Summary: Jesus demonstrates for us that there is a difference between salvation and discipleship.
Other Scripture used:
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Amen. (Psalm 19:14)
God’s definitely got great timing and an odd sense of humor doesn’t he? My mom is here visiting this week for my ordination, and this is only the second time she’s heard me preach — and the first time since I graduated seminary.
So today’s Gospel reading starts off with “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, … cannot be my disciple.” If there’s any verse in the Bible that preachers try to shy away from — especially when their parents are in town — it’s this one.
The word “hate” means something different from the way we use it today, but I’ll explain that as we get a little further along.
We’re entering the season in the church calendar when the Gospel readings contain what are called the “hard sayings of Jesus,” those Gospel passages that are the most jarring to us, and often the most difficult to interpret.
This is also the season when many senior pastors and priests go on vacation, leaving their junior clergy to deal with the challenges of these particular Gospel readings.
Jesus wants us to expend that extra effort to figure out what he’s really telling us, instead of just taking it at face value, and incorrectly, and then dismissing what he has said as being out of touch.
In our Gospel today Jesus demonstrates for us that there is a difference between salvation and discipleship.
II. Salvation vs. Discipleship
Our Gospel reading begins with large crowds following Jesus, and Jesus being rather unimpressed. He understood that most of the people were merely there for the show. They wanted to see the miracles. They heard there might be food — lots of food. Some were looking for a Messiah who would lead a revolt against Rome, overthrowing the oppressors by force. They wanted to change their situation — not their souls.
So Jesus turned to the crowd, and deliberately preached a sermon guaranteed to thin out his audience. He told them in very definite language that there is a difference between salvation and discipleship.
That difference is quantity versus quality. Jesus wants as many souls to be saved as possible, but true followers face a higher standard.
A disciple is an apprentice, or learner (máèçôÞò). A disciple grafts himself to his teacher, learning everything he or she can by watching the master and doing what he does. The disciple’s life becomes modeled after the master’s. His old life is left behind as he embarks on a new life as the master’s apprentice. We get the word “discipline” and “disciple” from the same concept. It takes an incredible amount of discipline to truly be a disciple.
Yet “disciple” is the most common name used in the Bible for the followers of Jesus. In the Gospels and the Book of Acts, the word appears 264 times.
Warren Weirsbe points out that salvation is ours by coming to the cross and trusting Jesus Christ, while discipleship means carrying the cross and following him.
III. Hate as Legal Term
“Hate” is usually a legal term in the Bible meaning rejection, as in rejecting any claim to property or inheritance. It is also used as hyperbole in comparisons for emphasis. Jesus came, as he said, to fulfill the law not to violate it, and Mosaic Law says to honor your father and mother, as well as loving the rest of your family. So obviously Jesus isn’t telling us to break his won commandments.
For example, in Malachi 1:2-3, we read “Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” declares the LORD “Yet I have loved Jacob; but I have hated Esau, and I have made his mountains a desolation and appointed his inheritance for the jackals of the wilderness.” (NASB)
The New Living Translation says “I have ‘rejected’ Esau.”
When Jesus is saying we must hate our families, and even life itself, he is using hyperbole to emphasize the point that we must love Jesus so much more than anything or anyone else in our lives, or we will never be able to withstand the burden of carrying our cross each day as we follow him.
IV. Carrying the Cross
Carrying the cross means living as Jesus lived and doing what Jesus did every single day of our lives. It requires a selfless focus on how Jesus would face whatever we are facing at the moment, and how he would expect us to handle it.
Carrying the cross is a humbling acceptance of the unfairness of life, recognizing that peacemaking is more Christlike than making the other person admit they were wrong.