Luke 14:25-33 may be one of the lectionary readings that will be used in my church on Sept 4; and I’ll be the lay reader. So I’ve been studying it because it is really difficult. Why is Jesus saying you have to hate to be a disciple? And the lesson so often drawn, that he just wants us to make a cost-benefit analysis of following him, seems — cliche-ish to me. Really? Jesus wants us to analyze following him? What happened to just giving water to the thirsty?
Certainly, you have to know your priorities and having wives and children and so on will limit with actions you can take in the world; analyzing that has to be proper, yes?
Here’s some thoughts:
*This is specific to those following him to Jerusalem, where he is going to die and it is going to be very dangerous.
*This seems specific to men “…wives and children”
*Following this passage this the “lost things” passages: the sheep, the coin, the son….There is a surprisingly neglected “cost-benefit” analysis type of thinking that could be represented in those passages too. It is foolish to leave your flock to look for just one sheep. It is foolish to spend all the effort to recover a lost coin. It is foolish to welcome back a son who is a wastrel, a rascal, only coming home because otherwise he dies. Yet those stories (among the many other things they reveal) sort of show that our God is a foolishly loving and hard-at-work God, who will search and keep every sheep, every coin, every lost child.
*The passages before this one are “banquet” passages/parables that I have not studied in depth, but seem to be concerned with community and inclusion.
*At various places in scripture Jesus/God is referred to or symbolized as a Builder and a King. Perhaps there is more to the examples than random-ness….
*Why is Jesus talking about “carrying a cross”? Even if He knew he was to die that way, the people listening didn’t, right? The footnote in my study bible refers back to Luke 9:23-27 which also talks about discipleship and that disciples will have to “take up their cross daily” and follow him. Perhaps this was a common metaphor for trouble. I’ve been taught that crucifixions were, while maybe not “common”, but were well-known, well-understood to a terrible thing, a terrible death. I still find this image really kind of shocking, kind of emotional. Did the original listeners? Did they think, “whoa a cross? I don’t want anything to do with a cross?” Or were they expecting a revolution, to overthrow the Romans, and thought “yes, I’ll do whatever it takes, even if it means the cross.” I just don’t know if I understand this.
So suddenly Jesus is excluding people, and urging them to be strategic… suddenly he is saying following him has a price, not just a healing, not just a dinner, not just joy.
Here’s what I think, or wonder: perhaps Jesus has turned and said this to the followers as a way of saying “don’t hurt me, don’t change my message” — I’m the Builder of a tower, I’ve laid a foundation. If you can’t finish the building with me, don’t mess up those who can, don’t bring ridicule on me. Perhaps Jesus is saying — I’m the King, I’m seriously undermanned in this fight against evil, but I’m fighting anyway. You can leave, with my peace and my blessing, if this evil would overwhelm you and thus weaken me.
So, maybe he is saying to these followers, at this time, to be a disciple now is to say goodbye to family, to home, to comfort, to ease — your “possessions” — and follow me to this last fight? And maybe there is also a message that staying home and being faithful in a smaller way, in a smaller fight, is okay too — just stay “salt-y”, be truly yourself in how you follow Him.
It is quite possible that I’m just resisting the message of having to give up all my possessions…. it could be that simple. This is a hard passage.