May 2013

The Cost of Following Jesus

Sermon audio:

Act 4 | The Coming of the King

This sermon on “The Cost of Following Jesus” from The Drama of Redemption was preached by Robert Greene at Redemption Hill Church on Sunday, May 19, 2013.

Sermon Text:

Mark 8:31-38

Sermon Notes:

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The Cost of Following Jesus

Mark 8:31-38

Mark 8:31 “And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.”

Mark 9:31 “He was teaching his disciples, saying to them, ‘The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.’”

Mark 10:33-34 “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.”

Three times in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus tells his disciples in detail that he is going to Jerusalem to be killed and to rise from the dead. Jesus is making His way to His certain death and the disciples must know that this is what they are following Him into.  Thus they are beginning to understand that being a disciple of Jesus is more than learning about him; it includes following and being identified with Him wherever He goes, even if that ultimately means death.  Surely this was an unexpected cost of following Christ.  Discipleship under Jesus did not then, and does not now, mean assured comfort, ease, security, prominence or prosperity on Earth; in fact, the very opposite is virtually guaranteed by Jesus, John 16:33 “…In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world”.  There is a great cost that comes with following Christ, yet the reward is so much greater.

“Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: ‘Ye were bought at a price’, and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.” – D. Bonhoeffer

“Now, it may be that some here imagine that the Christian life is all pleasure and joy, that there will be no persecution to endure, no affliction to bear. It may be that you have imagined that the way to Heaven is by a grass path, rolled, every inch of it, and that when you say, “Lord, I will follow You wherever You go,” you mean that you will follow Him through Jerusalem when everybody waves the palm branches and casts his garment in the way. Do you know anything about Gethsemane and the bloody sweat? About Gabbatha, and the cry, “Crucify Him!”? And about Golgotha, that scene of deadly woe? Will you follow Him there when the many turn aside? Will you witness there that He, alone, has the Living Word? You think it shall be all king’s weather with you if you go with Christ? Know you not that Christ leads us where the fiercest winds blow and where the stormy blast pitilessly hurls the sleet into our faces, and where we must perish if we live on earthly comforts? The people of God are a tried people” – C.H. Spurgeon

Discipleship Under Christ

Death to the Id

Mark 8:34  “And He called to Him the crowd with his disciples and said to them, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.’”

A life that follows after Jesus is a life that necessarily is characterized by self-denial and cross-bearing.  Self-gratification and self-preservation, being wholly converse to such a life, must accordingly die.  There is no room for any focus upon self, the pursuit and protection of one’s own desires, for a heart devoted to Christ.  The heart that treasures Jesus extols and prizes Him above the id such that the id must die.  To be a disciple of Christ is to be a man given over to a lifetime of dying to self.

Luke 9:57-62 “As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Scholars suggest that Jesus was teaching and testing through these interactions; teaching what it means to be His follower and testing whether or not they really wanted to follow Him.

“Jesus in our text is testing them and testing you, to see if He is enough, to see if he is really your treasure, your joy, your security, your hope, your friend in times of loneliness, your home, your father and mother, your power to look straight ahead – to test you in all these ways, he tells you what it will cost. Jesus is testing how much they and how much you treasure the “You” in ‘ I will follow you’ by explaining what the ‘follow’ will cost.” – John Piper

Rather than setting up a new standard of legalistic rules defining what it means to follow Him, Christ is searching the heart and laying bare to the hearer those things which may be prized above Him so that they can be subverted.  Jesus isn’t connoting that discipleship means His followers will never have a roof over their head, can never attend a funeral or bid adieu to family, instead He is demonstrating that these and any other solicitudes cannot have preeminence in priority over Him in the disciples heart.  The question is never “what must be given up to follow Jesus?” but “how important is Jesus to the Christian?”


Jesus is after your heart, your treasure and not rules.  His concern is with the things that have a hold of your heart over and above Him.  It is important to remember that the question is not what you must give up to follow Jesus but how important is Jesus to you?   Allow Him to reveal the aberrance of your heart.  Let Him show you the weeds that are threatening to choke out your spiritual life.

Application Questions

What do you treasure (i.e. prize highly and protect fiercely) most?

Do you trust and treasure Jesus enough to follow him even when it is costly?

Do you treasure Jesus enough to lay down a life driven by self-gratification?

What is the value of Jesus in your heart?

Are you willing to put to death a life led by the pursuit of your desires and your will in exchange for Jesus’ desires, will and mission?

Are you willing to put to death a life focused on self-preservation (e.g. physical, reputation, etc.)?

Is God, and nothing else, enough for you?

Death to Comfort

Luke 9:58 “…’Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’”

The disciple of Jesus must recognize that following Him will not guarantee the presence, and may require the absence, of all physical comforts afforded from having a home.  Jesus ought to be more precious than a home, furniture, conveniences and ease.  He is worth more than the sense of security that comes from having a stable high-paying job and easy access to preferred food and clothes.  When everything is taken away, the true disciple of Jesus will be able to say that He was and is worth following.

Philippians 3:8 “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ”

Death to Blood Ties

Luke 9:59-60 “To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

In Jesus’ day, an element of honoring your father and mother included following through with a burial ritual that could take up to a year.  After a death and the subsequent funeral celebrations, the body would be prepared and placed in an open tomb. The corpse would be allowed to decompose over a period of nearly a year and the eldest son was responsible for taking the remains (now bones) and depositing them in an ossuary (bone box).  The ossuary would then be placed permanently in a tomb.  Hence, Jesus declaring that this ostensible follower ought to abandon a significant tribute to his progenitor would have been shocking; it was making very clear that honor and allegiance to Him comes before parents.

Luke 9:61-62 “Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Here Jesus is making reference to Elijah and Elisha in 1 Kings 19.  The disciple of Jesus is asking for the same courtesy, “let me say goodbye for I may never see them again”. However, Christ is establishing that the motive is not simply saying goodbye and is exposing a divided heart.  A modern day analogy to Jesus’ words would be attempting to drive a car while staring in the rear-view mirror.  No forward progression will be made if the driver is always looking behind.  No man can serve Christ if they are always second-guessing the value of following Him.


There are times when following Jesus will be characterized by investing more of ourselves in our families, however, it may also mean rejecting the advice, counsel and input of our families when they would demand that we compromise our commitment and walk with Jesus.

The Cost of Discipleship

Mark 8:35-38 “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.””


If you gain the whole world by valuing it above Jesus it is powerless to save you in the end.  It is only the abandonment of everything in this world that would seek to exalt itself above Christ, including yourself, that you will find life.  Moreover, if you are characterized by being embarrassed by Him and the price He paid on the cross (more than momentary lapses of courage) recognize you will spend eternity apart from Him with all the others who consider Him an embarrassment.

Though the price isn’t low for following after Christ; for all must be abandoned, shame, pride, fear, comfort, ease, your very life, the recompense is so great as to make the price seem a pittance.

Luke 18:29 “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God who will not receive many times more in this time and in the age to come.”


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