We’re continuing our series in the parables, so we will return to Luke 14. Before the text, let me introduce you to a couple who has inspired me.
Morris and Cabina live in a small 4 room home in the mountains of Sudan – without plumbing, electricity or cell service. The area they live in is repeatedly bombed by their government who is attempting to Arabize the region and must first expel Christians like pastor Morris and his wife. The two are actively serving those hurt by the bombings, but also serving Muslim prisoners held in their village. They risk their lives and endure significant poverty in order to stay in the region and minister in the name of Jesus. Why?
“To be a Christian doesn’t mean just to have a good and easy life,” Morris said. “It means maybe you live in the hard times. We as Christians can do it by the power of God and by the grace of God. There is still a lot to be done.”
This is a radical commitment to following Christ. It’s not always like that in the U.S. is it?
Why is that?
Let’s read Luke 14, starting in verse 25.
Now great crowds accompanied him and he turned and gave them a heartwarming message of encouragement sprinkled with an entertaining mix of relevant stories, practical wisdom, humor and visual illustrations.
I’m sorry. Let’s try that again.
Now great crowds accompanied him and he turned and gave them a rousing message of ethnic pride and national glory and made many promises to make Israel great again.
No. That’s not right. Let’s try this.
Now great crowds accompanied him and he turned and offered his services to anyone searching for easy access to wealth and prosperity and the fulfillment of personal dreams.
Okay. One last time.
Let’s begin by breaking down the structure of the parable.
We have 3 statements about the cost of becoming a disciple of Jesus broken up by 2 complementary parables about the need to count up the cost before making a commitment.
Here’s what it looks like . . .
1) Whoever doesn’t hate his own a) father b) mother c) brothers and sisters d) wife e) children f) even his own life, cannot be my disciple.
2) Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.
Parable 1: If you don’t count the cost you will have the shame of an unfinished tower.
Parable 2: If you do count the cost you will save many lives by averting a war.
3) So, therefore, any of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.
Now remember what Luke tells us in verse 25 – Jesus is responding to a great crowd.
1. Whoever doesn’t hate . . .
What does it mean to hate your loved ones? Is this a contradiction? Doesn’t the Bible tell husbands to love their wives and children to honor their parents? Does Jesus really want us to hate our family members? As always, we can find help with a confusing bit of Scripture by looking at the overall context of Scripture. We find a similar word from Jesus in Matthew 10.
Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.
This passage provides some helpful interpretation for Luke 14. We can interpret ‘hate’ as ‘relegate to a position lower than Christ’. We can’t follow Jesus unless we are willing to put everyone we love in second place to Jesus.
What might that look like?
A wife is interested in Christ but her husband is firmly anti-religious, and because she doesn’t want to make him unhappy she considers keeping her distance from church.
A young college graduate decides to follow the call of Christ to the foreign mission field and his parents have forbidden him from going and weighs what to do.
A woman from a proud Hindu family begins discovers the gospel and gets baptized. Her parents find out that she is betraying her tradition and threaten to completely disown her and never speak to her again.
Or to bring it closer to home. A young couple who is zealous to follow Jesus as college students has children, moves to the suburbs for the best schools, enrolls their children in a sport for every season, music lessons, 10 camps a summer and no longer has time for church or youth group.
These situations require people to count the cost of following Jesus – am I willing to put Jesus in absolute priority? Even over my family?
2. Whoever doesn’t carry his own cross . . .
What does it mean to bear his own cross?
Jesus was going to carry a cross at the end of his earthly life. For Jesus that cross meant a public humiliation and terrible suffering and ultimately the bearing of the sins of the world on his shoulders.
I don’t know if you know this, but Jesus taught that he wasn’t going to be the first one who would have to carry a cross in order to obey God.
And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
You too will have a cross, your own cross to bear, if you wish to follow Jesus.
What might this look like?
I think of some friends of mine, missionaries in Northern India. Because of the massive influence of their evangelism they have been blacklisted by the government. Recently they came back to the US for a time of support and refreshment. Despite all of the dangers and all of the warnings they received, my friend attempted to cross back into the country at a remote checkpoint. He was caught and thrown in a primitive jail for months. This man is in his 70s. He is bearing his own cross.
3. Whoever doesn’t renounce all that he has . . .
What does it mean to renounce all that you have?
I recently read about a well known speaker and writer who committed at a young age to maintain his present standard of living and as his income grew, all excess income would be given to meeting the needs of the poor and supporting missionaries. He and his family have given huge sums of money away.
The Christian life is a life of total commitment.
Does this mean the Christian life is a life of total loss?
Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
The Christian life is a costly life, but that does not mean it is a total loss. The Christian life is a life tapped into a cause that is worthy of your life.
It is a life engaged in work that will outlast time.
Following Jesus is a call so demanding and all-encompassing that those who surrender to the call will find themselves stretching out in the fullness of their latent potential.
“To live is the greatest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.”
– Oscar Wilde
“There are some things so dear, some things so precious, some things so eternally true, that they are worth dying for. And I submit to you that if a man has not discovered something that he will die for, he isn’t fit to live.”
We have to ask, what are we doing?
Are we promising total commitment in order to earn the ability to take communion?
Is communion only for people who have achieved total commitment?
We may think of the rich young ruler. Luke juxtaposes the rich young ruler with the conversion of Zacchaeus. The rich young ruler is told to sell everything he has and give to the poor if he wants to obey the ten commandments. Zacchaeus, after experiencing the grace of Jesus, voluntarily gives up only half of his possessions and is praised.
The rich young ruler is an example of what is required from those who want to enter the kingdom of God on the merits of their own righteousness.
Zacchaeus is an example of what happens in the human heart which knows that is unrighteous and yet receives unmerited grace and acceptance.
Only when we have experienced the grace of Jesus and his cross will we find the ability to surrender first place in our lives.
Tom Brown is the planting pastor of Vintage Faith Church in Wichita. Tom and his wife, Mandy, have worked together in ministry for 18 years and have four children. More about Pastor Tom Brown