Luke 14:25-35 (Pentecost 13C)

St. John, Galveston 9/4/2022

Rev. Alan Taylor

+ In Nomine Jesu +

Grace and peace to you, from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

The Gospel reading for this morning is about discipleship, what it means to be a follower of Jesus. It’s one of those words we use a lot, but it’s meaning is multifaceted. And so, if I were to ask you this morning to define the word “disciple,” or to finish the phrase “A disciple of Jesus is _________,” I’m sure there would be many different responses. C.S. Lewis, the 20th century English Scholar and Christian apologist, once said, “To be a Christian (a disciple) means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.”  The same author, suggested a certain uneasiness associated with discipleship when he wrote, “I didn’t go to church to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of port would do that. (He went on to say,) If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I don’t recommend Christianity.” 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German Lutheran theologian who was put to death by order of the Nazis party in WWII, spoke often of the cost of discipleship, suggesting that while God’s grace and forgiveness are freely given, the disciple bears a cost in his or her journey from this life to the next. He said, “when Jesus calls us to follow Him, He bids us to come to Him and die.” “Cheap grace (he says) is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”

In Luke 14, Jesus speaks of yet another aspect of discipleship. He says, “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.” By my estimation, and I suspect by yours as well, the word “hate” in that passage stands out like a giant pink elephant standing on one foot in the middle of the room. It does so mainly because we don’t expect Jesus to speak of hate affirmatively. Nor do we expect Him to speak of hate as a defining characteristic of discipleship.

So unsettling is Jesus’ statement, that some Bible scholars, as well as other students of the Scriptures, have attempted to soften what He says. Some do so by suggesting that Jesus’ use of the word “hate,” in this instance, is a Hebraism, that is, a peculiar use that means something like “in comparison to.” Understood as a Hebraism, Jesus is saying, your love for your family should be as hatred when compared to your love for Me. 

But if we look at how the word hate is used, both here in Luke 14, and in the rest of the New Testament, we’ll find that a different use of it isn’t warranted in this instance. The word is miseo, which means, simply “to hate.” Now, being that God gave us the Ten Commandments, and told us that they are fulfilled by the Law of love, love for Him and love for our neighbor, and being that the fourth commandment calls us to love and honor our parents, Jesus certainly isn’t calling us here to hate anyone in a malicious, or hurtful way. 

As disciples, we aren’t called then to not love our father, mother, wife and children; we aren’t called to harm our family, or wish them ill either; rather, we are called to heed the radical nature of the call Jesus places on those who would follow him, to count the cost and to realize “any one of us who does not renounce all that we have cannot be (Jesus’) disciple.” Frankly, this is a theme that has been building throughout Luke’s Gospel. There is a very real cost to being a follower of Jesus. In fact, it will cost the entirety of your being.

Now, what happens when you count the cost of being a disciple of Jesus? What happens when you think about the things you may have to give up to follow Jesus, or when you think of the relationships in your life that can never be put over and above your relationship with God? What happens when you are called upon to sacrifice, or suffer for the sake of your faith in Jesus? What conclusions do you draw?

In this regard, Simon Peter comes to mind. Do you remember Peter’s story, his counting the cost of discipleship in his life? At one point he told Jesus that even though everyone else was going to forsake Him, he never would. The cost as Peter perceived it, even if it meant death, seemed like something he believed he could and would bear. 

But he was sadly mistaken. When the time came to stand up and be counted as a disciple of Jesus, Peter chose a safer, though lesser path. In the end, the cost of being a disciple of Jesus was simply too much for him to bear. He loved his own life and his safety more than he loved God. “Which of you (Jesus says), desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’

Counting the cost of discipleship, hopefully we don’t come to the conclusion that “I’ve got this.” “I can do it.” “This is a slam dunk.” Rather, we come face to face with a stark reality that is true of every disciple of Jesus. We are utterly unable to reconcile ourselves to God, to save ourselves, and to live the difficult Christian life of sacrifice and suffering that God calls us to. It is simply beyond our strength and our resolve to do so.

Thankfully, the grace of God in Christ Jesus that declares us holy and righteous before God, is the same grace that leads us down the path of life that is set before us. We bear the cost of being His disciples by His grace and in His strength. And, where we fail, He forgives us and restores us. Indeed, to Peter, He said, “tend my sheep, feed my lambs.

Martin Luther, who obviously was a pastor and teacher of God’s Word, touched beautifully in a prayer on what it means to be a disciple of Jesus and how the disciple leans on Christ for everything. “Lord God (he said), you have placed me in your church. You know how unsuitable I am. Were it not for your guidance I would long since have brought everything to destruction. I wish to give my heart and mouth to your service. I desire to teach your people, and long to be taught your work. Use me as your workman, dear Lord. Do not forsake me; for if I am alone, I shall bring all to naught. Amen.”

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.

+ Soli Deo Gloria +