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The Cost (and Gift) of Discipleship

This week the blog is sponsored by Crossway and is written by Sam Allberry.

One of the most remarkable promises Jesus ever made is also one of the least known.

In Mark 10 we have the encounter between Jesus and the rich young man. The latter is seemingly full of potential for being a really great disciple but turns out to be unwilling to leave behind what Jesus requires him to. And so he leaves sorrowful. It’s all very poignant.

At this point Peter (not known for being awash with emotional sensitivity) decides to remind Jesus of how great his existing disciples already are:

Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” (Mark 10:28)

“Jesus,” says Peter, eyes gazing at the far horizon in case anyone’s Instagramming any of this, “We were willing to lay it all down for you. Everything.”
Jesus’s response is stunning:

Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.” (Mark 10:29-30)

First, Jesus assumes people will leave things to follow him. It is basic discipleship. It is what he has always said. He never buried things in the small print. Jesus is front and center about the cost of following him. Discipleship is wonderful but its not meant to be easy.

Second, Jesus assumes the most costly things to leave will be relational and familial. Having to leave behind certain patterns of intimacy, or our whole family and kin. For some disciples, this is literally the case. People from some backgrounds know that the moment they follow Jesus they will be forever shunned by their families. Imagine that. Never again being able to see your brothers and sisters. Never really knowing what your nieces and nephews grew up to be like. Not seeing your parents and relatives, or the home and land you grew up in. Discipleship is costly. Sometimes it’s really costly.

But, third, notice how Jesus responds to all this. He doesn’t tell them to just grit their teeth and wait for the age to come when it will finally be worth it. No. Jesus shows them it will be worth it even in this life. Even those who leave whole family networks behind for the sake of Jesus will receive back from him vastly more—a hundredfold. Jesus is promising family—“houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands.”

It is an extraordinary promise. Following him means an abundance of spiritual family. Nature may only have given us one mother and one father; the gospel gives us far more. This is all the more significant for those of us who are single. Jesus shows us that not having a biological family of our own is not the same as not having any kind of family at all.

Which brings us to the challenge of this promise. It’s easy to read a verse like that and think, “Aw. It’s so nice that God does that.” But the fact is it’s actually deeply challenging. Because we are the mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, and sons and daughters that Jesus is promising. It makes Jesus’s promise quite unusual: there’s a sense in which it depends on us to fulfill it. Those who would otherwise be alone are grafted into the community life of his people. When God draws people to himself he draws them to one another as well.

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