One of my favorite TV shows growing up was “Fame”. In the opening credits, one of the main characters, a teacher at the school, gave a monologue to her students that sounded something like this:
You got big dreams? You want fame? Well, fame costs. And right here is where you start paying…in sweat.
There was probably something about that I found appealing because I was a budding young musician but the fact is there a good deal of truth to that statement. If you want something there are usually sacrifices you have to make to attain that thing. In our study of the book of Matthew, we find an instance where someone wants to follow Jesus but in doing so is challenged to be sure that is what he wants.
Observe that in verse 18, Jesus gave orders for his followers to head for the other side of the Sea of Galilee. The scripture does not indicate why He had given this order, although in God’s providence it could be that our Lord had a divine appointment to heal a tormented man (v 28). However, in calling for His disciples to leave with him, we see people following along for various reasons continuing to talk with the Lord. The first man mentioned is called “a scribe”. Now a scribe was a lawyer—a man of letters. They were educated and unlike most people could read and write. In Jewish society, they were considered experts in the Mosaic Law and were the primary interpreters of that law. The Old Testament book of Ezra tells the story of a faithful scribe who was totally devoted to God’s word. The scribes that lived in Jesus’ day were members of the sect of the Pharisees so they not only knew the law but they knew the official interpretations that had developed over the years since the Jews went into captivity. Most of the time when they are mentioned in the New Testament, it was in conjunction with the Pharisees and they were usually united with them in their opposition of Jesus.
Now, these were not guys that liked to work hard. They were scholars so sweating was not something they liked to do. Furthermore, they were respected in the community. These men were powerful, probably well off, and had comfortable lives. Now, with that as a backdrop, notice the promise the scribe makes in verse 19. He claimed he would follow Jesus “wherever You go”. Now, on this side of the cross, we know that was a pretty tall order. This man had absolutely no clue what he was talking about. Was he going to follow Christ to the cross? Was he going to follow him to the garden where the Lord prayed? No. In fact, ever His 12 disciples didn’t do that. But even ignoring the cross, this man wasn’t prepared for the three years of earthly ministry that Jesus was to perform.
Jesus was itinerant and traveled all over the area around Jerusalem and Samaria. He wasn’t about comfort or clean accommodations. The three years of ministry was most definitely going to involve “roughing it”. Further, there was no applause awaiting Jesus. No fame in His future. He and his grubby band of fishermen were not considered polite society and that wasn’t going to change any time soon. Therefore, Jesus makes a very clear statement that should cause all of us to think about the cost of following Christ as I’m sure it did this scribe.
Basically, in verse 20, He tells the scholar that where He’s going there are going to be no “creature comforts”. In fact, Christ says He doesn’t even have a place to lay His head. Following Him, therefore, means being willing to go where He goes and follow His commands in spite of whatever hardship or discomfort comes up. Following Christ may involve discomfort and hardship. However, if we really love Him, we’ll gladly follow Him as our Lord and Savior.
The cost of discipleship is high. In fact, when I read about missionaries who have faithfully followed Christ into countries where they live in very rough conditions while I, in contrast, have a roof, air conditioning, and food to eat everyday I realize how little my profession of faith has cost me. As we realize what some have sacrificed for the cause of Christ, I pray we are motivated to make sacrifices in our lives to tell people about the love of Jesus and faithfully proclaim the gospel wherever we are.