25Now large crowds were traveling with him; and he turned and said to them, 26“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. 27Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. 28For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? 29Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, 30saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. 33So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions. 34“Salt is good; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? 35It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; they throw it away. Let anyone with ears to hear listen!”
The scene has changed, but there are connections to the things Jesus said at the dinner – to being humble, to making Jesus and the Kingdom of God priority. Now large crowds gather, enthusiastically they are following him; but, are they really? Will they really be followers, or are they out for a day’s entertainment, a circus? Jesus says, if you really want to be my followers, I have to come first, before family, and even life itself. The word translated “hate” is an expression that means to turn away from or to detach from – it is not an emotional word, but a direction, an ordering of priorities.
Fred Craddock passed away last week. He was a theologian and preacher, and taught at Candler Seminary at Emory in Atlanta; and he was a humble man, finishing his days in the little North Georgia town of Cherry Log. I use his “Interpretation, Bible Commentary: Luke” quite often. Here are a couple of quotes from that book regarding this passage. “What does Jesus have to say to hasty volunteers? In sum, his word is, Think about what you are doing and decide if you are willing to stay with me all the way.” And then a paragraph later, “What is demanded of disciples, however (rather than “hate” as we define hate in an emotional sense), is that in the network of many loyalties in which all of us live, the claim of Christ and the gospel not only takes precedence but, in fact, redefines the others. This can and will necessarily involve some detaching, some turning away.”
Think about it, Jesus says, before you claim to be a follower – are you willing to carry your cross, are you willing to make the Kingdom of God your number one priority? If you were going to build a house, wouldn’t you make sure you had what was needed to finish the job before you began? If you were a king going to battle, wouldn’t you make sure you could win before you committed troops? And once you think about it, once you commit, you must make me your number one priority – you must take up your cross and follow, at all costs.
You and I have little cost to following Jesus – we might have to give up a morning of fishing to come to church, put aside our anger over something to love our church community, give of our abundance to support the church. But there are many in this world who are persecuted or killed for following Christ, and that has grown in recent years. In Nigeria, where the church had grown over the past decade, Christians are being kidnapped and killed, school children carried away and sold into marriage or slavery; of course, we all are aware of the Christians beheaded, and more kidnapped by Isis. Bishop Ken Carter has asked us to all pray for the Christians who are being persecuted. This is not a call to persecute someone else ourselves, not a call to holy war; this is a call to pray for those who are being persecuted. This we can do.