Jesus said some painfully hard things to people who had great hearts.
The first guy in this passage expressed his eagerness to become a Christ-follower and instead of delighting in his decision, Jesus points out how hard it will be.
The second guy had an important family obligation to attend to and then intended to follow Jesus. But Jesus’ comment throws a wet blanket on his enthusiasm – at least that would have been the effect if it were me.
Why did Jesus say stuff like this to people like this? It’s not very sensitive. Not very nice.
It’s times like this that I feel offended by Jesus.
But Jesus wasn’t concerned about “nice.” He was concerned with “loving” – and there’s a HUGE difference sometimes.
“Nice” is about coddling people’s feelings, making sure not to offend. “Loving” is about telling people what they NEED to hear even if it’s hard to hear.
Jesus knew the first guy needed to hear about the price he would pay if he were to become a true follower. He knew the second guy needed to reorient his priorities if he was going to walk with Jesus.
It’s like the consultation before the surgery. The Doc should tell you exactly how extensive and invasive the surgery is going to be, the degree of pain you might experience following, how grueling a recovery process will be involved, the chances of success, and what to expect in terms of financial cost.
It’s a matter of setting expectations, not a matter of being nice.
That’s often why Jesus said such hard things to people with the best of intentions.
He wants the kind of followers who know the cost and the pain they will endure going in – and go in anyway.
Those are people who know the VALUE of what they are striving for, the VALUE of the One they are committing to serve. They are people willing to do anything, ANYTHING to be associated with Jesus.
Like the first guy, we should expect that following Jesus will be HARD. Excruciatingly so, at times.
This is one of the reasons that the “health and wealth” preaching you hear out there is so dangerous. It sets FALSE expectations. It tells you that Jesus is your cosmic vending machine. You put in the right kind and amount of faith and He gives you want you want. But that’s not what Jesus said. He said when you follow Him there may be times you don’t even have a place to lay your head at night.
Like the second guy, we should know that Jesus claims the throne we are used to sitting on. His rule over us is absolute. He comes first. Over everything. Always.
Is THAT the kind of Christianity you signed up for? If not, you were sold a lie.
Following Jesus is often the most uncomfortable and impossible thing in the world. But the payoff is Jesus Himself.
Is He worth it?