ESV Luke 14:25 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.”
We continue to follow Jesus on his journey to Jerusalem through the Gospel of Luke. We are not alone on this journey for we are joining great crowds who also are journeying with Jesus. Starting in verse 25, Luke says “great crowds” accompanied him. In chapter 12 he previously said, “Tens of thousands. So many that they trampled over each other.” Jesus was a very popular person among the common people. We read about a lot of opposition to him from the ruling classes and church leaders, but they were by far outnumbered by the thousands upon thousands of people who did believe in him. And now they were all descending on Jerusalem. Perhaps this helps us understand why it was so hard to arrest Jesus. Many times we are told the Pharisees and chief priests wanted to arrest him but were afraid on account of the people. Now we can understand why they had to enlist an insider like Judas, so they could take him by stealth in the middle of the night. Now we can understand why they had to put him on trial in the wee hours of the morning and get their own henchmen in to shout “crucify him” while the multitudes of common people were still asleep. Now we can understand why Pilate was caught between a rock and a hard spot out of fear of a revolt.
But the word in the original language for accompanying him has the meaning of “going on a journey together.” It’s not as if they were just waving at him along the road as he passed by, nor even just walking along with him. They too were on the same journey as he, heading toward the same destination. Are they going to inherit the same destiny as Jesus? Jesus says, “Yes! Including the cross.” And as disciples of Jesus, we too are on the same journey to the cross with Jesus. Our destiny is the cross and beyond it to resurrection and the eternal banquet in heaven.
But, to be invited to the eschatological banquet has consequences: we must repent and turn from our sins. To receive the gift of the kingdom means to be baptized into Jesus’ death (Rom 6). Jesus warns us that to follow him entails great sacrifice. He gives us three entailments or requirements in this text. Each of these ends with the same words that appear three times, “unless you do this, you cannot be my disciple.” Our Old Testament reading states: “If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you today,…then you shall live and multiply…” Jesus gives us three commandments and accompanies them with three parables.
Look at verse 26: “If anyone comes after me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” The first entailment is: hate your family? Matthew softens it to read, “If you do not love me more than your family, you cannot be my disciple.” However you say it, it can only be understood in the context of Jesus overturning the Jewish laws of kinship and showing that one’s true family is first and foremost the family of God. If one sees this family as of first importance, then one can fear and love God and rightly love and honor fellow Christians and human family in keeping with the Lord’s word: “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.”
Now, verse 27: “Whoever does not take up his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” The second entailment is: take up your cross. This is the second time Jesus has told us this. These are the disciples who had left their family and understood the cost of discipleship. But as they travel with Jesus to Jerusalem they begin to encounter rejection and persecution. This corresponds to the second kind of seed that fell on the rocky soil which sprouted and took root, but then came the hardships and persecutions and sacrifices and they lost their faith and turned away from Jesus.
To illustrate these two entailments, Jesus tells two parables beginning in verse 28: First about a man building a tower. “who from among you would start building a tower without first sitting down and counting the cost to see if he has enough to complete it?” No one, of course! The second parable begins in verse 31 and has the same meaning: “What king going out to meet another king to make war would not first sit down and consider if he is able with his 10,000 to go against the other king with his 20,000?” And if you cannot succeed in battle you must send an envoy to seek terms for peace.
“Therefore, if you want to follow me and be my disciple, you must first count the cost to see if you have what it takes to finish the course.” Don’t start out on the journey to Jerusalem without first counting what it will cost you. Too many today have the idea that being a Christian doesn’t cost anything. At least, we don’t want it to cost us anything and are not ready to pay anything. We want a free ride. We want it to be easy and comfortable. We don’t want to go outside our comfort zones. We don’t want to be inconvenienced. Being a Christian is fine as long as I can keep it to myself so my family and co-workers and fellow students won’t laugh at me. It’s fine as long as it doesn’t require much time or volunteer service in the church. Being a Christian is fine as long as it doesn’t take time away from my job, or conflict with homework and school. It’s fine as long as it doesn’t take us away from sports practices or games. It’s OK to be a Christian if I can sleep in on Sunday morning. It’s just fine as long as I can just go to church now and then rather than every Sunday. That’s our attitude, and all that is sin against the first commandment, because it is idolatry.
But Jesus is saying, “There is a cost. It might cost our job, our fortunes, our time and service. In fact it might cost us our friends, our own family might even turn their backs on us. We could even come under persecution and possibly it could even cost our life. And no, we cannot go on living a life of sin and idolatry. Many today think they can be good Christians and go on sinning and living in immorality at the same time. It is not so! For wide is the gate and easy is the road that leads to destruction (Matthew 7:13). “If you are not willing to pay the price, you cannot be my disciple.” Better to just go home and stop fooling yourself.”
The third entailment is in verse 33: “Any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” Possessions are one of the greatest threats to discipleship. This corresponds to the third kind of seed that fell among the thorns. These are the ones who receive the Word of God with joy, but then come along the cares and riches and pleasures of life and they too fall away from faith. (Luke 8:14). Possessions quickly become our idols. It is our wealth and treasure we trust in to get us through hard times which is idolatry. But where your heart is, there is your treasure. If you are to obey God’s law, which is to love your neighbor, remember that twice in Luke Jesus tells us to “sell all your possessions and give to the poor.” (Luke 12:13; 18:22). And here he says that if you do not renounce all that you have, you cannot be my disciple.
Then comes the final parable or metaphor: salt is good, but if the salt is made foolish, how can it be made salty? It is good for nothing and is thrown out. This is the final end of those who do not meet the requirements for discipleship, for they are the unsalty salt. Those to whom Jesus says, “You cannot be my disciple,” are thrown out and cast away.
And the truth is, this applies to us. For who of us can really hate our mother or father or wife or children or even our own life? Who among us can really take up our cross and are ready to die for Jesus? Who among us is ready to renounce all his possessions? Hence it is to us that Jesus must say, “You are unsalty salt, good for nothing but to be thrown out. You cannot be my disciple. ”
Therefore God himself is the mighty king who as set out to do battle against you. God is the mighty King whom you can in no way stand up to. His perfect law of holiness accuses you of sin and condemns you to eternal death and damnation. If you sit and do the calculations, you will see that in no way have you obeyed. In no way have you fulfilled these requirements for discipleship. You deserve to be cast out and thrown away, and there is no way you can overcome the wrath of God against you; there is no stopping him with his mighty army; there is no defense against his most powerful weapon—the crushing hammer of the law.
You then must send an envoy to seek terms of peace. And that envoy is Jesus Christ. He went to make peace with the King. What were the terms for peace the king offered? What was the treaty they agreed upon? He was! He would have to give his life in exchange for yours. That is the only way God’s anger could be appeased. That is the only way he would relent from his plan to destroy you.
This is the true meaning of this gospel text: Jesus did it for you. Jesus left his Father in heaven. Jesus renounced all that he had—home, riches, glory, power, and even his throne—to come into this world and take up his cross. He did not love even his own life, but gave it up and exchanged it for yours. He sacrificed his life on a cross, poured out his blood and washed you from your sin. You have failed to do all that God has required to be his disciples. Jesus, therefore, did it for you. It is done! God’s demands have been met! Jesus was made perfect, and his perfection counts for you. Jesus was made perfect for you and because of his obedience to God he is the source and author of your salvation (Heb 5:9).
Now you can go with Jesus on his way to the cross. Now you can take up your cross too and die with him; die to the love of the things of this world. For as baptized believers, you have put on the robe of his perfect obedience. Repentant of your sin, for believing in Jesus, you have become salted again. You are like Onesimus who formerly was useless, but now is indeed useful to God and to his church. Jesus is the door and you shall pass through it into everlasting life and glory. Yes, you will bear your cross today, but after it comes the resurrection. Blessed be the Lord our God. Amen.