In this week’s lectionary gospel reading, Luke 14:25-33, Jesus says some hard things that require some contemplation. It’s hard to know at first glance what we are expected to take away from this. Is it Jesus’ way of thinning out the disciples? I’m sure that was accomplished. Is he trying to let us know that very few people are going to make it to heaven due to poor planning? That seems a little works-oriented. It is good financial advice – plan ahead. But I think there’s more.
The connecting phrase here is ‘cannot be my disciple‘. We are so used to trying to smooth out the path in front of us and make church membership / Christianity as easy as possible that this saying seems rather coarse.
For example, did Jesus really tell a large crowd of people that in order to follow him they would have to hate their parents, spouse, children, siblings, and themselves? That sounds like a deal not many people would be willing to make! The Master Teacher follows up with two examples of what he is teaching.
- There is the sad tale of the under-funded tower builder, who, when he reached the end of his bank account, had only half a tower.
- Just as sad, but perhaps more frightening, is the ill-prepared king who capriciously decides to go to war, but discovers he is vastly outnumbered. He is ill-prepared for war, but not an idiot. So He sends out some peace keepers to try to figure out a new treaty.
In both of these cases, the pitiable figures shared in common the unfortunate plight of making a decision without considering the implications of that decision.
This is not a mistake that Jesus made. He came for a purpose. He would carry his cross. He would finish building his church. He would win his war against Satan. He gave up everything to receive what could never be bought.
And so it is with those who would aspire to be disciples of Jesus.
You will carry your cross (vs. 27). This is not just a matter of hardships, it is a matter of hardships BECAUSE of the decision to be a disciple of Jesus. That might mean trouble for a young person still under the rule of her unChristian parents. It might mean a disruption between husband and wife if only one of them follows Jesus. It will certainly mean severance with one’s old way of life. If you want to be a disciple of Jesus, you will carry a cross.
If you want to be a disciple of Jesus without thinking ahead about the cross to be carried, this is your critical error. It can’t be done.
In our efforts to evangelize, are we asking people to count the cost of this decision? Are we allowing the euphoric and freeing decision to follow Jesus to overshadow the sobering truth about what this is going to cost?
Three times in this text Jesus tells potential followers that they cannot be his disciples. How often do we hear that message today? How often might we see people step up to the plate and accept the challenge if we did?
To be sure this message is not about keeping people out of the kingdom. It is about followers of Jesus being true to themselves …and true to God … that there may be some severe consequences following such a weighty decision. But choose well, friends.
We will close with a passage from the Old Testament reading this week:
Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life… ~Deuteronomy 30:19b-20a
Thanks for reading. Would love to read your thoughts about this enigmatic passage.
Below are some resources for your Kindle on the book of Luke.