Following Jesus When it’s Costly
Jesus revealed the radical dedication expected of his disciples when he declared, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”1 Jesus asks his followers to abandon their ambitions and follow him wherever he calls them to go. For those who seek to follow Jesus, there come crucial moments in our lives where God exposes our idols and asks us to give them up and come follow him.
In Luke 18 and 19, Jesus calls two rich men to deny themselves their earthly comforts and come follow him. First, we encounter a rich ruler asking Jesus how to obtain eternal life. The man keeps the commandments faultlessly but Jesus asks the man for an even greater level of commitment: “Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”2 At this word from the Lord, the man’s idols are exposed and he becomes very sad, for he is not willing to part with his wealth as asked of him and this means that he cannot come and follow Jesus. The Lord then laments about how difficult it is for those who are rich to enter the kingdom of God.3
And though this may be difficult, it is not impossible,4 for in the next chapter we encounter another rich man, a tax collector named Zacchaeus. While the rich ruler walks away from Jesus sad because he would not give away his wealth to the poor, Zacchaeus receives Jesus joyfully 5 and announces to the Lord that he will give half of his goods to the poor and repay those he has defrauded fourfold.6
These two different responses to the call of Jesus toward a life of self-denial leap off of the page, confront us, and set a crucially-important choice before us: will we be like the rich ruler, consider Jesus to be nothing more than a good teacher,7 and walk away sad because we could not part from the idols he asked us to remove from our lives? Or will we follow in the footsteps of Zacchaeus, acknowledge Jesus as Lord,6 and thus gladly renounce the things Jesus asks us to so that we can live our lives following him, gladly engaged in sanctified service of God and neighbor?
1. Is there anything in my life keeping me from wholeheartedly following Jesus?
2. What are some practical steps I can take to make my life a living sacrifice to God?8