Being a baseball fan, the commercial caught my attention. You have probably seen the commercial or one like it. On the screen it begins with the cost of tickets . . . $120; then the cost of snacks at the ballpark . . . $50; of course, there are the souvenirs . . . $75; and on and on the list goes until it is up to a couple of hundred dollars for a day at the ballpark. Then it flashes up this wordless: “Priceless.” Then, “Mastercard.”
Well, I have taken my family to the ballpark when they were younger, and I can remember forking over the big bucks to entertain everyone . . . and, I can remember the great big, uncomfortable pinch in the wallet and budget when I got the bill for it a month later! Yes, the baseball outing was memorable, but it was not priceless. Every time I sat on my wallet I was reminded of how pricey it really was . . . ouch!
Sometimes we get ourselves into messes and situations because we do not consider the price of that it is we are doing. It does not matter whether it is a financial situation or a life situation we have all been caught up in the hype of something being worth doing because it is going to be priceless. Remember, there is nothing in life that is free . . . everything comes with a price.
Even Jesus knows this.
It seems that Jesus’ popularity was preceding him. People were interested in what he was doing . . . in what he was saying . . . the guy was becoming a rock star in his time. Large crowds were starting to follow him . . . really large crowds. It is tough to conduct business as usual when there are tons of people just hanging around cramping one’s style. Tough to get anything done. Of course, everyone wanted something from Jesus . . . a blessing here, blessing there . . . a healing . . . anything that they could get. What Jesus was offering seemed wonderful and everyone wanted it.
At least that is what everyone thought. One way to get rid of a crowd is to tell them the cost of what it is that they are experiencing or getting. Jesus turned to the crowd and hit them with the price tag . . . and, it was expensive! Really expensive because Jesus was telling them that they basically had to put away everything else in their lives that they loved—family, friends, business, recreation . . . everything, to follow him and his way of life.
Actually, that was not quite what Jesus said, but that is what they heard.
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” That is an expensive invoice Jesus is serving up there!
The truth of the matter is, what Jesus has to offer is priceless . . . who wouldn’t want to be a part of the kingdom of God . . . who wouldn’t want eternal life? Plus, it is all there for the taking . . . all anyone has to do is to let go and allow God to be the center of one’s life . . . to put God first. Jesus shows the way, and Jesus shares the invitation. Yet, at the same time, he wants everyone to know that even though there could never be a price put on what he is offering, it does not come without cost . . . expensive cost.
To prove his point, Jesus tells two stories. The first is about someone wanting to build a tower . . . starts building it and then runs out of money before it is completed. Now there stands a half-finished tower that is of no use to anyone. Every time someone goes by it there are jokes made about the guy.
Near where the wife’s sister lives in Versailles, Kentucky, is a castle. Yes, a castle . . . complete with the moat, tall walls surrounding it, and even turrets. A mansion sits in the middle of it all. Rumor is that the guy who started building it for his one true love, ran out of money before he could finish it . . . he lost the castle, lost the girl, and in the end he lost his pride. But, hey, it became a wonderful place to pasture cattle.
What happened? The guy didn’t consider the cost before he started building. Jesus warns everyone to consider the cost before jumping in with both feet.
The second story involves a king about to go to war with another king. The king is thinking seriously about declaring war on his neighbor . . . apparently with a vastly superior army to fight back with. The king has 10,000 troops, the neighboring kingdom—20,000. It will be a bloodbath for the kind and his army, with them getting the short end of the stick. Jesus states that it would be better for the king to consider the cost of going to war before actually declaring war. Consider the cost, warns Jesus.
Jesus is not being crass in his challenge to the crowd that is following him . . . he is over-emphasizing how important it is for people to realize the cost of following and being in a relationship with God. It ain’t cheap. It sometimes means giving up those things and people we think we love who actually get in the way of following and relating. Jesus wants people to know that being faithful will sometimes challenge us to confront that which hinders our journey . . . sometimes it will be what we think we love the most. Jesus wants to know, are you willing to pay that price.
As always, it is our choice. What Jesus has to offer is priceless . . . no amount of money could ever buy what he has to offer. And, Jesus offers it to us for free . . . but, he does want us to consider the cost. Can you afford it? Can you not afford it? Amen.