Great crowds were traveling with him, and he turned and addressed them, “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. Which of you wishing to construct a tower does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if there is enough for its completion? Otherwise, after laying the foundation and finding himself unable to finish the work the onlookers should laugh at him and say, ‘This one began to build but did not have the resources to finish.’ Or what king marching into battle would not first sit down and decide whether with ten thousand troops he can successfully oppose another king advancing upon him with twenty thousand troops? But if not, while he is still far away, he will send a delegation to ask for peace terms. In the same way, every one of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:25-33)
Today’s scripture has three very different metaphors which all carry the same message.
How much are we willing to live a Christ filled life?
Jesus was utterly honest and spared no words to tell his disciples that it would cost them dearly to be his disciples – it would cost them their whole lives and all they possessed in exchange for the new life and treasure of God’s kingdom.
Our faith in Jesus is supposed to revolutionize the way we relate to our family, our property, our pleasures, even our own life. To be a faithful disciple, he says, is going to cost us and cost us dearly.
It’s tempting to try to soften Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel, as if he really didn’t or couldn’t mean them literally, because they are so challenging. It’s tempting to try to reduce the price tag of the faith, as if Jesus were running a Yard Sale and we could haggle the cost down to something we think a bargain.
If our end is truly to be Jesus’ disciple, we’ve got to face three things we’re often tempted to overlook or minimize.
The first condition is: “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.” In other words, Jesus must be our greatest love. The word “hate,” in Hebrew, does not mean “detest” but to “put in second place.” Jesus, after all, calls us to honor our parents and love them, not despise them or anyone else. If he calls us to love even our enemies, then we are certainly called to love our families.
The point of Jesus’ expression is that we must love him more than we love ourselves or our loved ones. Jesus cannot just be a part of our life but the center.
The second condition Jesus describes is, “Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” Jesus tells us that we cannot be his disciple unless we’re prepared to suffer out of love for him and others.
The important word in Jesus’ admonition is the word “carry”—whoever does not carry his own cross. What Jesus is trying to tell us is that it is only by carrying our cross, by taking it up, that we will be free. Now you and I usually do anything other than carry our cross. We deny the cross, pretending it’s not there. We try to go on with life as usual. But the denial only pushes down our fear and our anger within us. We try to drag the cross behind us, pushing ahead, saying “This is not going to stop me!” But in time, the cross wears us out, and we collapse in exhaustion.
Once we put the cross on our shoulders, we are free to move forward into life. Yes, at times the cross is heavy. It is a burden. But it need not prevent us from love and hope. And Christ, who carried his own cross, will be with us. Once we take up the cross, and begin to carry it, Jesus is immediately at our side, supporting us, and saying, “Courage. Let’s take this one step at a time. Follow me into glory.”
The third condition is, “None of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.” We cannot help but think of the parable of the Rich Young Man who chose his material gifts rather than Jesus. Jesus says that we cannot be his disciple unless we’re prepared to choose differently from the Rich Young Man, to detach ourselves from our possessions to attach ourselves to the treasure of Jesus.
“No one can serve two masters; for he will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other,” he told us during the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 6:24). He then gave that sentence a clear practical application: “You cannot serve both God and money” (Mt 6:24).
Jesus does not mean that we necessarily have to liquidate our bank accounts tomorrow. Jesus who calls us to love him above all our things is prepared to give us all the help he knows we need to be poor in spirit, but we have to receive that gift and act in accordance with it. The price of discipleship is, in some sense, the actual value of all we own.
Jesus offers us a path to his father’s kingdom. It boils down to choosing between life and death, truth and falsehood, goodness and evil. If we choose for the Lord Jesus and put our trust in him, he will guide us on the way that leads to true joy and happiness with our Father in heaven.
Prayer of The Day
“Lord Jesus, you are my Treasure, my Life, and my All. There is nothing in this life that can outweigh the joy of knowing, loving, and serving you all the days of my life. Take my life and all that I have and make it yours for your glory now and forever.”
We were once slaves to sin and a kingdom of darkness and oppression, but we have now been purchased with the precious blood of Jesus Christ who has ransomed us from a life of darkness and destruction so we could enter his kingdom of light and truth. Christ has set us free to choose whom we will serve in this present life as well as in the age to come.