Scripture: Luke 14:25-35
Key verse: (25) “Now large crowds were traveling with him; and he turned and said to them, ….”
Reflection: Today’s reading from Luke contains some of the harshest sayings of Jesus. It begins with these words, “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.” How’s that for “Biblical family values?” The notes in the Oxford Annotated NRSV explain, “Hate is used in vigorous, vivid hyperbole; the parallel passage in Matthew 10:37 reflects Jesus’ meaning.” In that passage Jesus says we can’t love our parents more than him. That’s certainly more palpable, but I’m not sure we can simply dismiss this passage by saying with the editors that this is what Jesus really meant in the Luke passage. Jesus goes on to talk about counting the costs of constructing a tower, or of waging war with another. Then comes the coup de gras, “None of you can be my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.” How many of us could possibly meet this standard? This is not the best formula for church growth, is it?
Perhaps that’s the point. This section of Luke begins with, “Now large crowds were traveling with him; and he turned to them and said…” Jesus speaks these demanding words to crowds “traveling” with him. Luke does not invoke the word, “following.” Following Jesus is very different from traveling with him. These crowds have been drawn to Jesus in the wake of two healings; a man with dropsy earlier in chapter 14, and a disabled woman in chapter 13. Perhaps Jesus senses that this large crowd is interested in him only for what they can get from him, not in what it means to live for him. Maybe that’s why Jesus utters these demanding words concerning the cost of discipleship.
Count the costs, Jesus says. To be sure, I don’t measure up to the costs Jesus lays out to the large crowd traveling with him, but that doesn’t mean I simply dismiss these demanding words. Ultimately, it is God’s grace that claims us, not our ability to measure up to Jesus’ standards, but that does not mean we simply dismiss his words. Following Jesus might create tension with family and friends — it certainly did for the disciples to whom Luke’s gospel was originally written. Following Jesus means laying aside self-interest in the name of loving others — that’s not an easy thing to do. Following Jesus means you don’t understand your money as your own. God has entrusted it to you, but it all belongs to God. Following Jesus means a transformation of your life, of every aspect of it. Following Jesus means being salty. If salt isn’t salty, then it really isn’t salt.
If we are simply traveling with Jesus, rather than following him, are we really disciples?
Prayer: You call me to follow you, O Lord. Forgive me when I settle for traveling with you. Give me faith to count the costs of my discipleship and to follow you more fully, that I might know the fullest blessings of life in you. Amen.
Author: Joe Clifford
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].