Sept. 4, 2022 Thirteenth Sunday After Pentecost The text is Luke 14: 25-33.
25 Now large crowds were traveling with [Jesus;] and he turned and said to them, 26 “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. 27 Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see 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 will begin to ridicule him, 30 saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. 33 So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.”
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to You, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.
Grace, mercy, and peace are yours from God the Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Last Sunday we heard Jesus’ teaching on the value of humility; of not taking the best seat at the table, but instead being humble before others, and before God. If we are to become exalted, it will be by God’s will and through God’s grace. Last week’s dinner party has ended and this morning Jesus is once again addressing the large crowds that are gathering to hear his preaching. Many are clamoring to join in his mission and ministry and he is letting them know that there will be a cost to becoming his follower.
And, let’s be honest here, his words are extraordinarily harsh and seem to be inflexible.
If we are to become Jesus’ disciples we must hate our parents, siblings, spouse, and children. Actually, we’re admonished to hate our very lives. Well then, I think we should delve into these rather intense demands just a bit, don’t you? Perhaps we might look to another passage in Scripture, a parallel one found elsewhere in the bible. Matthew recounts Jesus voicing a similar instruction to those expressing a desire to become his followers. The rather unfortunate use of “hate” in Luke is replaced by “love” in Matthew. Jesus tells his would-be followers that any who love father and mother more than him are not worthy to be his disciples. Same for son or daughter; Jesus finds those unworthy to join him if they love their children more than him.
Although the two terms “love” and “hate” are polar opposites, the concept that Luke is conveying is not radically different from what Matthew recounts Jesus as saying to the crowd, notwithstanding Luke’s more severe declaration. In ancient Jewish tradition “hate” may be used to define a comparison and doesn’t necessarily mean that something or someone is to be despised. It generally refers to a refusal to value something more highly than something else; something that ought to have the greater value. Luke recounting Jesus telling the crowds that they must “hate” parents, and others, is simply another way of expressing that they must place no one above him if they are to be considered his followers. This is not unlike Matthew’s version of the event; don’t love others more than Jesus if you intend to be his disciple. Granted though, Luke’s Jesus comes across rather more forcefully than does Matthew’s.
Either way, Jesus is adamant that if one is to be his disciple they must be fully aware of the cost of following him, down to the fact that everything in this life must come second to the Gospel. Becoming a follower of Jesus consists of complete, steadfast devotion to the message that the Gospel of Christ proclaims, and one must consider and accept this cost fully, before entering into discipleship. Jesus must be at the heart of all that his followers do; and this acceptance of the cost and the willingness to pay it, needs to be reaffirmed every day.
The command to “carry the cross” is first alluded to a few chapters earlier in Luke. In chapter nine Jesus tells the twelve first disciples that any who follow him must “take up the cross DAILY”. It’s imperative that we all evaluate anew the cost of discipleship to Jesus each day. Jesus warns that there is risk in not being fully aware of the cost of an endeavor and that rigorous consideration must be given before beginning the undertaking. He gives the example of an unfinished tower and the shame and ridicule that follows when it lies uncompleted. But what is unsaid is that this example, as well as the account of the warrior unprepared to do battle, is that these are all worldly, temporal things.
Unless any of us has won the Megabucks lottery since we met last Sunday, we all need to ponder the cost of most things we purchase. Do we really need this particular item? Is there a less expensive alternative? Will the current one suffice a bit longer before I replace it? Must it have the fancy designer label on the front, or am I content to wear an item that has the label on the inside? These decisions about cost range from the rather small, all the way to the purchase of a home. And again, unless someone has secretly hit the jackpot in the last few days and doesn’t have to think about money any more, for most of us the purchase of a house will be the single largest expenditure we make in our life.
Yet, even this huge expense is nothing compared to the cost that Jesus paid on our behalf, there on the hill in Calgary, upon the cross. And, even this is smaller when compared to the result of our discipleship. Once we agree to the cost of following Jesus, that is placing our faith in him above everything else, that cost is more than repaid through our being welcomed into the kingdom of God. Our willingness to go “all in” as Jesus followers is met with a promise. If we accept the invitation to carry the cross all the way to Calgary, we are assured that we will become inheritors of the eternal life that lies beyond it.
The cost of following Jesus may not be easy, inexpensive, or as is the case for many, safe. Yet, in order to be disciples, we must accept that there is nothing cheap about or discipleship. But our single-minded devotion to Christ’s Gospel is the invitation into God’s family.
God wishes for a covenantal relationship with us; God’s love, mercy, and salvation are granted solely by grace and our willing discipleship to Christ. Jesus reminds the crowds in Luke this morning, and us that the only cost to us for this grace is a willingness to live lives that express our faith in the truth of the Gospel. And this is shown through living in ways that pledge a complete, full, total commitment to “carry the cross” of faith. In doing so we acknowledge that Jesus Christ is at the center of our lives and that there is nothing we value more highly than his love for us. And when you stop and think about it, there’s really no cost that’s too high to pay for that.
Will you pray with me? Good, and gracious, and holy God, we desire to serve as disciples of Jesus. We know that the cost can be dear, yet we yearn for the strength to continue to pay it. Help us to always remember that the cost of following Jesus, no matter how great, is always worth it. For what we receive by your hands is a gift beyond value; your grace. And we pray these things in the name of Jesus Christ, the One to whom we pledge ore trust, or faith, our discipleship. The One who paid the ultimate cost for our salvation. Amen.
God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good.