Summary: Sermon #8 in a 13 sermon series on the Preaching of Jesus. Luke 14:25-35 dealing with Jesus' teaching on what it means to be a disciple.
The Cost of Discipleship
CHCC: February26, 2012
It’s said that Abraham Lincoln regularly attended services at a Presbyterian Church in Washington DC. One Sunday, while the Civil War was raging, an aide asked the President what he thought of the sermon. Lincoln answered, “It was a thoughtful and eloquent sermon.” The young man said, “Then you thought it was great?”
Lincoln said, “No, I thought the preacher failed.” The aide was surprised. “Why did he fail?” he asked. President Lincoln answered, “The preacher failed because he did not ask of us something great.” (The Preaching of Jesus by Moore & Weece p.52)
Today we’re going to look at a sermon Jesus preached that probably shocked his audience … because it DID demand something great. This sermon came at the apex of Jesus’ career. Crowds were streaming to him. He was incredibly popular. He was what we’d call a celebrity.
Most people would be thrilled by that kind of attention, but Jesus didn’t seem to have any interest in catering to his audience. You see, Jesus cared more about depth of commitment than he did about the size of the crowd.
1. Complete Commitment
Luke 14:25-26: Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.
“Disciple” is just another word for Christian. The word “disciple” occurs 269 times in the New Testament while the word Christian occurs only 3 times.
Acts 11:26 connects the two terms when it says, “The disciples were first called Christians at Antioch.” The two terms were interchangeable in the Bible in the same way my “wife” is my “spouse” and my “sibling” is my “brother.” If you are a Christian, you are a Disciple.
The people following Jesus considered themselves His Disciples … or at least they were interested in becoming His Disciples. But instead of trying to talk them into it, Jesus seems to be trying to weed them out. Why would Jesus tell them “In order to be my Disciple, you must hate your own family and even your own life.”?
It’s hard to soften this statement because the Greek word translated “hate” is “miseo” and that is a strong word. It is usually used as the opposite of love or honor. Jesus was saying --- in a very blunt way --- that his disciples had to be willing to put Him above anyone and anything.
In Jewish culture there was no greater loyalty than the loyalty you owe your family or clan. To turn away from that loyalty would be seen as a hateful act. In the USA, we don’t usually have that sense of obligation to our extended family … but in most of the world family obligation still trumps just about everything.
I saw the strength of family obligation in India several years ago. A missionary I’d been working with died and left the care of the mission in the hands of his son. Well, his son had married an Indian woman from that area. Within two years most of the workers in the mission had been fired and replaced with her relatives. It was obvious that the work of the mission was not as important as her loyalty to her own clan.
That’s not the way things work for Disciples of Jesus. If we ever have to choose between obedience to Jesus and obligation to family, Jesus must come first.
If that isn’t enough of a challenge to you, look at what Jesus said next: And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:27
2. Carry the Cross
As soon as Jesus said this, I picture the people standing there with their mouths hanging open in shock. The word cross doesn’t affect us they way it would have hit them. We may think of a cross as a decoration … in jewelry or on a church steeple. But in Jesus’ time, the cross was nothing but a gruesome instrument of execution. Imagine Jesus saying, “You can’t be a Christian unless you live on death row. Or “If you want to be my disciple, the strap yourself into an electric chair.”
People were following Jesus because they hoped he was about to lead a successful rebellion against Rome and set up a free and independent Jewish Kingdom. They saw Jesus as a powerful --- miracle-working --- rebel leader.
Jesus was not the first rebel leader who had drawn a big following. Before Jesus, there had been other “wannabe” Messiahs who led rebellions and tried to set up an independent Jewish state. Most of them failed. A few were successful … but only temporarily. All of these rebellions relied on military power, and all of these movements died when their leader died.