Good morning, happy Wednesday, and many blessings.
If you don't find today's Gospel (Luke 14:25-33) hard to swallow, you are not really listening. Jesus is asking for total commitment of every Christian, as a disciple
Never more so that on this occasion. The crowd had gathered eagerly to receive the teaching of Jesus. And he then gives them 3 ‘cannot’: “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters cannot be my disciple.” “Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” “If you do not give up your possessions, you cannot be my disciple.”
It doesn’t get much harder than that, does it? It seems a strange way to build a religious movement. Most would surely be attracted by the benefits rather than being confronted by the cost…
So what are we to make of these 3 challenging conditions and why are they so central to the nature of discipleship? Let’s unpack this passage a bit further.
In verse 25, we are told, “Large crowds were travelling with Jesus; and he turned and said to them…” This is an interesting verse because it indicates to us that it is those who were already following Jesus who needed to be taught the nature of true discipleship. These were not people who were antagonistic to Jesus’ ministry. These were people who were interested enough to be following him already. But, even then, it seems that they hadn’t fully grasped the implications of discipleship.
The same is true for many today, of course. Churches throughout the world are packed with people interested in Jesus but who don’t really grasp the implications of discipleship for themselves. And it is to such as these that Jesus was speaking here. Here were people who were willing to follow Jesus and learn from him as long as the cost wasn’t too high: they were, if you like, casual followers. But Jesus points out that this is a total misunderstanding of what it means to be a Christian and speaks very strongly into this misunderstanding.
And his teaching here is not just for super-spiritual Christians as if there are two divisions of discipleship, which is a misunderstanding we commonly come across; as if the ordinary, average person in the pew can somehow be a casual follower whilst leaving the passionate, disciplined lifestyle to the professional Christians and a few others who are prepared to take it all too seriously. No, this is a call to living for each one of us, as Jesus makes clear in verse 26: “Whoever comes to me…” That is each and every one of us being addressed here…
We learn in all this that discipleship is expensive. Yes, Jesus wants us to count the cost as we follow him so that we don’t have any unrealistic expectations about how challenging it will be. But even more than that, Jesus wants us to know it’s expensive because the price for being called his disciples was his own death. He paid that price. He made us his. Let that be enough to work in our hearts a willingness to give up everything for him who gave up everything for us first.