Sunday

Luke 14:25-33 Sunday 8 September 2013


Background

Many adverts, especially for 'financial products' and 'specialoffers', end with the words (invariably in very small print orspoken very quickly) 'terms and conditions apply'. Given thatthings are rarely quite what they seem in advertisements, we arealways well-advised to 'read the small print' before we commitourselves to anything we might later come to regret. And that wascertainly the case with the earliest Christian Gospels - exceptthat there was no attempt to conceal the 'terms and conditions' inthe small print at the end. To decide to follow Jesus, to be adisciple, to learn from Jesus, is, according to the account inLuke's Gospel, not a decision to be made lightly. While he may beexaggerating to make his point, Jesus is certainly saying that tobe his disciple means being willing to give up everything we mighthold dear - family, friends, status, possessions, even ourlives.

Two issues immediately present themselves. The first is that wecannot be sure these words were actually spoken by Jesus. For tworeasons: Jesus never, in Luke's Gospel's account, spoke of himselfbeing crucified, so why would he use the image of "carrying thecross" (here and in Luke 9:23)? This only makes sense later, whenhis followers looked back to his death. And the circumstances Jesusdescribed applied, again, only after his death - Luke's Gospel waswritten after the fall of Jerusalem in AD70, when Jews were beingpersecuted by Rome and punished by crucifixion. Gentiles (non-Jews)who became Christians risked being treated as rebellious Jews, andJews who became Christians risked being ostracised, and betrayed,by their families and friends. The second issue is simply this:this is not the 'gospel' we are comfortable with. The more familiar'gospel' offers forgiveness, blessing, healing and comfort. InLuke's Gospel's account, Jesus certainly offers these things tosinners, the poor, the sick and the marginalised. But for hisfollowers, just the promise of "the resurrection of the righteous"(Luke 14:14).

So how should we respond to this passage?


To Ponder

  • Even if Jesus did not put it in these words, this was certainlyhow Luke's Gospel understood what it meant to be a disciple. Do youthinkit was right? Why?
  • If we are going to take this passage seriously, how might itchallenge our understanding of 'the gospel'?
  • What 'terms and conditions' might apply to Christiandiscipleship today?


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