Meditation on Luke 14:26,27
I have a book in my library entitled The Hard Sayings of Jesus. The title is taken from a phrase in the King James translation of John 6:60. Jesus had just said, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life.” And His listeners responded by remarking, “This is a hard saying” … no doubt referring to the notion of eating His flesh and drinking His blood. A ‘hard saying’ is a statement that is hard because it is difficult to understand. What appears on the surface is startling and seems, sometimes, to be something Jesus would not say. And ‘hard sayings’ are hard because they sometimes challenge our assumptions about what is true and they show us another way.
Jesus promises eternal life to all who truly trust in Him, but He also tells us what life will be like until we see heaven’s glory. And He doesn’t sugar-coat His description. He says things like … “In the world you will have tribulation” (Jn 16:33) … “Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles” (Mt 10:17,18) … “All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim 3:12).
In Luke 14, we have a call to thoughtful obedience. The sober, startling statements in this paragraph ought to echo in our 21st century souls, reminding us that the call of Christ is not a call to a life of ease, but to a life of discipline and whole-heartedness and passion for Him that outshines all our other passions.
Jesus starts here by saying, “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” (Lk 14:26). It sounds like a contradiction to the 5th commandment … “Honor your father and your mother.” It sounds like it contradicts 1 Tim 5:8 …”If anyone does not provide for his own family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” What does Jesus mean here? The parallel verse in Mt 10:37 is very helpful to us. “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.”
Jesus’ point is piercing. He is saying, “Do you know how much you love your mother and father? Do you know how great your allegiance is to your spouse? Do you know the feeling of being willing to give your very life for your children? Love me more than that! Give to me greater allegiance than you do to them! Lay down your life for me!” The call of Christ is a call to complete and unchallenged devotion to Him. He wants to be more dear to us than the dearest people we know. In fact, He says, love me more than you love yourself. “Are you willing to lay down your life for Me? Are you willing to renounce your pride and selfishness? Are you willing to leave off that pet sin of yours because your love for Me is so consuming?” And the thing that startles us most is to hear Him say, “If you are not willing to give this kind of allegiance, you cannot be My disciple.”
For clarity, something very important must be said at this point. The salvation offered by Jesus is free. It is free in the sense that there is nothing we can do to earn the favor of God. Salvation is not obtained by the number of times we go to church or by our baptism or by our compassion for the poor. We cannot, by hundreds of honorable acts, merit God’s mercy. His mercy is given to the undeserving … and that is every one of us. We do not deserve God’s forgiveness and we cannot earn God’s forgiveness.
In that sense God’s gift of eternal life is absolutely free, without cost. But in another sense the salvation of Christ costs us everything. It costs us our life. The call of Christ is a call to obedience. We do not earn heaven by our obedience, but inherent in saving faith is a willingness to obey Christ … to abandon ourselves to Him. None of us does that perfectly, but the seeds of such allegiance are present at our conversion and they grow through the years. Jesus is saying, “You cannot just follow me with words. It is not simply a matter of saying the right phrases. Christianity is a matter of heart and soul. I am calling on you to give your life to me. Are you willing to do that?”
I remember a Voice of the Martyrs representative showing a picture of Christians in Pakistan singing at a church service. They were singing with one hand on their throat and one hand in the air. The upraised hand was symbolic of praise to God and the hand on the throat was symbolic of willingness to give one’s life for Christ. And they were singing a song based on Revelation 2:10 … “be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.” To lay our lives down at the foot of the cross is not the easiest way to live, but it is the best way to live and yields the deepest pleasures … today and forever.
Seeking fuller discipleship,