Summary: Luke 14:25-33 is usually seen as Jesus’ advice to his disciples to be committed to him above all. But Jesus didn’t follow that advice and we thank God he didn’t because he went way beyond human logic and calculation to become our Savior and Lord.
Thank God Jesus Didn’t Follow His Own Advise
Jesus said, “Anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. "Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, `This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ "Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.”
You may or may not know that one of the struggles of preaching in our Lutheran church is that we use a lectionary of readings from the Bible that repeat every three years. So if a preacher sticks around for at least four years he must study and possibly preach from the same lesson he encountered just three years before. As I studied this passage another time I came to realize something I never thought about before. Rather than just blurt out the revelation I would like to take you along on my trail of thought.
This passage is usually interpreted as a piece of important advice Jesus gave on how to become His disciple. One typical and interesting sermon I read on this passage actually drew out of this passage 5 marks of being a disciple. Briefly they are based on the topics Jesus mentions in this discourse. Jesus mentions family so the preacher says that means, “Love Jesus supremely”, when Jesus mentions the cross that means, “Live like a dead person”, when Jesus mentions the tower it means, “Value a good finish.” The war story means we are to surrender to a stronger king, and the salt means to stay pure and preserve goodness. That is well crafted and makes some sense. But it dawned on me that this discourse of Jesus may be more personal than that. What I mean is that he may be talking about himself rather than his disciples. And if that is the case then I for one am glad that he didn’t take his own advice.
On the surface Jesus’ words refer to His disciples attitudes and actions. But I contend that they really refer to himself and his attitudes and actions. Here’s what I mean. In the first illustration Jesus talks about a family divided. There is a need for the disciple to hate his family according to this interpretation. But this contradicts other clear directives by Jesus to love one another especially in our families. Some members are rejected in this family and this is the way it needs to be. Jesus here is talking about his own family—the human family. That is the family who hated him. It hated him so much that they falsely tried and convicted Jesus of insurrection and blasphemy. It hated Jesus so much that they rejected him and had him scourged. It hated Jesus so that they put him on a cross to suffer in the agony of that slow and painful death. It reminds us that the family of mankind rejected Jesus but Jesus didn’t reject his family. He embraced us and loved us and gave his own life for us even though we rejected him. We wouldn’t have a clue of what real family love was were it not for Jesus’ love for us—a self-sacrificing love that surrounds us with his unconditional care and concern for each one of us.
In the next illustration Jesus talks about the need to measure and plan for the cost of constructing this tower. Most of the time we hear the interpretation that this means that we need to be shrewd and calculating, resourceful and logical in our daily plans. But he’s really talking about himself and his own building of the tower of our salvation. And in that project he never considered the cost with human logic or calculation. It was the most costly work anyone had ever done. It cost him his very life. No human being would have considered suffering and dying on a cross worth the cost. It was too painful, too humiliating, too degrading, too scornful, too shameful to even consider. But Christ considered our freedom from sin and death worth the price he had to pay—the price of his own shed blood and agonizing death. He abandoned human logic and went beyond human resourcefulness. And all so that we could rise above the sin and death of this world and stand on that tower with heads held high in God’s presence. We are forgiven because Jesus counted the cost in a different way—God’s way, and brought us from our sorrow and pain into a land of hope and love through his sorrow and pain.