St. Luke’s Evangelical Lutheran Church – Watertown, WI
Pastor Mark Gartner
Sermon for Pentecost 16 – September 16, and 19th, 2004
25Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: 26"If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. 27And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
28"Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? 29For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, 30saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’
31"Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. 33In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.
Dear Disciples of Jesus.
When Christ lived on this earth he didn't live a life of seclusion and hiding. For three years he walked among the people telling them about God's love for them. As he walked on this earth he chose twelve men that he was going to train to be the future preachers of the gospel. He called them disciples. For these 12 men he took the time to personally tell them of God's plan of salvation, and that He was the Son who came to die for the sins of the world. The disciples personally witnessed Christ's power and wisdom. These 12 men however were not the only disciples that Jesus drew to himself. We read of a larger group of 70 men who were sent out, and that number grew steadily as Christ was on this earth. To those who had been led to believe in him as their Savior and follow Him as their Master, and also to those who followed him for the wrong reasons, Jesus spoke these words about being one of his disciples. He wanted to teach them what it truly meant to be a disciple! and follower of Jesus. It was more than just following to see the miracles and signs. It meant more. He told the people that they must count the cost of discipleship, even as a man figures the cost of a tower before he begins to build it, or as a king weighs the chances of defeating the enemy who has twice as many men as he does. Today we want to see what Jesus tells these people and all the people who live on this earth about being a disciple of Jesus.
Theme: Carry The Cross Of Jesus
1. What is the cross of Jesus?
2. Jesus will help us carry the cross
The best place to start is to figure out what Christ means by carrying your cross. As we look back through the ages, we can see that the term of carrying one's cross has been applied in a broad sense to include any affliction or suffering which comes upon God's children, especially any sorrow or suffering that a person must endure over a long period of time. We think of the situation where a man has been blessed by wealth and prosperity, but all of a sudden he loses his job. He now has to give up the luxuries that he had before. We say that this man has a heavy cross to bear. We think of the families struggling with poverty. What a cross they have to bear. We think of the child that was apparently healthy and all of a sudden was diagnosed with leukemia. What a cross that family has to endure. The list is endless for these types of problems and sufferings that can and do occur to Christians while they live on this earth. The fact is that these types of suffering ! will never end, because of what sin has done to this world.
Yet as we look at the illustrations that I just listed, we realize that this is a very broad definition of "carrying the cross" of Jesus. We can also see that there are some very specific and narrow things that happen as we "carry the cross." We are not saying that those other instances of suffering are not difficult or that they aren't hard to bear up under. But all the illustrations we listed before were sorrows and afflictions that come to all men, the ungodly as well as the godly, the worldly as well as the Christian. They are not things that happen, because we are following our Lord and Savior. Jesus is leading us to look at a much narrower scope of things. When he says to suffer the cross, he is speaking of the suffering that we as Christians bear because we have been led to be a Christian and follow Jesus. We endure these types of burdens, when we sacrifice our will for Christ's will, or because we have given our all for Jesus.
Jesus when he uses the narrow term of the cross is using a very appropriate picture. He is borrowing a picture from his own "Cross" which he was about to carry from Jerusalem to Calvary. The cross where he would pay the penalty for the sins of the world -- The cross would be where he would shed his blood for the forgiveness of our sins. But we need to see one thing when we hear Jesus' words. He is not telling the disciples to bear the cross that he did. Instead Jesus says each is to carry, "his cross" speaking of each individual believer. The cross we carry is once we have come to know of what Christ's death on the cross means for us. Strictly speaking no one can bear the cross of Christ. The life Jesus won on the cross was unique. By his death on the cross the world was reconciled to God. Only by the Cross of Christ can it be said that we have peace through the blood of His cross. We know that although we could never carry that cross, we know from sc! ripture that as we are drawn to the cross of Christ we find pardon and peace from our sins. We also know that we are going to have a cross of our own to carry, if we are to remain a true follower of Jesus. The cross then is in simple terms anything, which we must bear, endure, and suffer because of our faith in Christ and our association with him.
Why then would anyone ever want to carry this cross, if Jesus clearly points out that it will bring suffering with it? We bear this cross for Christ's sake. It is said in our text, "and anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple." When we are disciples of Jesus we cannot escape carrying the cross. When we walk in the footsteps of Christ, we cannot escape carrying the cross. Jesus does not say that we will all bear the same cross. Jesus says that each will carry, "his cross." Each believer will have his own cross to carry. We are all different in our physical and mental talents, which God has given to each of us. God has also blessed each of us with different measures of wisdom and knowledge. In the same way the length of time that one carry's his cross or the nature and weight of the suffering will vary according to God's will. But no matter what cross we have, we know that God has promised us that we may come to Chris! t in faith and prayer to ask for the strength we all need to carry our crosses. He wants us to look to him as the only one who can help us carry our cross. Someone once said that Jesus asks us to carry a heavy load, but he also gives us the shoulders to bear the load, namely the strength he gives us in his Word.
Jesus in our text pictures some of the crosses that we will face. He writes, "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters--yes, even his own life he cannot be my disciple." At first glance the word "hate" probably jumps out at us. But to understand what Jesus intended by these words we need to understand that Jesus certainly would not have us break the 4th commandment and despise our parents. Jesus writes similar words in Matt. 10:37, "He that loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me." Jesus was pointing out that a disciples love needs to be focused in one place, and that place is in God. By the word hate he is underscoring the completeness in setting aside all other things. This is more than an outward following. This is an inward following in the heart. We learn that we are to love God above all things. We cannot let our earthly love dictate whether we will be a! disciple of Christ. God wants are all centered on Christ and him alone.
Just think how these words have been true in the history of God's church. From the early church up to the present time we can see that there were always two sides to the battle. Because of sin and our sinful nature there will always be the two sides pulling in the opposite directions. Imagine the early church, as the new disciples of Christ had to break the traditions of their own families as they followed the true Christ. It probably wasn't too easy, and it may have caused some hard feelings. But it had to be done as a true disciple of Christ. We think of how many people have given their lives for Christ. They have given all that they had to remain true to Christ. Think of all that Paul suffered to proclaim the true message. Think of the martyrs who died for the gospel. Think of Luther standing up to the Pope and Emperor who declared him an outlaw. This is part of what God is speaking of in these words of our text.
Likewise the days of suffering are not gone as we live in this time and place. How many times have we really thought about these words, "And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple." Do these words apply to us? Are these words relevant as we live in a country where we have religious freedom? We have been blessed by God as he has allowed us to live in a country that has stated we are all free to worship as we please. For this we are forever grateful. But even though we have religious freedom, we know that our lives are not necessarily free of religious hatred aimed directly against Christ and his Cross. Just look at this one example. Many people may wear a cross as an earring or on a necklace, but as soon as we let others know that we wear this cross, because it reminds me of the cross of Christ, we see the real test of our discipleship. Then we are not free from those who mock and ridicule us for our faith. We are not free ! from the many people who preach a false Christ and call us "religious nuts", because we don't join them, after all they say, we are all going to heaven we just are using different paths.
We still need to remain firm in the knowledge and strength that we have in Christ and His Word. We can stand firm when we preach the simple words that faith in Christ is the only way to heaven. And as we declare these words, we can see how Christ's words are true about carrying the cross of Christ. Just as Paul had to face the ridicule of many people we also will face much of the same. The world is still full of those who willingly reject God's saving Word. We will always be facing those who have sided with Satan and his evil forces. We cannot escape the cross of Christ without losing our discipleship. Just think how this can affect each of us personally. There are those times as we go to work we have to face the ridicule which comes along with the knowledge that you are a Christian. There are those times when we might think it is easier to just fit in rather than risk the chance of verbal abuse for our faith. How would we react if Jesus were sitting there with ! us at our job? Would he see us standing up for Christ, or doing a wonderful job of not letting anyone know we are a Christian? There are those times when we are asked to choose between God and a job promotion. Are we willing to give up our Saturday night get together, because it may tempt us to neglect church the following morning? Are we willing to give up the extra money that we can make by working on a Sunday to fill our hearts with the spiritual nourishment that we all need?
There are going to be many times that we are going to suffer for carrying the cross. And we must also admit that are many times that we have failed to carry to cross of Christ as he wants us to. God has promised us forgiveness for those times when we have given in and fallen. We need forgiveness and the assurance that our sins are taken care of. The cross that we bear is for our good. We may not always see this point. But by the suffering we may endure, God strengthens our faith. By carrying the cross we also are a light to the world around us. We are a living testimony to our wonderful Savior from our sin. We give the world evidence of our discipleship. We are assured that the sufferings we endure are governed by our Almighty and Loving God. He tells us that he will not tempt us beyond what we are able, and that he will give us a way to escape so that we may bear up under the cross.
Jesus alone can give us the strength to carry this cross. On our own we are sure to be crushed and fall away from the cross. We can look to Christ and the cross for the strength to guide us as we endure this suffering as one of his disciples. He does give us the strength through the death and resurrection of his Son Jesus Christ. Let the cross of Christ be our guide and strength. Let us always look to him for the forgiveness and strength we need as we strive forward and when we fall back. Let our prayers be to God for this wonderful gift of Christ. With this before us, we need nothing else. This is our motivation as we take up his cross and follow him.