When Jesus discusses the cost of discipleship in Luke, who are the two kings at war and what do they symbolize?
Most of us are familiar with John 3:16 and its promise of salvation and eternal life for all who believe in Christ.
However, in Luke 14:27-33 there seems to be an implied distinction drawn between mere believers in Christ and the disciples of Christ.
27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. 28 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. 33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.
He makes it very clear that in order to be a disciple of Christ we must renounce the world, love God more than our family and our own life, and take up our cross, or in other words lay down our lives as Paul and many others have done so readily. These are high callings and surely not all who believe in Christ will measure up to these expectations. So there must be a distinction then between mere believers and disciples. Christ bids us assess whether we're really able to go the distance and lay down our lives and such before becoming a disciple of His. And as we all know even Peter faltered at such a demand to take up his cross… even when he swore that he would not deny the Christ… and he did it three times.
So if we “sit down to count the cost” and then choose not to be a disciple then Christ it seems that He is likening us to the king who "sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace" from the other king. But who is the second king that opposes us? In other words… who are we asking for terms of peace from? If we choose to be a disciple then we are obviously warring against the second king and choosing to go to war with him. However, if we choose not to be a disciple then we are choosing not to war against that second king and we are asking him for terms of peace to avoid war… which implies that we are willing to meet some of his terms for peace.
So who is the second king? I think in this parable the second king could possibly be God / the Trinity. We say to God… “I am not able to go the distance… please forgive me and have mercy on me for not being more dedicated to following in Christ’s footsteps.” But if we are warring against the second king, as is indicated in the parable, then why would we be warring against God if we choose to heed the call of discipleship? That doesn’t seem logical. It doesn’t add up. So is the second king perhaps some other spiritual force such as Satan or the powers of the world?
In the call to discipleship, God calls us to be a soldier for god against Satan or the powers of the world and we either heed the call or do not. So then according to this parable if we “count the cost” of our “tower” or the cost of our potential discipleship and decide that we cannot carry the burden then we must seek peace from that which we would otherwise be warring against. So is choosing not to be a disciple some kind of betrayal against God? If we plead with that which opposes God for terms of peace then are we asking the enemy for mercy? What are the second king’s terms for peace? Who are we raising the white flag to? It would appear based on the promise of John 3:16 that God still gives a grand reward to anyone who believes in Christ though.
Additionally, it could be interesting, when considering the high cost of discipleship, Christ’s message that his “yoke is easy and his burden is light.”