Miracles come with a cost

January 30th, 2018

He told them: “Take nothing for the journey — no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra shirt.” (Luke 9:3)

What was Jesus talking about? “Take nothing for the journey”? This is the complete antithesis to all I know about the need for self-care and economic responsibility. It’s one of those instances in which Jesus could have used the help of a public relations specialist.

Just take a look at some of the outrageous statements Jesus made when he was becoming a public sensation. Luke reports that “large crowds” were turning out to Jesus’ events. Now, you or I might have done something strategic and given them a welcome bag with a coffee mug silk-screened with the church logo. Not Jesus!

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters — yes, even their own life — such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26-27)

Wow! What are you doing, Jesus? You have what every church leader prays for — not an empty seat to be had. Now, just when we expect you to explain what you really meant by the word hate (as we contemporary pastors do in trying to fill the role of public relations specialist), you go on to state emphatically, “In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples” (v. 33). A decision to follow you clearly calls for a radical lifestyle adjustment. All-in, or nothing!

So, are you all-in? What are you willing to sacrifice to be part of God’s miracles in the world? Miracles come with a cost. When Jesus told his disciples that the impending hour of his sacrifice had come, he also reminded them, “Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” He went on to remind them, and us: “Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant will also be” (John 12:24, 26).

Where is Jesus today? We experience him in the world’s hungry, the thirsty, the immigrant, the naked and the prisoner. “Truly I tell you,” said Jesus, “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40).

Serving Jesus is both costly and sacrificial. We are not saved to wait passively for heaven but to be the channels through which God’s miraculous resources are released on earth. Miracles result when our human initiative intersects with God’s divine intervention.

Made for a Miracle: From Your Ordinary to God’s Extraordinary (Abingdon Press) is a new book and small-group study tool designed to introduce you and your church family to miracle-making possibilities this Lenten Season.

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