Psalm 119:33-40; Luke 14:25-35
This is shocking, to say the least! Did you hear what was just read for us? My first reaction when I read this passage from Luke chapter 14, is that I can’t help but think that Jesus was a poor marketer. When you try to attract people to a new idea or concept; when you want to grow the number of people on your team, you would think you would present all the benefits of your plan. When marketers try to sell us a new product or idea, they talk about how it can save us time, how it works faster; how it is less cheap; how it exceeds consumer expectations more than the other products already on the market.
The Christian community at the time Jesus is speaking is a small, often persecuted, minority. You would think that Jesus, in order to grow the number of His followers, would talk about love and community and all the benefits of following. Instead, He turns toward the crowd following Him and talks about the cost of discipleship. What He says sounds very harsh. He talks about hate and cross bearing. Why would He do that? This is going to make people run away instead of following, I think.
The life of faith is not easy. We have been spoiled in the United States so often because our culture has matched up fairly close with our faith. But we are seeing things move farther and farther away from Christ and His Word. And as our culture does this, we are going to be faced more and more with the radical nature of what it means to be a disciple and a follower of Jesus.
And so Jesus tells these crowds who follow Him, both then and now, what this life entails. Here, Jesus speaks of three things in regard to discipleship that we are going focus upon this morning: putting God first, carrying the cross, and leaving possessions.
First: Putting God First
In Luke 14:25-26 Jesus said, “Now large crowds were traveling with him; and he turned and said to them, “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.” The use of the word hate is not a call to NOT love our father, mother, wife and children; it is not a call to harm our family, or wish them ill; it is a call to heed the 1st Commandment. We should honor, love, and trust in God above all things – and that includes our families. Simply Jesus was saying that your relationship with God comes first above all other relationships.
It is important here to look at the Greek word “misei” (μισεί) translated as “hate”. The word suggests that a true disciple should value his/her relationship with Christ over the relationship with family members. We are not to despise our relatives, but we are not to worship them either. In this case “hate” can be a synonym for “love less.” With statements like these, I find it amazing that the Christian movement grew and is still growing today.
Second: Carrying the Cross
And there’s more. Jesus continues in Luke 4:27 by saying “Whoever does not bear his own cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” He then goes on to speak a couple of parables concerning this and counting such a cost – of a man building a tower and a king going off to war. Jesus is saying there is a cost involved in following Him. Through Baptism, God brings us into His family and a new life with Him. Baptized, we are crucified to the world and the world to us. Here and now, the disciple of Jesus loses the world and gains only a cross.
I wonder if anybody ever knows the full cost of following Jesus before actually starting to follow Him. If we knew the full cost, would we really be willing to follow? I think this is where the love of God and trust in God’s leading are crucial. And I believe that these do grow as we follow the best we can and realize that God is here with us and that He is always faithful.
Third: Renouncing Possessions
Lastly, Jesus warns us against attachment to material things. In Luke 14:33 Jesus said, “So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.” This is a common theme throughout the gospel of Luke because possessions are one of the greatest threats to discipleship. Things can all too easily become a god. Being a disciple of Christ means the readiness to give up anything and everything if duty to God calls for it. All that we have belongs to Him already anyway.
Jesus then leaves His hearers with one final image of salt. There is no in-between with salt. Salt is either salty or it isn’t. There is no “sort of” salty. If it isn’t salty, it isn’t really salt, and it should be thrown away.
Friends, as baptized children of God, we have been baptized into His way, and are kept in His Way by His Word and Sacrament. We are called to be Christ’s disciples. We are called to teach our children what a life of a disciple, a follower, of Jesus looks like. Today Niko Anthony Pontano is baptized into the body of Christ. We, as a congregation, share the responsibility with his family to raise him in the instructions of our Lord. When we do so, discipleship becomes a lifelong adventure not a single event.
Friends, God has created us, equipped us, molded us, energized us and purposed us for divine use – to be His instruments for changing the world. Today and everyday we have great opportunities to show in practical, concrete ways that we are followers of Jesus. Let us show our community and the world what the power of Jesus Christ can do. Amen!
First Presbyterian Church of Blackwood
21 E. Church Street
Blackwood, NJ 08012
Sermon Notes (Sunday April 7, 2019)
Rev. Dr. Mouris A. Yousef, Pastor