And there went great multitudes with him: and he turned, and said to them,…
What room is there in the religion of Jesus Christ for calculation? What amount of reckoning before acting is permissible to the disciple of our Lord? When and in what way should he ask of himself - Can I afford to do this? Have I strength enough to undertake it?
I. THE CIRCUMSTANCE WHICH SUGGESTED THE IDEA. It was the temporary popularity of Christ that led him to the strain of remark we have in the text. "There went great multitudes with him" (ver. 25), fascinated by his presence and bearing, or struck by his teaching, or marvelling at his mighty works. And these men and women were far from entering into his spirit or sharing his high purpose; it was necessary that they should understand what discipleship to Jesus meant, what absolute self-surrender it involved. So the Master gave utterance to the strong and trenchant words recorded in the context (vers. 26, 27). And the words of the text itself are explanatory of this utterance. Their import is this: "I say this because it is much better you should know what you are doing by following me than that you should enter upon a course which you will find yourselves obliged to abandon, than that you should undertake a duty to which you will find yourselves unequal. All wise people, before they definitely commit themselves to any policy carefully consider whether they can carry it through. Every wise builder calculates the cost before he begins to build; every wise king estimates his military strength before he declares war. So do you consider whether you are prepared to make a full surrender of your will to my will, of your life to my service, before you attach yourselves to my side; for whoever is not able to 'forsake all that he hath at my bidding, cannot be my disciple' Ponder the matter, therefore; weigh everything before you act, count the cost, decide deliberately and with a full understanding of what it is you are doing."
II. THE PLACE THERE IS FOR CALCULATION IN PERSONAL RELIGION.
1. At the entrance upon a Christian life. It would seem as if there could be no room for reckoning here. We may well ask - When God calls us to himself, when Christ invites us to come unto him, what time should we allow ourselves before responding to his summons? Should not our response be immediate, instantaneous? We reply - Time enough to understand what we are undertaking to be and to do; time enough to take the Divine message into our full and intelligent consideration; so that our choice may be not the impulse of an hour, but the fixed and final purpose of our soul. God would not have us act in ignorance, in misconception. In malice we may well be children, but in understanding we should be men. There is no step any man can take which is comparable in importance with that which is taken when a human soul enters the kingdom of God: on that hang everlasting issues. Let men, therefore, diligently and reverently inquire until they understand what it means to have a living faith in Jesus Christ, to enter his spiritual kingdom, and become one of his subjects; let them understand, among other things, that it means the cheerful and full surrender of themselves to the Saviour himself, with all that such surrender involves (ver. 33).
2. At the entrance on a public profession of personal religion. Here is a visible "Church" which we are invited to join, taking upon ourselves the Christian name, and openly avowing our attachment to our Lord; thus honouring him before men. This is a step to be taken deliberately. Before taking it, a man should certainly ask himself whether he is prepared to act in accordance with his profession everywhere, in all circles and in every sphere; not only where he will be encouraged to do the right, but where he will be solicited to do the wrong thing; not only in the midst of genial influences, but in the throng of perilous temptations. But while these things are to be carefully taken into account, there must be reckoned, on the other side, the assurance which genuine piety may always cherish of needed Divine succour. If we go forth in the Name and in the strength of our Lord to do that which is his own command, we may confidently count on his support; and with him at our right hand we shall not be moved from the path of integrity and consistency. Look the facts in the face, but include all the facts; and do not forget that among these are the promises of the faithful Friend.
3. Before undertaking any post of sacred service. It would be worse than foolish for a Christian man to go forth to any enterprise requiring an amount of physical strength, or of intellectual capacity, or of educational advantages, which he knows well he does not possess. That would be to begin to build and to be unable to finish, to declare war with the certainty of defeat. At all times, when we are thinking of Christian work, we must carefully consider our qualifications. A wise and modest refusal is a truer sacrifice than an indiscreet and unwarrantable acceptance. But, again, let our judgment include the great factor of the Divine presence and aid, and also the valid consideration that competency comes with exercise, that to him that hath (uses his capacities) is given, and he has abundance (of power and of success). - C.
Parallel VersesKJV: And there went great multitudes with him: and he turned, and said unto them,