The first three “my disciple” statements by Jesus are in Luke 14:25-33. It is from this passage that we discover the role of commitment in the life of a disciple. There are different words that you could use to communicate the main idea of this passage.
Some might use the words radical commitment.
Others might say unwavering trust.
Perhaps, from your point of view, the main idea is prioritized love.
Whichever language you decide on, the point of the text is that when a disciple is posed with the decision to choose Christ or choose something or someone else, they choose Christ.
Is this not the meta narrative of all of Scripture?
In the Garden of Eden, it was a failure to prioritize the LORD that resulted in the the fall of mankind. They were posed with these questions. “Will I trust in the Lord or will I trust in myself? Will I trust God at his Word or will my unbelief lead me to choose another path?”
You see the same dynamic at play throughout Scripture. In the Garden of Eden their was a breach of trust. Since then, God has been pleading with mankind to “walk by faith.”
By that I don’t mean having faith in faith itself. What God wants is for us to believe that He is who he says He is and that He will do what He says he will do. People who find themselves in a right standing with God are those who choose to live a life of faith. That’s what this text is about.
The Cost Of Discipleship
The heading in your copy of God’s Word when you get to Luke 14:25 may say something along the lines of “The Cost of Discipleship.”
According to verse 25, great crowds were following Jesus wherever he went. At this point in his ministry Jesus was very popular. From time to time, Jesus would give a “hard saying” to big crowds as a way of thinning the heard.
Then, just as it is today, people followed Jesus because of what they thought he might do for them. They followed him because of who they had made him out to be in their own mind, a messiah of their own making.
That’s why Jesus would give these hard sayings. It was his way of reminding the crowds what it really means to be his disciple.
There’s a cost associated with following Jesus. This passage is very clear in laying out that cost. There are three scenarios that Jesus lays out in particular.
In each scenario the disciple is faced with the challenge of who or what is going to take priority in the affections of his or her heart? In whom or in what will the disciple ultimately trust? According to Jesus, you must be radically committed to Him above all else if you’re going to follow him as a disciple.
“Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, ‘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. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:25-33)
I always took this passage as Jesus giving his followers a kind of entry exam for being a true disciple. The exam has three questions and they each have to do with loving Jesus more than something or someone else. You might substitute the word the word love with the word faith or trust. In this context, they amount to the same thing.
Loving Jesus More Than Your Family
The first cost, if you’re going to be a disciple of Jesus, is that you must love Jesus more than you love your family. When you first read this passage it’s hard to imagine Jesus saying something like that. We are so far removed from the cultural setting of this statement that it’s intended meaning doesn’t come across as it should.
When Jesus says that a disciple must hate his family in order to be his disciple, what he really means is that disciples must love Jesus more than anyone else in their life, even their family.
This line from Jesus is a Semitic Idiom. We have our own idioms today.
We say things like “that was a piece of cake” if a task was really easy to accomplish. We don’t literally mean it was a pice of cake. We just mean it wasn’t very difficult.
Have you ever said of someone who was being really grouchy that “they must’ve woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning?” You don’t really believe that the geographical location of their sleep matters do you? Of course not. It’s just an idiom.
What about this one? “I’d give my right arm for that last slice of pizza!” Really? You’d give your right arm for a slice of pizza? That seems extreme. The truth is, you’re not trying to be extreme. You are simply using that as an idiom to communicate how strong your desire is for a certain thing.
We could go on but I think you get the point.
When Jesus says you must hate your family he simply means that you must love him more than your family.
In Matthew 10:37 Jesus communicates the same truth without the idiom.
“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.” (Matthew 10:37)
If you’re going to be a disciple of Jesus then you must prioritize your relationship with Jesus over the relationship with your family.
At that time, your family relationships were your most important and precious relationships. The same is true today for most of us. The point Jesus is making is that you must prioritize Him over any earthly dearest whether that’s your family, your friends, or anyone else. That’s what it means to walk by faith. You choose the LORD over any competitor for your heart’s allegiance.
That’s the first cost. The first question on the discipleship entry exam is “will I prioritize my allegiance to Christ over any other human relationship?” Next time, we will look at the last two “my disciple” statements in this passage.