Jeffery L. Edmiston
25 Now large crowds were traveling with him; and he turned and said to them, 26 "Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, 30 saying, This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.
31 Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. (NRSV)
Luke has placed these twin parables in the context of Jesus traveling. They are both addressed to the crowd. David Hill notes in the New Century Bible Commentary that, "The passage reflects a period in Jesus ministry when the shadow of the cross began to loom large" (195).
Ralph Earle points out in the Beacon Bible Commentary, that Jesus was perhaps aware of the different levels of commitment among the crowd following him. He splits these people into three categories, "sincere disciples; selfish hangers-on, interested in any advantage he could bring to them; and enemies, bent on His destruction" (552). In verses 26 and 27, Jesus is addressing the crowd with the demands of discipleship. The words that He says here are difficult to accept. They seem so contrary, to Jesus other teaching. A closer look at the bigger picture shows us other wise. By the time we get through the parables, we have a clearer picture of what Jesus is trying to accomplish here.
The actual parables do not start until verse 28, and goes
on through 32. The parables here are example parables, or as Blomberg says, "Which
one of you?
In verse 28 we have the term puvrgon, which is translated in the NRSV as "tower." Given the audience of the parable, this could be given the sence of "outbuildings" or "field towers." By "field towers," I am referring to towers build in vinyard or gardens used as watch towers. A structure that the members of his audience might build. But, before they start building they would of course want to sit down and figure out what the cost will be.
Verses 29-30 tells the consequinces of not counting the cost first. If you are unable to finish, ridicule and embarassment is sure to follow from the people who see just the foundation sitting there empty.
The second parable is in verses 31-32. Here we have a king who needs to determine whether or not his army is capable of fighting the other kings army. It has been pointed out that the consequences in this second parable are far more drastic than in the first. Blomberg states it well when he says, "This difference suggests that the passage is arranged I a climactic sequence and eaxplains why Jesus conclusion seems still mor severe: whoever of you does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple" (281).
The message of these parables seems clearly to be, "Would-be disciples must consider the commitment required to follow Christ" (Blomberg 283). Jesus makes similar calls to commitment in Matthew 8:19-22 and in Luke 9:57-62. So, this is not a new message, but one that is illustrated well in these twin parables. This is not unlike the parable of the "Pearl of great Price." The kingdom of God is so valuable, that it is worth loosing everything you have to gain it.
Some might say that this parable discourages people from following Christ, however, this is not its intention. Its intention is to discourage people from following without first counting the cost. Robert Stein does a good job of telling us what it means to "count the cost", "Concider carfully, whether he is willing to renounce all in order to receive the gracious offer of the kingdom which God is extending to him" (113).
Jeremias agrees with this when he says that these parable are a call to "self-test" (196). He says, "Jesus drives home the exhortation: Do not act without mature concideration, for a thing half-done is worse than a thing never begun" (196).
Ralph Earle adds what I think is an important remark that although these parables have to do with ones ability to complete a task, our discipleship has to do with our willingness. "God has seen to it that we can if we will" (554).
Blomberg points out a problem that I will expand on a bit. How many times, when someone comes to the alter to pray the sinners prayer, do we stop them and say, "hold one, do you know what your getting into?" No one knows the future, and what type of sacrifices they might have to make in the future at the time of their conversion. How then can we count the cost?
Here is a possibility. Earle makes a statement in his treatment of these parable that got me thinking, "All believers reach, sooner or later, a second major crisis of decision. This is the crossroad of the call to entire sanctificationnot doctrinally stated in this passage, but inescapably implied by the absolute terms of discipleship" (554). I dont believe Jesus is calling us to abondon everything here, but instead "give up anything which would stand in the way of full-fledged service for Christ" (Blomberg 282). What Jesus is calling for here is commitment, a total consecration of ones life. "Nobody can be swept into the kingdom on a flood-tide of emotions; he must walk in with clear-eyed deliberation" (quoted in Blomberg 284).