As Christians, it is very easy to focus on how much we sacrifice for our faith. We see the burdens of our belief - what our relationship with God costs us in terms of time, friendships and money. Indeed, a central part of the Christian story reminds us that Jesus’ relationship with God cost him his whole life.
However, our faith can actually release us from many of the ‘costs’ we pay in the relationships we all have. This is seen in many Bible stories. It is the idea of discipleship. When Jesus calls people, they leave behind their old lives – including many of their burdens - and follow him. As it says in Luke, “They left everything and followed him.” (Luke 5:11). In these stories, Jesus isn’t asking the characters to make sacrifices as much as he is drawing them towards something good and eternal – calling them not to feel the burden of faith, but to let their faith release them from their burdens, from the costs of their relationships. As the Bible says later in 1 Peter, ‘cast all your cares on him, for he cares for you’ (1 Peter 5:7). Jesus carries the costs of all our relationships - see how he does this by reading the character studies of Biblical figures below.
What costs of relationship do these characters need to leave behind?
What costs can you be freed from by following Jesus?
How are you enriched by following Jesus?
These character studies could be used for personal or group prayer. They could be read after the scripture, and be followed by a group response. Alternatively, they could be used as the basis for a service, or as personal meditation, taking one passage for each day.
Jesus, you call to my heart once more:
“Leave anything that holds you back from deeper love.
and true that I will daily risk the road of following in your footsteps.
Keep me open to the adventure of life where I meet you day by day.
Remind me often of my inner goodness.
Help me to believe that you look upon me with love.
Thank you for the call to be your disciple.
Amen Joyce Rupp
Zacchaeus Luke 19:1-10
I am Zacchaeus. I, too, need to leave behind my concerns of what others will think of me. Jesus, when you approach my tree of life, when you ask to come to the home of my heart, may I be ready. Help me to respond to your call and to live the message of the gospel, even though I may experience criticism and rejections.
Mary Luke 1:26-38
I am Mary of Nazareth. I must also leave some security behind. The challenge of the unknown is there for me. Jesus, you know the questions in my heart. When you send your messages to me, I want to be open to receive them. May I say with deep trust in you, “let what you have said be done in me.”
Peter John 21:15-23
I am Peter. I am asked to let go of my desire to be perfect and to live with my own unfurnished condition. Jesus, you loved Peter as he was. You love me as I am. May I not only respond with ‘yes’ to your question, “do you love me?” but also to say yes when you take me “where I would rather not go.”
Levi Luke 5:27-28
I am Levi, the tax collector. I must leave behind my strong ambitions for success and power. Jesus, help me to be more concerned about the process of my life and ministry than about the results and the success involved. Teach me what it means to leave everything and follow you.
A Samaritan Luke4:1-42
I am the Samaritan woman. I am asked to leave behind my doubts about my own self-worth. Jesus, you called this woman to appreciate her own goodness. In my moments of self-doubt and hesitation, fill me with a disciple’s heart. Help me to listen to you and to believe in your belief in me.
A Woman Luke 7:36-50
I am the woman who washed your feet, Jesus. You ask me to leave my old ways behind me. Fill me with true sorrow for the times when I have wandered far from you and your message. I, too, can experience the generosity of your forgiveness when I come to you with the tears of repentance.
Lazarus John 11:1-44
I am Lazarus. I need to call to come out from my tomb. I must leave whatever is dead or binding for my spirit. Jesus, you call me daily to greater spiritual freedom. As your disciple may I grow in my ability to have a discerning heart. May I, too, be unbound and “set free.”