Passage: Luke 14:25-33
I get all kinds of fliers pushed through my door advertising takeaways, window cleaners, odd job men and all kinds of things. Mostly I ignore them completely, they simply get thrown into the bin and are instantly forgotten about. There is one time of year that it gets particularly bad though – election time! Whenever there is an election I get all kinds of campaign literature pushed through my door. There are posters about healthcare, education and employment as the political candidates take it in turn to convince me that it is in my best interests to vote for them!
I wonder what would happen if, in the midst of all of the campaigning, a new and independent candidate were to appear with these kinds of election promises:
Vote for me and I guarantee I will do my absolute best to make sure that things are more difficult for you!
A vote for me makes you at least twice as likely to lose your job!
If you vote for me I am 100% sure that fewer people will like you than do now – in fact your families will be first in line to ditch you for someone else.
I am for higher taxes, lower wages and more inequality!
I’m not overly convinced that such a candidate would be successful. Who votes for the guy that is going to make things more difficult, the person who makes it more unequal.
But, at first glance that feels like what Jesus is doing here. If he is it has to be the worst recruitment drive ever – surely he can’t expect that we’ll be won over by the thought of hating our family & friends and risking everything to join him?
A bible scholar Tom Wright says that thinking of Jesus like a politician isn’t helpful.
Jesus is talking to disciples – people who already follow him and this changes the picture somewhat. Tom Wright suggests that a better image for Jesus is that of the leader of a great mountain expedition:
We’ve done brilliantly to get this far but there is a long way to go. The next bit is the tricky part. We can’t go any further with our backpacks – the climb is going to be long and steep and excess baggage will just weigh us down. You need to take off anything that you’re carrying and leave it here. Say your goodbyes, we might be gone a long time – come on – onwards and upwards!!
It still doesn’t make easy reading but I think it makes a lot more sense.
Following Jesus is not easy – no one who knew what they were talking about ever said that becoming a Christian guaranteed you an easy ride! Jesus challenges his disciples to “take up their cross” and follow him – crosses were carried by those who were soon to be hung on them.
It’s interesting to me that Jesus uses this example here – we know what happens next, we’ve heard the story so many times and we’ll hear it again over the next few weeks as we approach Easter, Jesus is taken to Jerusalem forced to carry his own cross and then crucified. But we need to remember that at this point the disciples didn’t know that this was going to happen – Jesus called his disciples to take up their crosses and then he went on to take up his own, leading by example.
In one of CS Lewis’ books he writes the following words – “Christianity, if false, is of no importance and, if true, is of infinite importance, the only thing it cannot be is moderately important.” I think, with this quote, Lewis hits the nail directly on the head. Not all of us will be asked to give up family, friends, property or even our lives for the sake of Jesus but all of us should be ready to – we have to understand that the call to follow Jesus is not something we can take up casually or as and when we feel like it.
Matthew put it like this:
Then Jesus went to work on his disciples. “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for? Matt 16:24-26 (MSG)
Following Jesus means taking ourselves out of the driving seat – following Jesus not with some blind faith but with the knowledge that wherever we’re going he has already been – we just have to be ready to follow his example.
So what difference does that make tomorrow morning when we’re back in school or at the office?
It should make all the difference in the world!
For example it makes all the difference in the world to how we treat that person no one else likes, or that person who really bugs us. As followers of Jesus we are called love our enemies.
The words and actions of Jesus, if untrue, are of no importance and, if true, are of infinite importance – the only thing they CANNOT be are moderately important.
This talk was originally followed by these prayer stations: