Do you ever when reading the stories of Jesus life and ministr in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, run across those statements Jesus made and think to yourself, “What in the world did he mean by that?” I was talking with a new Christian a few days ago and I had recommended to them that a good place to start in their Bible reading was the Gospel of Mark. They had been reading and came across some things that Jesus said that just blew their minds and it just didn’t seem to fit what they thought Jesus taught. Jesus certainly was as unique as a teacher as in any other aspect of his life on earth. He often said things that seemed hard to the people who heard him and still seem difficult to us as well.
In Luke 14 Jesus told several stories that had to do with the nature of his kingdom. After those, he began a discussion on what it means to be a disciple of his. The word “disciple” means to be a learner or student, but not in the sense we usually think of the student in our time. Probably our closest word to describe the disciple is the word, “apprentice” that shows a person in training for a job. They not only learn the information provided but learn the techniques of the trainer. They are learning as much or more by watching the person training them than any instruction being given. Jesus calls us, not just to sit in classes where we learn things he said and did, but to be an apprentice of his that is committed to knowing and imitating him in our daily lives. So, his teaching about what is involved in being a disciple is vitally important to us.
Three times in this segment Jesus makes the statement if anyone comes after me and does not do some things they cannot be my disciple. The challenge is that the three things mentioned are not a simple or easy task. The first one is, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters – yes, even their own life – such a person cannot be my disciple.” What in the world did he mean? Surely, Jesus doesn’t want us to hate anyone. He is one who loves and teaches us to love, God, our neighbor and our brothers and sisters in him. Surely there is something in this that gets below the surface. Jesus often used very graphic language and hyperbole to make the point stand out and be remembered. He isn’t teaching us to hate those who are closest to us in life in the sense of despising them. His point is that our love and devotion to him ought to be so strong that any other love, by comparison, would seem like hate. Our love for God is to be with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. He isn’t wanting us to divide these up and determine what it means to love God in different ways. It is to make the point that we are to love God with everything in us. Our love and loyalty to Jesus should go deeper and further than our love for parents, children, spouse or siblings. Matthew’s account of this same lesson didn’t use the word hate but said, “If a person loves father or mother more than me they cannot be my disciple.” No relationship in all the world should be strong enough to pull us away from Jesus and following him. We are to seek his kingdom and righteousness first before anything else in the world.
His second absolute statement was, “And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” I sincerely doubt that we can grasp the way this statement would have come across to the people of that day. Carrying your cross meant you were headed to death by execution. We tend to read it and it is so far away from us that we naturally spiritualize it and see it as following Jesus. But Jesus point, which would have been far more familiar to them was that unless we are willing to die with him on the cross we can’t be his disciple. Paul gave a tremendous illustration of this point in Galatians 2:20 when he said, “I have been crucified with Christ, yet I live, yet not I but Christ lives in me and the life that I now live in the flesh I live by faith in him that loved me and gave himself up for me.” Later in Galatians 6:14 he said, “God forbid that I should glory, except in the cross of the Lord Jesus, by which the world is crucified for me and, I to the world.” Taking up our cross means that we are dying to our old way of life and being born again into a new life in relationship with Jesus. We turn from the old ways of life to be new in him. “If anyone is in Christ they are a new creation. Old things have passed away. Behold all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
A few verses later in Luke 14 Jesus offered the third such statement. “In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciple.” Again we are moved to ask, What in the world does he mean? Must we become beggars to follow Jesus? Can we not have any possessions and be a disciple? His point is that everything we own or talent we possess in life is His. We sign the deed of our possessions over to him when we give our lives to him. Remember Jesus stories about the kingdom when he said one who found a treasure in a field and went and sold all he had to purchase the field and then a man was searching for beautiful pearls when he found one pearl of great price. He went and sold all he had to purchase that pearl with tremendous joy. When we find the kingdom of Christ, it means so much to us that we are ready to lay everything we have on the altar of God to have the kingdom. Now the truth is that what we give up for him he returns to us so that we can use them in his service all our lives. But the title belongs to Jesus. We are his and what we have is his. If I try to hold things in life back from him and my commitment to him, I end up losing him in the process.
Being a follower of Jesus is demanding, but the price we pay for the benefit of being his disciple is extremely small in comparison. We give up a dollar to posses a million more as his servant