Discipleship in the shadow of the cross
We want to look at the portrait of a disciple. Is he a fan or a follower, is he faithful or fascinated?
Please read Luke 14: 25-33. Let us locate this text a bit. Jesus is in the home of a Pharisee who is a leader in the community (14:1). He is heading to Jerusalem; the cross is before him. The crowds think that Jesus is heading to an Empire. That is why discipleship must and can only be seen in the light of the cross.
It is the Sabbath and they wanted to trap Jesus and He heals a man with dropsy. The Lord is predictable in his compassion for others and the Pharisees knew that he would heal the man.
In 14:25 we are told that large crowds are following him and so his address on discipleship is to thousands and by extension to us. They were impressed with His miracle for others He sounded like a revolutionary leader. Some liked Him for His story telling abilities or the way He tackled His opponents. Others like Him for the fact that He fed them or for his style of preaching. So in His life Jesus attracted many fans; the question is did they become followers and even more disciples?
In our culture we want to see multitudes in our Church programmes. Jesus Christ does not use gimmicks for people to come He challenged people. He did not use the methodology of the world to draw people to Himself. In this context what He does next is mindboggling. Most of us would be delighted to have large crowds following us. Jesus thins the crowd. He is not giddy with popularity for he knows that not everyone who is with Him is there for the right reason. So he places the challenge of discipleship before them because not everyone who follows Jesus is a disciple. Jesus wants people who are faithful to him and not fascinated by him. As a professor once said, “Not everyone who attends my lectures is my student”.
There is a difference between a follower and a disciple. Mahatma Gandhi was a follower of Christ’s teachings and was inspired by them, but then again he followed many other beliefs and religious practices. A disciple however is single minded; he has one Lord and only one Master. Jesus had many followers only a few choose discipleship. I dare say that there are many Christian followers of Jesus who are baptized but few disciples within the Church.
The statements of Jesus are not popular; they are true but not popular. So Jesus looks at a disciple
– in relation to other people in verse 26 “ whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brother and sister, even life itself cannot be my disciple
– In relation to oneself as in verse 27. “Whoever does not carry THE cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”
Three times Jesus will demand discipleship. Therefore Discipleship is demanding. The three demands of discipleship will be punctuated by two examples of a tower being built and a king going into battle.
The three demands of discipleship are in verse 26, 27 and 33.
The first demand is (verse26) “whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brother and sisters, yes and even life itself, CANNOT be my disciple”. Note the word cannot.
This really sounds unbelievable because in Luke 10:27 Jesus said love your neighbour and in 18:20 he will say love your father and mother. So why is Jesus confusing us with contradictory teachings? Or is He? Jesus is not asking us to hate our relations literally. This is a hyperbolic way of saying ‘love less’. ‘Miseo’ in Greek translates as love less not as hate. This was also the way of speaking of Middle Eastern cultures and people.
So In Genesis 29:30 Jacob has two wives, Rachel and Leah he loves one more and loves the other less or for that matter God says “I have love Jacob and I have hated Esau”, implying that Esau is loved less. Jesus is not asking us to hate our family, He is asking us to LOVE HIM MORE.
The second demand is in verse 27- “whoever does not carry the cross cannot be my disciple.”
Jesus goes to the heart of the matter. His followers would be shocked by this saying for crosses were an instrument of shame at the time of Jesus. Today we wear the cross around our neck as a piece of jewellery but in those days it was nothing but an instrument of shame. It was used most effectively by the Romans to torture, shame and intimidate people. They were, as some called them, the “billboards of the ancient world”.
Today we trivialize the cross. What are the crosses we bear today? Difficult spouses, poor formators, bad job, illness? We have trivialized the cross. Therefore Jesus says, “Love ME even more than your life. This is the crux (cross) of his teaching.
The third demand is give up your possessions: “So therefor none of you can be my disciples if you do not give up your possessions”.
The question we need to ask ourselves is do we own things or do they own us? This is the key. Jesus is not calling us to asceticism as much as he is calling us to be detached to things so that we may be attached to him.
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