And there went great multitudes with him: and he turned, and said to them,…
The Pharisee's banquet being over, our Lord continues his journey towards Jerusalem, and, as a crisis is evidently at hand, he has a goodly multitude of expectant followers. Have they any notion of the cost of discipleship? Are they prepared for all which it involves? Jesus determines to make this unmistakable, and so he gives them the admonition contained in the present section. He gives point to his advice by mentioning the folly of beginning to build a tower without calculating the cost of finishing it, or of beginning a war without calculating the reasonable chances of success. Each follower would have a costly tower to build in the devoted life he must lead, and a costly war to wage in the contest for the faith. It was every way desirable, therefore, that they should go carefully into the meaning of discipleship, and undertake it intelligently.
I. NOTHING LESS THAN THE FIRST PLACE IN THE HEART MUST BE OFFERED UNTO JESUS. (Ver. 26.) He insists on being put before father and mother, before wife and children, before brothers and sisters. All relations are to be put below him. He must be more than them all. It is a great demand, and yet a most reasonable one. For:
1. The love of Jesus anticipated all parental love. In fact, the love of our parents is only the latest expression of his far-seeing and foreseeing love. The generations to whom we owe so much have only mediated for us the love of Jesus.
2. The unity of marriage only feebly illustrates the intensity of Christ's love. Husband owes much to wife, and wife to husband. The marriage union is a close and intimate one; but Jesus comes closer to our hearts than husband or wife can. He is nearer, and should be dearer, than either.
3. The rising generation does not lay so much love and hope at our feet as Jesus. Children are dear; the promise of their young lives and hearts is precious; they come as pledges for the future; they are prophecies of the world about to be; but "the holy Child Jesus" comes closer to our hearts than even they. He is the prophecy of all coming time, the goal and ideal at which, not the rising generation only, but generations yet unborn, are to aim.
4. He gives us a more profound brotherhood than brothers or sisters can. The brotherhood of Jesus, "the elder Brother born for all adversity, and who can never die," is an experience which brothers and sisters can only help us to understand. Jesus consequently claims first place, because in his manifold relations he is not only more than each, but more than all combined.
II. WE MUST PRIZE CHRIST MORE THAN LIFE ITSELF. (Ver. 26.) Life is another precious benefit which we naturally prize. Satan, in the trial of Job, imagined that Job would give all that he had rather than lose his life (Job 2:4). He fancied that the patriarch, who would not curse God under the loss of children and property, would break down if God touched his bone or his flesh. But Job was so spiritually minded as to be ready to trust God, even should he, for some mysterious and hidden reason, slay him (Job 13:15). Now, Jesus comes and insists on being put before life itself. When the two come into competition there must be no question about yielding the palm to Christ. Jesus is more to us than physical life, because he is our spiritual life (John 14:6). We can never forfeit blessed existence so long as we trust in Christ, and the mere existence of the body is but a bagatelle in comparison.
III. SELF-SACRIFICE IS THE MARCHING ORDER OF THE REDEEMED. (Ver. 27.) The idea of cross-bearing is often interpreted as if it simply meant enduring those "crosses" to which life is heir. But much more is meant than this. In the Revised Version it is put, "Whosoever cloth not bear his own cross." Now, as Christ carried his cross to die upon, so must we take our lives in our hands, and be ready at any moment to sacrifice them for Jesus. He was crucified for us: are we ready to be crucified for him, or to die in any other way he wishes? It is the martyr-spirit which Christ here insists upon. He is surely worthy of such self-sacrifice.
IV. WE MUST FORSAKE ALL AS A GROUND OF CONFIDENCE IF WE WOULD FOLLOW JESUS. (Ver. 33.) Christ, having insisted on disposing of our lives as he pleases, next insists on disposing of our property. He comes in with his right to tell us, as he told the rich young ruler, that we must give up our all for his sake. Not, of course, that he exercises this right often. Voluntary poverty has been an exceptional way of serving him. But we may all show plainly that our property is his, and that, when Christ and our possessions come into competition, all must give way to him. If we prize property more than Jesus, then he is nothing to us. We must be ready to put him before everything which we have, and to sacrifice everything when he claims it from us. In this way we make Christ first and all in all.
V. THE WORLD NEEDS SUCH PRINCIPLES IN PRACTICE TO KEEP IT FROM CORRUPTION. (Vers. 34, 35.) Were it not for the self-sacrifice of souls, the world would become utterly corrupt. Now, it is this heroic element which Christ's cause has par excellence supplied. Only by the martyr-band, whose pure self-sacrifice was unmistakable, has the world been kept from utter selfishness and corresponding corruption. It was mindful of this martyr-spirit which his gospel ensures, that Jesus told his servants they were "the salt of the earth" (Matthew 5:13). Unless this wholesome antidote to natural selfishness be supplied, society must go to pieces. It cannot be built on selfishness. The economics which assume no higher ethical element than each man looking after himself, may give expression to tendencies; but they must be overpassed by realities if the world is to keep moderately sweet and habitable. But suppose that Christ's servants make a mere profession of self-sacrifice, and do not carry out the spirit of their Master, then they become but insipid salt, which can only be trodden underfoot of men on the highway, where nothing is meant to grow. In other words, the Christians who are not genuine are sure to be despised. They are trodden down by a world whom they have vainly tried to deceive. A false professor is the most contemptible of all men. - R.M.E.
Parallel VersesKJV: And there went great multitudes with him: and he turned, and said unto them,