It seems that everywhere Jesus went, great crowds followed Him. Sometimes they closed in on Him and jostled Him around, forcing Him on one occasion to get in a boat and shove offshore to speak from a distance. They needed to think about their motivations. Were they following Him just to see fabulous miracles? Did they go with Him because He was known to feed thousands at a time? Or was Jesus popular just because He was different than their stuffy religious leaders?
One day, as usual, the multitudes were walking along in a big procession behind Him and Jesus turned around and challenged them. What He said was blunt and made them think. It’s found in Luke 14:25-35.
NO RIVALS ALLOWED
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” (v25-26)
Now wait a minute; is this coming from the same Jesus who urges us to love our enemies and do good to those who hate you? Who wants to be a disciple if we are required to hate our own families?
Some believe Jesus is telling us to love Him more than we do our families. Perhaps it’s possible for someone to love the Lord more than their own children, but in many cases it seems unlikely. I don’t know if Jesus requires of us a comparison like that. Why would He want to know if I love my wife more than I love Him? I can only think of one circumstance where that may apply, and that’s if the one I am married to holds me back from serving the Lord, or maybe even attempts to get me to abandon the Lord.
Jesus said that in situations like that we must hate. That doesn’t mean we hate everything about a person we are connected with. I believe He means we must hate whatever it is that person is doing to us that tempts us to abandon the Lord. I have known many couples with relationships like that. For instance, a wife may urge her husband to stop serving the Lord and His church. Or a husband may resent his wife spending time doing good works for the Lord and he challenges her to stop. Sometimes a mother-in-law pressures her daughter or son-in-law to leave the church for one reason or another.
Jesus said there are things about our own lives we that may need to change so that they will not ruin our service to the Master, or even ruin our souls. Many Christians fight alcoholism, or the temptation to use illegal drugs, or to indulge in immoral relationships, and hate what these temptations are doing to them. We are to hate these things so that they won’t destroy us and our ability to follow our saviour. And so, there are some things we must learn to hate, not just love less. We must not allow any rivals as we follow the Lord.
A CROSS FOR YOU AND ME
“Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” (v27)
What does it mean to carry your own cross? Jesus certainly carried His through Jerusalem and died on it. But how do we do that ourselves? If you read Luke 9:23-24 we are given a clue. It involves denying yourself. And what are we to deny? Verse 24 explains that one who saves his life in this world is the person who puts his own interests and desires first, and his
service to Jesus second. Jesus illustrated this by saying, “For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself?” A person can give his life to gain the whole world, which would certainly eat up all his time and attention and allow no room for Christ. He would lose his soul. But one who loses his life for Christ’s sake puts his own interests and desires second, in subservience to Jesus. This doesn’t mean we can’t have any interests of our own, or that we can’t follow our dreams. It just means we put those things second as we follow the Lord.
So how does a cross come into it?
Crosses were for dying. The Romans, and other nations, used it for capital punishment. Part of the process was for the condemned to carry their cross to the site where execution took place, as Jesus did. When we carry our cross it means we intend to put to death the things that get in the way. The apostle Paul’s directions about this to the Christians in Asia Minor can be found in Colossians 3:5-10. It’s well worth reading.
The multitudes who followed Jesus needed to carry their own cross, and we do too.
Yes, we must count the cost. He gives us two illustrations to consider in Luke 14. One involves a tower and the other a war. A man decided to build a tower in the middle of a vineyard, but he made careful calculations first, as you can read in verses 28-30. There’s a description in Mark 12:1 of a similar tower with all its features. These towers allowed the landowner to watch for thieves, vandals, and foraging animals. It was an expensive project and the builder needed to consider everything involved. The point is, if we’re going to follow Christ, we must make the costly decision to put Him first.
The second illustration involves war (v31-32). A battle was expected, and the king needed to consider his strengths. Did he have enough soldiers and equipment to prevail? Or would his lack of strength cause him to be defeated?
Every country works hard to make sure it can defend itself. Jesus is just saying we need to know what we’re getting into. Serving the Lord means we don’t get to have everything our own way, and there will be sacrifices we may need to make just like soldiers do. We can’t expect to carry our own cross in comfort and convenience all the time. We must count the cost of following the Lord.
PUT POSSESSIONS IN THEIR PLACE
Like His previous points, this one is rather blunt too. “So therefore no one of you can be my disciple who does not give up all his own possessions” (Verse 33).
In some way we must give them up! Since He said this after his words about counting the cost and carrying our cross, He may mean that we are to put our possessions in second place when it comes to being a disciple. Our possessions can certainly eat up a lot of our time and resources. I’ve owned a house for 40 years and I know how much renovating and maintenance it involves. I can easily let that get in the way, in the sense I let it keep me from the service I need to give the Lord.
But there’s another thought we need to consider about this. Since we were bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:20), our possessions come with it. My house may be mine, but I give it to Jesus for His use. My car says its mine on the registration card, but I give it to the Lord for His use. He wants us to use our possessions in service to Him. When Covid-19 is finally over, we can use our homes for hospitality again, or other ways to serve. We can use our vehicles to help others. Jesus may own us and our possessions, but He lets us keep them. We serve Him as stewards.
When Jesus said these things to the multitudes, they must have been surprised. Like them, sometimes we need to be shocked a little so that we can put our lives in order. We want our lives to be effective in our service to Him. We want Him to be proud of us.
Jesus ended his speech by mentioning salt (v34-35). Our lives can be like excellent salt, tasteful and good. Christians need to be effective in our world. Hating what can destroy us, loving Jesus and carrying a cross, and offering Him our lives and possessions will make our lives seasoned as if with salt. But we can also be useless to Him by failing to sacrifice and serve.
These are tough words, difficult challenges, and hard thoughts. But they are supremely good for us as we try to be servants of the Master.