Called to Sacrifice
Lesson and Read: Mark 1.16-20; Luke 14.25-33
Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
Luke 14.26-27 (NRSV)
This lesson presents two pictures of discipleship. One comes from the start of Jesus’ ministry (Mark 1.16-20) and one from perhaps its zenith (Luke 14.25-35).
In Mark, Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee and called out to two sets of brothers, Simon and Andrew, James and John. These fishermen dropped their nets and immediately followed after Jesus. Other gospels (Luke 5.1-10; John 1.35-51) indicate that this was not the first meeting between Jesus and these men. They did make a radical decision but they did not leave their businesses without counting the cost. In Luke 14, Jesus’ popularity was at its height. Many “followers” were not disciples. (Today we might say Jesus was “trending,” i.e., the “thing” of the moment). Jesus spoke a word to sober the wild enthusiasm of the crowd. He was on his way to Jerusalem where arrest, torture and crucifixion awaited him. Anyone who would be his disciple had to expect a similar destiny. Jesus was looking for recruits, not spectators. In stark language, Jesus described the cost of true discipleship. Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple (v. 26). The Semitic mind was comfortable with the extreme hyperbole; “hate” described an undivided loyalty. However, the choice to follow Jesus was not to be wholly governed by emotion. The parables in verses 28-25 suggested that one must count the cost of discipleship. A poor or uncalculated decision could be foolish (the inability to finish a tower) or tragic (the slaughter of an outnumbered army).
Jesus challenges us. Do we consider what we have (possessions, positions, relationships) to be of greater value than our commitment to him? What we have will not last; it is like the salt compound found around the Dead Sea, which did lose its flavor and was then useless. The cross of Christ is more than an ornamental accessory. Following Jesus is not a guarantee of comfort; it is a call to sacrifice.
Reverend Steven B. Lawrence