The meal is over, but the teaching is not finished. It seems that after this marvelous teaching concerning the kingdom (compared to a great banquet, v.15-24), Jesus has gained a following. Now it is normal and makes sense that when you have “fans” who like what you say and want to be around you, you try to keep them around. That is, you try to stay popular and soak up as much of those fifteen minutes of fame as possible. But what does Jesus do? He actually does the opposite and begins teaching things that will drive people away (And even today is repulsive to some).
Jesus has just revealed the gospel of the disenfranchised and emarginated in v.21-24. It is the poor, lame, crippled, dejected who would forcefully enter the kingdom. This in the streets and alleys and in the highways and hedges were invited and filled the master’s table. So also in the kingdom it will be these same kind who will eat with the Master. And before unvealing the full force of the grace of God in the lives of men (ch.15), Jesus ensures that everyone hearing (even we today) know the cost of following Jesus. It is no milk toast discipleship that Jesus is calling for. One cannot be a fair weather disciple if he intends to follow Jesus. Discipleship is serious business and Jesus details the commitment one must have.
A Disciple and Family
Every Greek lexicon and bible dictionary translates the Greek word miseo (used here for “hate”) as hatred, aversion, detest. Only one had the secondary meaning of “love less.” Jesus’ is serious about discipleship and therefore uses such a strong word. But what kind fo teaching does Jesus use to make his point? I believe this is hyperbolic teaching. An exaggeration to ensure the point is not missed. The parallel verse (Matt 10.37) helps put this in clearer perspective: “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me…” (ESV). I believe that is the point made in Luke 14.26: your love for family members (father, mother, sister, brother, wife, even children) will look like hatred compared to your love for Christ. And Christ has a right to occupy this place of primacy: he died for us. How can we give him any less?
Atheists usually grab this verse to “catch” Christians in their supposed “folly” which is Christianity. “See,” they say, “Jesus is advocating family hatred. What kind of monster is Jesus that he wants us to hate our kids and wives, etc. Further, this contradicts other places where it says to take care of your family.” Their argument usually goes something like that. While this may be a difficult passage, by no means is it a contradiction. If we truly believe the Bible is the word from God, then it is free from errors. And while there may be some difficult passages, there are good answers for these difficulties. As is stated above, this seems to be a wake up call to all the would-be, fair-weather, milk-toast disciples of the “great crowds” following Jesus. If you want to be a disciple, it will cost you something: all your love and unrivaled devotion to Christ.
A Disciple and His Life
But Jesus does not stop with the family members; he digs even deeper, striking the very heart of the disciple. If you love your own life, you cannot be Jesus’ disciple. Once more opponents will try to seize an opportunity to point out an alleged “contradiction.” “Does Jesus not want us to care for our bodies?” In the same way we are called love Christ more than our family, so also we must love Christ more than our own life. And how can we keep our life when Christ so freely laid his down on our behalf? Jesus teaches we cannot. One writer says, “Martyrdom should be an ever-present possibility to the Christian, not to be courted, but not to be shunned.” Perhaps Jesus is speaking of the time when Christian persecution would be heavy. A disciple who loved his life would desert Christ in the hour of intense persecution. But the disciple who loved his Lord more than his life would remain faithful even to the end of his life. As another writer put it: “Love for Christ takes precedence ‘over even the elemental instinct of self-preservation.'”
A Disciple and the Cross
Perhaps the most severe teaching Jesus gave his disciples focused on the cross in the life of the believer. In 9.23, Jesus says that cross bearing is a 24/7 occupation. Daily we bear the cross. Jesus teaches us once more, in v.27, the necessity to bear the cross. Not only do we bear the cross but we also “come after” or “follow” Jesus. Where is Jesus going? He is on his way to Jerusalem. Why is he going there? To die. So we take our cross and follow Christ to Jerusalem to die as well. We crucify the flesh, putting it to death. Then Christ truly rules and lives in us. As Paul says, “I have been crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I but Christ liveth in me.” Christ came into this world to end lives, you life and mine, so that once we are dead he might live in us and through us. This is the profound meaning behind the cross. Though we die, yet will we live and that with Christ in us. If we shun the cross, this death to self, we cannot be Jesus’ disciple.
A Disciple and Counting the Cost
Jesus has been teaching us what a disciple is to do if he intends to be a true follower of Christ. Now Jesus illustrates the folly of a disciple who does not count the cost. First, he speaks of a person (you) who wants to build a tower with insufficient funds. Unable to finish his work, he is mocked for his folly. This is a ridulous picture! So the disciple needs to take stock to see whether he has the spiritual resources to build his building. We must avoid becoming or making disciples who are unable to finish building. Jesus’ second illustration is of a king who is about to go war with another king. If he has insufficient troops, he will try to establish peace. Count the cost! Obviously, we cannot wage a war with God and hope to win. In fact, before we are in Christ, there is hostilitybetween God and us. Only through Christ do we find the peace we need.
A Disciple and His Possessions
Tied into counting the cost is the fact that we must acknowledge that nothing we have is ours. All we have has been given to us by God. We must renounce it as ours and turn it over to God to be used in his kingdom. It is his stuff anyways.
A Disciple and Salt
To close this section on discipleship, Jesus has a discussion about salt (v.34-35a). What does salt have to do with discipleship? Some would say a disciple is the salt of the earth and they add flavor to the world. Others say that since salt is a preservative, we help preserve the world. Eh. I believe that Jesus is building on the Old Testament sacrificial system. What would salt mean to a Jew? Look at Leviticus 2.13: it is called “the salt of the covenant” and it was a major part of the grain offering which was a fellowship offering. So to a Jew, salt meant covenant, especially in regards to being in fellowship with God. So when Jesus talks about salt, he is calling for the disciple to be salty. In Mark 9.50, the imperative is to “have salt in yourselves” (i.e. be salty). Jesus is imploring us to be covenant people. If you are not a covenant keeper, what good are you. You become useless like tasteless salt, good for nothing but the dung heap.
The meal may be over, but the lesson is still going on. And Jesus’ final admonition is to listen us (v.35b). Can you hear me now? Pay attention lest you lose your saltiness, that very essence of discipleship: covenant. He has issued his decree concerning kingdom dwelling in ch.14. Have we heard and are we doing what he tells us?