Lectionary 23 C 2022 “The Cost of Discipleship”
Grace to you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Our gospel Text today is a hard text to swallow. Listen again to the teaching of our Lord and Savior. “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, even life itself, cannot be my disciple… None of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all of your possessions.”
Wow. “Hate your father, hate your mother, hate your wife, hate your children, hate your brothers, hate your sisters, hate even life itself, and give up all your possessions. And then, and only then will you be ready to take up your Cross and follow me.”
What is Jesus talking about? Has Jesus forgotten the fourth commandment? Did not Jesus teach us that love summarizes all the commandments? Did not Jesus also teach us that we are to love our enemies and treat each other the way that we would like to be treated? Has Jesus forgotten that God is love?
You know, this is not the gentle Jesus I came to know as a child. And this is not the happy Jesus that smiled at me when I read my children’s illustrated Bible. And this is not the peaceful Jesus that we have all come to expect from our years attending Sunday School and Bible Study.
So, what is going on in our text today? Why is Jesus so harsh with His disciples and us? And the answer to these questions is this. In our text today Jesus is offering us a sobering reality check concerning the nature of our faith.
“Count the cost of discipleship” Jesus informed the crowd. When we follow Him on His journey to the Cross, it will mean we will have to abandon all other commitments and loyalties. And this will not be an easy thing to do.
It is worth pointing out that Jesus spoke these words just as His popularity was hitting new highs. Large crowds were following Him. And the folks in the crowd were not always following Christ for the right reasons. And the expectations the people had when they followed Christ were not always in line with God’s plan for our lives. And the same is true for us today.
Years ago, there was a billboard on I-10 heading into Houston that displayed a man wearing a nice suit, sitting beside a beautiful woman in a brand-new convertible sports car, with his hand stretched out displaying an expensive ring.
The caption underneath the picture read “Join us for worship.” And the point the billboard was trying to make is when you worship with us, all this can be yours. In other words, if you come and worship with us, you will have the perfect marriage, the brand-new sports car, and the good things in life.
Well, my friends, nothing could be further from the truth. As a Christian, our goal is not to seek out all the goodies, success, and pleasures of the world. Why? Because Jesus is calling us to a new way of life that is not based upon the values and rewards of this world.
Jesus was on His way to the Cross. And pain, suffering, and death was at the end of the road Jesus was traveling as He made His way to Jerusalem.
Following Him, therefore, would involve leaving behind all the people that they loved and detaching themselves from the lives that they had always known.
And that is why Jesus used the word hate. He used the emotion as a hyperbole to catch the attention of the people who followed Him.
Today we use hyperboles to get our point across, too. We say things such as “I am so hungry I could eat a horse.” Or “I have a million things to do today.” Or “You could have knocked me over with a feather.”
Jesus used hyperbole to emphasize the consequences of following Him.
When we pick up our Cross and follow Him, our families and our friends are no longer the most important people in our lives. God is number one. And when we realize this the text we have before us begins to make sense.
Martin Luther put it this way. “We are to fear, love, and trust God above anything else.”
Yes, our journey with Christ will take us out of our comfort zones. Our walk with Jesus will change our priorities and perceptions concerning ourselves, our families, and our lives. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we love God first. And that is good news for everyone that we love in this world, because God is the source of love.
When God is the center of our lives, we can love others, including our family, friends, and neighbors, with a love rooted in God’s love for us.
One of my favorite prayers in our liturgy is the prayer we pray right after receiving Holy Communion. It goes like this “We give you thanks, Almighty God, that you have refreshed us through the healing power of this gift of life; and we pray that in your mercy you would strengthen us, though this gift, in faith towards you and in fervent love towards one another; for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
Did you hear why I love this prayer? I love this prayer because we pray that we would all would be strengthened: “In faith towards you and in fervent love towards one another.” And that is a good summary of the Christian life, is it not?
As we hear the “Cost of Discipleship” this morning, let us rejoice in the gift of love given to us through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, you came to us in our bondage, and led us to freedom by the cross and resurrection. May our lives praise you, and our lips proclaim your mighty power to all people that they may find their hope in you, and live to your glory, now and forever. Amen.