Luke 14:25-35 (ESV)
25 Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple. 34 “Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? 35 It is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
Great crowds followed Jesus. He knew that some didn’t understand what it really meant to follow him, so he gave a strong exhortation about what a real disciple looks like. During Jesus’ lifetime, the word “Christian” didn’t exist. In fact, the term wasn’t coined until years later to describe a group of believers that met in Antioch. The most common words for followers of Jesus were “brothers,” “disciples” or “believers.” So Jesus stopped the crowd and said anyone who doesn’t hate his closest relatives or even his very own life cannot be his disciple. What did he mean? Does he want us to hate others and even our own life? No! He was expressing to the crowd that their relationship with him had to be priority. So much so, that the other relationships in life might feel like hate at times in comparison. Then Jesus said the Christian or the disciple must be willing to pick up his cross and follow after him. Under Roman rule, when a convicted criminal carried his cross, it was supposed to be a sign of admission to the charges against him. Jesus’ followers had to be ready to admit he was right and their willingness to follow him, even if the path led to suffering or to death. Jesus illustrated these principles with two examples explaining the potential disciples’ need to consider the cost associated with their choice to follow him.
Jesus closed by saying, “Any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” Wow! That was quite a charge. But that is what Jesus said. Jesus must be the disciple’s first love and first priority, even if hardship and suffering should result. In the first century, when Jesus spoke these words, a commitment to him could result in rejection from one’s own family or even one’s entire community. Although it’s tough to stand up for Jesus today, it’s still far more acceptable than it was when he gave this command. For thousands of years, believers have embraced all sorts of hardships to stay loyal to Christ. Jesus said no one should make the decision to follow him lightly. Either we are all in or all out. If you are compromising your allegiance to Jesus in any area of your life, put an end to it today. If his first followers could do it, then so can we—with his help!