Today, we’re going to talk about two men who each paid a price for their choices. For one, the cost of following Jesus was just too high.

For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, 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 begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace.

Lunk 14:28-32

Counting the Cost

This passage belongs in a category of what most of us call hard sayings of Jesus. Before following him as a disciple, Jesus first demands that we “count the cost” of what we will have to give up (which is everything). He very simply tells us that if we do not follow him with a posture of total abandonment of everything we hold dear, we cannot be his disciples.

But if Jesus commands people to count the cost before following him, doesn’t it also stand to reason that we should count the cost of embracing sin? The reason we should want to follow Jesus is because we gain FAR MORE than we lose. The reason we should want to abandon sin is because we lose FAR MORE than we gain.

When we think about sin, we typically think about the consequences of sin for ourselves. Sometimes we might possibly consider the victims of our sins if the particular sin is an outward action against another person, such as an act of violence. 

What we often fail to consider is that the consequences of all sin, both internal and external, always have a wider and longer reach that we can possibly consider. Our sin usually has aftermath that victimizes people we never would have considered. We also experience guilt and shame in times and places that we never thought possible.  

The story of Herod Antipas, for example, vividly depicts the heavy price on the world that is levied by the consequences of sin.

The Death of John the Baptist

14 King Herod heard of it, for Jesus'[a] name had become known. Some[b] said, “John the Baptist[c] has been raised from the dead. That is why these miraculous powers are at work in him.” 15 But others said, “He is Elijah.” And others said, “He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” 16 But when Herod heard of it, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.” 17 For it was Herod who had sent and seized John and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because he had married her. 18 For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” 19 And Herodias had a grudge against him and wanted to put him to death. But she could not, 20 for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he kept him safe. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed, and yet he heard him gladly.

21 But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his nobles and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. 22 For when Herodias’s daughter came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests. And the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it to you.” 23 And he vowed to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, up to half of my kingdom.” 24 And she went out and said to her mother, “For what should I ask?” And she said, “The head of John the Baptist.” 25 And she came in immediately with haste to the king and asked, saying, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” 26 And the king was exceedingly sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests he did not want to break his word to her. 27 And immediately the king sent an executioner with orders to bring John’s[d] head. He went and beheaded him in the prison 28 and brought his head on a platter and gave it to the girl, and the girl gave it to her mother. 29 When his disciples heard of it, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.

Mark 6:14-29

Is Following Jesus Worth the Cost?

To sum up Herod’s interactions with Jesus and John we might say that Herod actually did count the costs of following Jesus. He decided that it would not be worth it. He very consciously chose to embrace his own way over the way of God.

Herod was never one to forgo what he saw as the good pleasures of life. He wouldn’t even allow a bold confrontation by a prophet to keep him from what he wanted. Herod very coldly calculated that he would much rather commit murder against John the Baptist than risk losing face in front of his friends or his wife. 

Herod’s folly is that he wasn’t able to calculate how his life would end up because of his own pride and sensuality. He didn’t figure that he would lose the kingdom and start a war that would end of the lives of so many others as well. 

The Bible includes this story about the life of Herod as warning to us and others that the ultimate cost of embracing Christ, while high, is much less than the ultimate cost of embracing our sin.

Discussion Questions

  • What did you know about Herod Antipas before today?
  • How do you think Herod was viewed by the people who lived around him in his day?
  • Why did Herod imprison John the Baptist?
  • What do you think intrigued Herod about John’s preaching?
  • Which sins do you think were at the very heart of Herod’s folly?
  • Was beheading John a symbol of Herod’s strength or a symbol of his weakness?
  • What consequences of Herod’s sins do you think he failed to foresee?
  • How many people do you think Herod victimized without even caring?
  • If you are comfortable sharing, has there ever been a time when did something wrong but failed to see how it would affect yourself and other people?
  • How might Herod’s life have been different had he heeded the message of John?
  • What is the secret in your own life to “counting the cost” so that you embrace Christ with your whole heart?
Jonathan Pugh
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