out to the barn for the first time. One of the lambs started toward me and I began to cry because I was frightened. I was living in Scarborough at the time and the only animals I saw were raccoons so I was certain that this lamb was going to attack me. Of course, it didn’t and after reassurance from my father, I was able to hold a bottle of milk and feed the lamb (with my dad acting as a barrier between us of course). As the years went on and I spent summers up north at the farm I came to love the animals there and especially enjoyed holding the lambs. My sisters and I would give them names and talk to them as if they were pets. I named one Pete and enjoyed going to the barn to feed him and touch his soft woolly coat.
During the Spring and Fall, my grandparents would make the 6-hour trek down to Southern Ontario to visit us. They would usually bring gifts and occasionally a cardboard box that would go directly into the freezer. I never thought much of it. One day, as we enjoyed stew I asked about how Pete was doing. There was silence and snickering around the table as my dad leaned forward to say We’re eating Pete. I was horrified as I realized my enjoyment of supper had come at the cost of Pete’s life. Lamb stew ruined.
My life experiences with lambs have taught me about discipleship. When it’s unknown and new we get scared by it. Gradually we realize it’s not so bad and get on board. At first, it feels good. But eventually, we get to a point where we realize that discipleship means participating in the death of Christ. There’s a cost and joining in Christ’s death means that we must die to ourselves. That’s not easy to swallow.
Every aspect of who we are – our personality, desires, thoughts, sexuality and our very nature must be put death so that the life of Christ can reign in us.
Do we, like the disciples who abandoned Jesus say “Who can do this?” Or are we with Peter who when asked by Jesus if he is going to leave to replies with “Where shall I go?”
Peter knows that while the cost of discipleship is great, the cost of nondiscipleship is greater.
Dallas Willard puts it this way:
Nondiscipleship costs abiding peace, a life penetrated throughout by love, faith that sees everything in the light of God’s overriding governance for good, hopefulness that stands firm in the most discouraging of circumstances, power to do what is right and withstand the forces of evil. In short, it costs exactly that abundance of life Jesus said he came to bring (John 10:10). The cross-shaped yoke of Christ is, after all, an instrument of liberation and power to those who live in it with him and learn the meekness and lowliness of heart that brings rest to the soul. . . . The correct perspective is to see following Christ not only as the necessity it is but as the fulfillment of the highest human possibilities and as life on the highest plane.
To be a disciple is to have this attitude – to see all that the world has to offer and know that it is nothing compared to life in the Kingdom. It is to taste the body and blood and Christ and see that it is good. It is to know that life with Jesus is the best possible life we can live.
As Lent draws to a close and we look forward to Good Friday, let us thank God for enabling us to participate in the death of Christ that gives us new life.