Summary: Jesus says, “If anyone comes to me and doesn’t hate his father, mother, wife, children, brothers, and sisters--and yes, even his own life--he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26).
In the Gospel reading for today, we possibly find Jesus at the height of His success, as we measure it. Never had He enjoyed such large crowds. People flocked to Him--and the numbers just grew larger and larger as He got closer to Jerusalem. Yet, Jesus has to ruin it by preaching a bunch of hard truths the people can’t stomach.
If we were there to advise Jesus, we’d probably tell Him, “Come on, Jesus! Don’t you care about all those people following you? Soft-peddle it; tell them what they want, so they will keep following you.”
But that’s not Jesus. He doesn’t compromise the truth, for that would be compromising Himself, the One who is Truth. Jesus says, “If anyone comes to me and doesn’t hate his father, mother, wife, children, brothers, and sisters--and yes, even his own life--he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26). “In the same way, whoever doesn’t give up everything that he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33).
You can almost hear the mission department of our Synod gasping.
Jesus, that’s not the way to win a following! You have to give the people something they want and like. Such talk will only cause people to rebel and leave in droves.
Jesus, we know following You involves sacrifice but, if you can, keep those demands to a minimum. Let those demands lie silent in the dust. Give the people something achievable. Give them what they like. Otherwise, they will go somewhere else and listen to some other rabbi.
But that’s not Jesus. He doesn’t want anyone to be His disciple who hasn’t “calculated the cost.”
Remember that Jesus is on His way to Jerusalem. He knows what awaits Him there. He knows that this crowd will grow to its greatest on Palm Sunday, as He rides triumphantly on a donkey into the city. Yet, He knows that as the week wears on, the crowds will begin to dwindle. He knows that, by Friday, those around Him will cry--not “Hosanna!”--but “Crucify Him!” He knows that, in the end, He will be alone. Before the end, His many followers will abandon Him, even His Father.
Jesus knows all that, and so He speaks the hard truths needed. Jesus wants the crowd to know what God expects of them if they are to be His disciples. Jesus is simply telling it like it is, using abrasive, Jewish speech patterns to a Jewish crowd.
Jesus is using exaggeration to make His point. Jesus is telling us to “hate,” but not in an emotional way. Jesus Christ, Love Incarnate, isn’t commanding us to “hate” as we use and understand the word. He’s not commanding us to store up resentment, bitterness, or rage against others. Jesus isn’t using “hate” in that way.
What Jesus means by “hate” is something different. For Jesus, “hate” is not so much a feeling, but a choice of the will. Even if your emotions tell you otherwise, whom will you always serve, above all others? That’s what Jesus means!