[Matthew 8:18-27, 10:38-39]
“And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” Matthew 10:38-39
After unpacking His Kingdom vision through the Sermon on the Mount and bringing Kingdom healing to many Jesus starts building a following. People like what they heard and saw. A crowd starts to grow. And Jesus does something unexpected. Something all the experts in building a brand and those trained in good PR would have strongly advised against. On two different occasions Jesus warns of the cost of the Kingdom. He warns there will be sacrifices.
Matthew records several people coming up and offering to follow Jesus in Matthew 8:18-22. The first man gets told that following Jesus means being devoted to a homeless wanderer. Unlike earthly kingdoms the Kingdom we are called to had no earthly palace to dwell in. this is not a kingdom of earthly material riches and vast luxury. This is a Kingdom in which we sacrifice such comforts in order to follow Jesus wherever He will lead us – this is not a kingdom of palace dwelling but a Kingdom where for now we are not at home.
Another man comes and tells Jesus that he will follow Him as soon as he buries his father. But Jesus says “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead” Matthew 8:22. This would have brought major shame on the man. TO not bury your own family was a massive social taboo. But Jesus tells him that as a Kingdom citizen he, and we, need to sacrifice reputation. We must not worry about what the world thinks of us, and only concern ourselves with following Jesus.
We also need to sacrifice our desire for order and structure. These two men had it all planned out. They were going to follow, but on their own terms. But the Kingdom is not lived on our terms – it is lived on God’s terms. We cannot wait until we have all our affairs in order to follow. We can not just follow in the comfort of our own house. There is a cost to Kingdom life. We have not been called to a kingdom of comfort but to the Kingdom of God. And one day there will indeed be total comfort unlike anything the world can offer. But that is not yet. We have not reached that day yet. For the time being we are called to sacrifice our desire for comfort in order to live missionally to draw others into the Kingdom.
Kingdom living means picking up our cross to follow Jesus. It means setting aside our ambitions and asking God to fill us with desires that are from Him, to fill us with Kingdom desires. It means changing our priorities so we no longer care about the things the world cares about but instead care about the things that matter to God. Kingdom living involves making sacrifices, but it gains us everything. For as Kingdom citizens we get Jesus, and He is all we need. He is worth everything. No matter what we give up for the sake of the Kingdom it is worth it to gain eternity with Jesus and to have the opportunity to invite others to join us in the Kingdom.
J.C. Ryle reminds us that “Christianity that costs nothing is worth nothing”. There is a paradox in that grace is freely given to all who believe in Jesus, but grace costs us everything as we respond to Jesus’ call to take up our cross and lose our life for his sake and for the sake of the Kingdom. We are to die to self, to set aside all of our ambitions, hopes and plans, sacrificing them into God’s hands and letting Him use us as He best sees fit for the expansion of the Kingdom, on earth as in heaven. Jesus is worth so much more than we have to give up. The things we have to sacrifice are temporary and will not last but the Kingdom of God is eternal and will never fade away. Ad Jim Elliot said “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose”.
“For me to live is Christ and to die is gain” Philippians 1:21