When we think of the cost of discipleship what comes to mind? Perhaps Dietrich Bonhoeffer, both his book and the price he paid to be a disciple of Christ at the hands of the Nazis. Also some sermon or class might come to mind that challenged us with the meaning of and price tag connected with discipleship.
It dawned on me this morning that I seldom if ever link the cost of discipleship to the original disciples. Perhaps this is because I tend to think of them as being blessed through being discipled directly by Jesus, and I assume, probably correctly, that He met their needs.
Nonetheless, they did pay a price, a reality that came home to me this morning as I read the following verses:
Then He lifted up His eyes toward His disciples, and said: “Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be filled. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh. Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you, and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of Man’s sake. (Luke 6:20-22 NKJV)
Note that Jesus addressed these words specifically to His disciples. Therefore, the descriptions that follow apparently applied them.
As already noted, Jesus no doubt met their basic needs. However, to follow Jesus they gave up the comforts of home and the income that would have been derived from working in an occupation. Scholars conclude that Peter, Andrew, James, and John had a fairly lucrative business that would have provided a substantial income for them and their families. Instead, we hear the words of Jesus, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head,” and realize that they apply to the disciples as well. The life of the disciples was sufficiently austere that the rich young ruler decided against it.
No doubt they also had their times of weeping, when they said goodbye to wives and children, when they wept over their own failures as did Peter, or when Christ was crucified.
No doubt while they followed Christ, any hatred directed toward Him extended to them as well. Then after the ascension of Christ the Book of Acts describes the hostility leveled at them. Discipleship ultimately cost all of them with the possible exception of John their lives.
However, it is also good to think in terms of the reward of discipleship. Jesus describes one dimension of that reward in Matthew 19:27-29:
Then Peter answered and said to Him, “See, we have left all and followed You. Therefore what shall we have?” So Jesus said to them, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life.
Yet another reward resides in the fruit of discipleship, the people reached for the Lord. It is amazing to realize that in some measure all of us trace our spiritual lineage back to the original disciples. As in heaven we extend our gratitude to those responsible for getting the gospel to us, we will find one or more of them in that line.
This reality provides encouragement for us. As we face the costs of discipleship, which in our country might significantly increase across the years ahead, we will be challenged to faithfully continue on as we anticipate those who will be in heaven through our ministry.