One of the phrases I am practicing as Joanne and I prepare to travel to Italy in 10 days is, “Quanto costa?” “How much does it cost?” I have to know how much things are worth, to stay within the budget dictated by the cash in my hand whenever we go out of the hotel. If the cost is too high, we don’t buy it! I am not a “shopper.” I know I’m in trouble if the price tag isn’t visible, because: “If I have to ask how much it costs, I can’t afford it.”
Our gospel asks the same question today: Quanto costa to truly follow Christ. It teaches us that: To truly follow Jesus Christ, we must consider the cost and put Him above everything.
It can be a difficult Gospel to understand. At one point, Jesus turned to the crowds and addressed them. He said: “If anyone comes to me who does not hate his father and mother, wife, children, brothers and sisters, and even his or her own life, he or she cannot be my disciple.” Jesus then adds: “Whoever does not carry his or her cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”
Extremely strong words! Did Jesus truly mean that we are to hate our parents, brothers, sisters, children, and friends? Or is Jesus telling us that if we choose to follow him, we need to realize that Jesus needs to be first in our lives? Jesus is making a very clear and strong point. Our primary commitment always needs to be to Jesus. Jesus is not saying that we cannot or should not love and care for our families and our friends. He realizes that we have committed ourselves to our families and we need to live out that commitment.
Rather, Jesus is telling his listeners what is essential. First and foremost, Jesus must be first in our lives. However, Jesus also wants us to love and care deeply for our family, our friends and for the world community. The quality of love that Jesus hopes we will have for one another surpasses the simple notion of liking another person. Rather, Jesus hopes that we truly will love every person in our world. This may sound impossible. However, with Jesus’ grace and love, we have the ability to do this. Will we choose to do this?
It’s that simple and it’s that difficult. Jesus’ words don’t just sound black and white. They are black and white. It is all or nothing. We are either in or we are out. His words are likely not the first thing that comes to mind when we consider our faithfulness or what the Christian life looks like. We don’t often talk about the demands and sacrifices required by the Christian path. Too often we turn Christianity into a set of beliefs divorced from a way of being and acting.
Too often church and faith are treated like a big buffet. We take as much of what we like and want but leave behind what we do not like, what’s too hard to swallow, what we disagree with, or what does not fit our personal opinions and beliefs. That’s not how the gospels portray Jesus or the life of discipleship. To the degree we have done that, we have deceived ourselves and each other.
There is more to discipleship, however, than simply traveling with Jesus. Discipleship is more than grazing at the buffet of divine life. That life cannot be bought but it will cost us everything we have. Hate your family and your own life. Carry the cross. Give up your possessions.
Jesus is asking us to do and be what he did and who he was. That’s what a disciple is. A disciple is a learner, one who learns to live, act, speak, and think like the teacher. The disciple integrates the teacher’s life and teachings into his or her own life. Thus, to truly follow Christ, we must consider the cost and not begin to follow Him superficially, only to turn back later when things get tough. That is what Jesus warns against in our text.
Jesus was utterly honest and spared no words to tell his disciples that it would cost them dearly to follow after him. To gain all, one must be willing to give all. There can be no room for compromise or concession with God. We either give our lives over to him completely or we keep them for ourselves.
The love of God compels us to choose who or what will be first in our lives. Jesus challenges his disciples to examine who they love first. Jesus’ way to glory and power is opposite the world’s way of glory and power. The choice is ours, but the Lord does not leave us alone if we choose to follow him. Does the love of Christ compel you to put God first in all you do?
Lord may your love consume us and transform our lives that we may truly desire nothing more than life with you. Help us to realize Quanto costa to joyfully embrace the cross for your sake.