Sunday sermon 8 September – Following Jesus? Seriously?
So how do you feel about having to hate your family in order to be a disciple of Jesus?
Listen to verse 26 of today’s reading again:
26 ‘If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters – yes, even their own life – such a person cannot be my disciple.
There are a couple of ways around this – if you think it’s a bit over the top.
Context is everything! Maybe verse 25 will clear it up:
25 Large crowds were travelling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: 26 ‘If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters – yes, even their own life – such a person cannot be my disciple.
Maybe he was sifting out the rabble – those extras hanging around.
With the cross looming – maybe that was a good thing! After all we read in Luke 9:51
As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.
He certainly was addressing the large crowds. If it was a sifting process – well there is evidence that He got it right.
Have a look at Jesus’ church growth chart:
Of course he does not just offend them with the “hating family” story. He goes on to say to them:
27 And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
Both of these are offensive and challenging. Family was everything in those days – it was your source of education and training, income, and your very identity. Think about the names they had – Simon son of John etc. You were identified by the very father that you were to hate.
And they knew crucifixion. They saw people carrying their own crosses under the Roman tyranny – on their way to hang up in a public place as a warning to others.
IS THERE A WAY AROUND THIS?
Yes and no.
There is a principle in Bible interpretation that seems to evade some people. The wider context and weight of the whole Bible determines how you figure things out.
Clearly Jesus was not against families. He loved and welcomed children. He ate in peoples’ homes. He had some serious things to day about marriage and divorce.
And the bible is clear in other ways. Jesus would have upheld the commandments – especially number 5.
Blank looks. Oh number FIVE!
Exo 20:12 “Honour your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.
But in reality there is no escape – because Jesus modelled this conflict in calling in his own life. It started pretty early in Luke chapter 2:
Luk 2:44 Thinking he was in their company, they travelled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends.
Luk 2:45 When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him.
Luk 2:46 After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.
Luk 2:47 Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers.
Luk 2:48 When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”
Luk 2:49 “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”
Luk 2:50 But they did not understand what he was saying to them.
Luk 2:51 Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart.
And early in Mark’s gospel as an adult there are issues with His calling and his family:
Mar 3:20 Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat.
Mar 3:21 When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”
And 10 verses later:
Mar 3:31 Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him.
Mar 3:32 A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.”
Mar 3:33 “Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked.
Mar 3:34 Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers!
Mar 3:35 Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”
What then is the key?
If family was the essence of a person’s identity then – Jesus clearly redefied identity in terms of obedience.
Following him was costly.
Yes it is an hyperbole – a deliberate exaggeration.
You have to hate them (family) in order to really love and follow Jesus!
You have to hate darkness (and sin) in order to really love the light and walk in it!
It is about contrasts. And don’t forget it’s not just the family. Listen again:
‘If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters – yes, even their own life – such a person cannot be my disciple.
You have to hate your own life!
It is not really surprising that most of Jesus’ first disciples were single (it seems only Peter has a wife worthy of mention albeit indirectly – the reference is to his mother in law!).
Paul was single too!
To make triply sure that people got the message on that day, at least – Jesus tells two stories – one about building towers. There were a lot of incomplete towers in those days. How do I know? Well I wasn’t there (in case you think I am very old) – historians fill the gaps.
And going to war with someone who has double the numbers in his army is just dumb. That King would make peace. With all the wars on right now one wishes they too would make peace – the cost is so high.
These stories illustrate the need to be VERY SURE before you run off after Jesus! This is not easy!
He ends with:
33 In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.
Is this too hard? Yes following the call of Jesus is extremely hard.
What would he say to us today?
Probably something like: “Are you serious? Seriously?”
“Are you with the programme? Really?” ”Are you on board with this?”
The past two weeks we looked at the Kingdom – and Jesus call to Seek first the Kingdom of God.
This is the King in the Kingdom! Calling us to follow.
Man this is hard.
People are already making sacrifices for their kids – their jobs – their futures – sport – clubs – endless activities.
And we have all kinds of commitments – we owe people favours in return for what they have done for us.
We have all these obligations.
And here comes Jesus saying – this is real sacrifice. This matters.
Well there are two great sayings: “Don’t shoot me I’m only the pianist” and “don’t shoot me, I’m only the messenger!”
Ha ha – both can work for me!
One of my favourite writers – David Lose – talks about how to make this modern. He suggests something like this:
So maybe we should contemporize Jesus’ parable a bit and ask, “What parent wouldn’t count the cost before signing up for the traveling soccer team and what new employee wouldn’t consider whether she is willing to work every weekend her first year?” Do you see what I mean? Our people are already making sacrifices, and in this passage Jesus is saying that Christian discipleship calls for the same.
Look, I get it. Our whole family is happier when our eldest is swimming and has a chance to pour all the extra energy (and hormones!) of adolescence into the pool rather than have it spill out all over the place at home. And so we have at times made that a priority to the exclusion of church activities. But over the long haul I also want him to have a life marked by relationship with God, by confidence in God’s love for him and all the world, and by the knowledge that whatever may happen or wherever he may go, God is with him.
And that takes sacrifice. That’s a challenge for parents – who commit themselves to all kinds of things for their kids!
Sadly – coming to worship is not high on the list. We need to make it so!
Will you follow this Jesus? You’d better count the cost. Seriously!