5 September 2010Luke 14:25-33
"Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple ... None of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions." (v.26-27, 33)
Luke's Gospel is distinctive for having a long section (which
begins at 9:51 and continues through to chapter 19) on the journey
of Jesus, from his period of popular ministry in Galilee to his
sufferings and death in Jerusalem.
Jesus' earlier success in drawing people to him is indicated in verse 25 by the reference to large crowds travelling with him. But this is the time to whittle them down into those who are really up to the challenge of being disciples. This passage is about people making the transition from coming "to" Jesus (verse 26) and following him, or more literally coming 'after' him (verse 27).
The idea that we cannot be disciples of Jesus unless we hate our closest family is not quite as harsh as it sounds. Whereas we today would speak of loving more or loving less, the Aramaic language that Jesus spoke used love and hate to make the same contrast. So the idea is that following Jesus must take priority over family commitments, which might sometimes need to be put aside. In some Church traditions people have heard the call to discipleship as entailing for them a decision not to marry or have children.
Those condemned to crucifixion under the Romans were expected to carry their own cross to the place of execution (although Jesus, after flogging, needed help - see Luke 23:26), so verse 27 makes clear that to truly follow Jesus may cost some disciples their lives.
Jesus then stresses the importance of what we might now call a proper risk analysis before signing on as his disciple. He illustrates it with two examples of starting but not being able to finish. The word translated "tower" in verse 28 could refer to a large farm building rather than the kind of proud folly that we might imagine. With both illustrations it is the 'sitting down first' and making an informed decision that is important.
What experience have you had of doing something and later wishing you'd sat down first and thought through the risks involved?
How would you respond to the claim that Christian evangelists today make it sound too easy to become a disciple of Jesus, and people would be more likely to take the message to heart if the cost of doing so was presented more seriously?
What circumstances can you envisage where it might be necessary to put your family second in order to be faithful to Jesus?