Wouldn’t it be great if someone could wave a magic wand to rid the world of all its troubles, to make the world a place of mutual respect and compassion, where people always lived the way God wanted them to live. You know and I know that it doesn’t work that way. There is no magic wand. Yet there have always been people who thought that something like that should happen. Take the ancient Jewish idea of a Messiah for example. Many people in Israel expected a God-anointed leader to put their world to right; no cost to themselves, just glory and happiness with all enemies defeated. God with a magic wand. But while Jesus accepted the designation of Messiah because indeed he was offering the world a new start, a world that trusted God and God’s love-motivated way for people to live, he knew that such change does not come about without cost. He told his disciples that, as Messiah, he must undergo great suffering and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed. That was the price that would have to be paid. Rising to the new life, for both himself and his followers, meant paying that sort of price. It wasn’t going to happen effortlessly or without cost. It applied to those who embraced the new life that he was initiating as it applied to himself: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” There is no magic wand. There is a cost to discipleship. Ego, self-centredness, cannot remain as king: it has to learn to take its place alongside love for God and for other people. There is hope for the world, but not in magic. The new way of being human means freedom to be what God wants us to be. It means release from captivity to the power of sin. It means joy and peace. It means sharing in the eternal life of God. But it also means paying the price whereby the reign of self gives way to the reign of God.
- Give examples of people wanting a better world but not being prepared to accept the cost that it demands of them.
- If a person wants to succeed in business what price, apart from capital costs, does one have to pay?
- What costs are involved in being a follower of Jesus?
- What is it that makes the cost of discipleship worthwhile?