Summary: Prioritising commitments, bearing the Cross, and counting the cost of discipleship
PUTTING JESUS FIRST
I. Prioritising commitments
Jesus, it has to be admitted, is a great orator. Seeing the crowds following Him, He turned (Luke 14:25), and spoke words that were designed to shock, and even offend His hearers. In a masterstroke of hyperbole, He took their basic presuppositions - even their Old Testament family values - and dashed them to the ground (Luke 14:26)!
Of course, “hate” (Luke 14:26) is used comparatively. The word is used to shock us out of apathy, to deflect us from a merely casual attitude to following Jesus. ‘He who loves father or mother MORE THAN ME is not worthy of me’ (Matthew 10:37).
This teaching should not surprise us. It was already hinted at in Jesus’ attitude to His ‘mother and brethren’ (Luke 8:19-21). Even as a youth, Jesus had indicated a preference for ‘His heavenly Father’s business’ (Luke 2:48-50).
Earlier in this chapter, at the house of one of the chief Pharisees (Luke 14:1), Jesus even went so far as to tell His host who to invite to his banquets (Luke 14:12-14)! The Lord does not mean to undermine the law of God (Matthew 5:17): but nevertheless our love of family must not run counter to, or in collision with, the priority of ‘seeking God, His kingdom, and His righteousness’ (Matthew 6:33). Later Jesus would speak of the reward that awaits those who put the cause of the kingdom of God before family (Luke 18:28-30).
II. Bearing the Cross (Luke 14:27)
1. If you wish to follow Jesus, you must learn self-denial. You must ‘deny yourself’ (Luke 9:23). The Christian life involves choosing the way of God rather than our own path.
You must follow the example of Jesus, who surrendered Himself to the will of His Father. Jesus prayed: ‘Not my will, but yours be done’ (Luke 22:42). He teaches us to pray likewise: “Your will be done” (Luke 11:2). You should give up your selfish ambitions, and submit to His purposes in your life.
2. The follower of Jesus is called to a life of self-sacrifice. You must ‘take up your cross daily’ (Luke 9:23). The Apostle Paul understood this (Galatians 2:20). In baptism we receive our initiation into the Christian community in terms of death and resurrection: ‘even so we also should walk in newness of life’ (Romans 6:4).
You should die to self, and live for God (Colossians 3:2-3). For some disciples, this also involved following Jesus to physical death. Such should be the level of commitment for those who are serious about being Christians.
3. If you would follow Jesus, you must be willing to walk with Him, and to go wherever He leads (Luke 9:23). The Christian walk is not easy. It may make you unpopular. It may bring ostracism (Matthew 10:22,24). The gospel sets even family members at variance with one another (Matthew 10:34-38).
Jesus has walked the road of rejection before us. He will also be with you when you follow in that lonely path. He will comfort and encourage you.
4. You must ‘crucify’ the flesh daily. You must resist the devil. You must overcome the world. There is a crown of glory laid up for you which makes it all worthwhile (Matthew 10:39).
III. Counting the cost (Luke 14:28-33)
The two examples Jesus next places before us are somewhat comical, but we can draw genuine lessons from real life.
1. On Calton Hill in Edinburgh, Scotland, there is an unfinished replica of the Parthenon in Athens. This national monument became known as Tait’s ‘folly’ when the funds for the project ran dry. “This man began to build, and was not able to finish” (Luke 14:30).
2. When King Henry V of England invaded France, he calculated the cost, and won his war even though he had a much smaller force. Some years later King Edward IV made a flamboyant gesture of intention to invade France once again. King Louis of France did just what Jesus describes here: “he sent for terms of peace” (Luke 14:32).
The “cost” (Luke 14:28) of Christian discipleship is total commitment. We must hold the things of this world with a loose hand. We must “renounce all” (Luke 14:33) that prevents us from following aright.