What it Means to be a Disciple
13th Sunday after Pentecost – C (Proper 18) LSB #’s 790:1-2, 4-5, 707, 662
Text – Luke 14:26-27 & 33
If anyone comes to me & does not hate his own father & mother & wife & children & brothers & sisters, yes, & even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross & come after me cannot be my disciple. …So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.
WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A DISCIPLE
Did you hear the refrain in those verses of the sermon text? The phrase “cannot be my disciple” rings out loud & clear. Jesus is making some rather emotionally charged statements about who it is that cannot be His disciple. Because of that, in this sermon, we’ll take a look at just what it does mean to be a disciple of Christ.
The week after 9-11, I received the following from a friend in Colorado. After the death & destruction heaped upon NYC & the Pentagon it was meant as a reminder for us. A reminder to show our love to the important people in our lives today & not to wait until tomorrow. We may never have that opportunity again.
If I knew it would be the last time
that I’d see you fall asleep,
I’d tuck you in more tightly
and pray the Lord, your soul to keep.
If I knew it would be the last time
that I see you walk out the door,
I’d give you a hug and a kiss
and call you back for one more.
If I knew it would be the last time
I’d hear your voice lifted up in praise,
I’d video tape each action and word,
so I could play them back day after day.
For surely there’s always tomorrow
to make up for an oversight,
and we always get a second chance
to make everything right.
There’ll always be another day
to say our “I love you’s.”
And certainly there’s another chance
to say our “Anything I can do’s?”
But just in case I might be wrong,
and today is all I get,
I’d like to say how much I love you
and I hope we never forget.
Tomorrow is not promised to anyone,
young or old alike,
And today may be the last chance
you get to hold your loved one tight.
So if you’re waiting for tomorrow,
why not do it today?
For if tomorrow never comes,
you’ll surely regret the day,
That you didn’t take that extra time
for a smile, a hug, or a kiss
and you were too busy to grant someone,
what turned out to be their one last wish.
So hold your loved ones close today,
and whisper in their ear,
that you love them very much and
you’ll always hold them dear.
Take time to say “I’m sorry,”
“Please forgive me,” “thank you,” or “it’s okay.”
And if tomorrow never comes,
you’ll have no regrets about today.
That’s really a very touching poem, packed full of meaning & so very true to life. All of us take for granted the people we love. Days like September 11th remind us with chilling effect to take more care in appreciating family & friends. And because that poem does it’s job so well, it only heightens the stark contrast between its words & the words of Jesus.
“If anyone comes to me & does not hate his father & mother, his wife & children, his brother & sisters – yes, even his own life – he cannot be my disciple.” Those words sound excruciatingly harsh to our ears, even long after the horror that struck our nation. And Jesus isn’t talking tough with his arch enemies, the Pharisees, as He so often does. He’s simply speaking to a large crowd of people that have been traveling with Him. It’s likely they are a bunch of would be disciples so Jesus explains to them what it means to be one.
But His explanation is far from what we expect. In fact it seems to contradict what other passages of Scripture teach, such as love your neighbor as yourself. Love & hate are opposites in our mind, so, while hearing Jesus’ words on what it means to be a disciple, our sinful nature resists understanding this will of God.
And that’s where our struggle as disciples begins. We naturally resist God’s will, even when it involves things much easier to comprehend than hating your family & your own life. So if we rebel against things like church attendance, even when we believe that it’s good for us, is it surprising to hear people offended when God tells them to hate their family?
In looking at what it means to be a disciple, we 1st need to understand that Jesus is speaking here in a figure of speech called hyperbole. He’s exaggerating the illustration in order to make His point very emphatically. You cannot be a disciple of Jesus unless He occupies the absolute number one position in your life. Not even your family can come before God.
That’s a rather obvious application of the 1st commandment, but how many of you attend a church service while on vacation? How often do you think in those terms when you’re placing your children’s sporting events ahead of church sponsored activities? And by activities I’m including those boring meetings that churches so often entangle our lives with.
No, the choices Jesus calls us to are not easy in this sinful world. Many of our responsibilities conflict with each other. The question is: Which of those responsibilities should take priority? And the Lord is making the point in this text that following Him should take such a priority over, even family, that it should be as if you hate your wife & children, your brother & sisters, yes, even your own life. Jesus isn’t naïve enough to think the choice will be easy, but He is saying that you will forfeit the discipleship He gave you at your baptism if you value family more highly than God. PAUSE
In regard to that discipleship, where do you fit into this picture that Jesus is painting? Do you hate your father & mother, wife & children, even your own life? In today’s lesson, Jesus is setting the standards of discipleship. But hate is an emotionally charged word.
In a time when the divorce rate is much too high, when more & more family members live at a distance from each other, & many don’t want anything to do with each other, shouldn’t we love our family more? Or is what Jesus is commanding exactly what we need to straighten out our family disagreements & our misdirected focus on family members? PAUSE
If you don’t love God above all things, then love for your family is artificial. It’s fabricated & made up. It’ll last only as long as you get from them what you want. That’s why there’re so many divorces these days, because when the spouse no longer gets what they want, their love dies & they leave.
They aren’t willing to stick it out because they don’t love God first. Without that love for God, they have no source of love for anyone else. Human beings by nature have no love for anyone but themselves. We are born selfish. The only way that can be changed is through the grace of God, as He works miracles through the power of His Word & through Baptism.
Jesus’ command to carry our cross is a sentence of death to the old way of life. Taking up one’s cross is figurative for self-denial. Anything that hinders us in our discipleship is to be hated, abandoned, left behind. That’s the character of discipleship & Jesus is telling us what it may cost to follow Him. Has it cost you anything to be here this morning? PAUSE
Now we’ll look at what it means to be a disciple. If we’re going to follow Jesus, we
should know where it is that He’s going. Since the middle of July the gospel of Luke has been following Him on His way to Jerusalem. This is the last time He’ll make the trip. He’s on His way to die. That is where we are following Jesus to. It’s a journey to the cross, our cross & His.
It’s out of love that Jesus is daring enough to perform this ultimate act of self-denial. It’s out of love that He’s daring enough to confront you & me with the truth that without Him we are lost. All the love for family in world will never save us. No matter how hard we work at it, we can never love anyone enough. We know too well how often we’ve taken them for granted.
No matter how much we may fear losing a loved one each time they go out the door, we can never hug them or kiss them adequately to avoid the regrets we will certainly feel if we lose them that day. No matter how many times we say, “I’m sorry, forgive me, or thank you,” not a single one of us here can live up to the standards Jesus set for discipleship.
Sooner or later, our love fades. Sooner or later, we take each of our loved ones for granted. Sooner or later, their sins overwhelm our ability to forgive. That’s why Jesus is on His way to Jerusalem & the cross. True discipleship begins with receiving that amazing love & compassion from Christ. Only as we receive His love are we able to love in return.
We need not fear loving God above all things as if it means we’ll lose our family. Our family comes from God. Our ability to love them for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness & in health, also comes from God. The love of father or mother, wife or children, brother or sisters flows out of our love for Jesus & from Jesus’ love for us.
In our lives, it’s far too often true that hatred exists among family members & it rips those families apart. But we can never heal that hatred alone. It takes the love of Jesus Christ, displayed for us to see on the cross, to mend those scarred, broken & bitter hearts. The touching poem I read, encourages you to love your family so that if tomorrow never comes, you will have no regrets. But, please don’t hug your loved ones simply out of the fear of regret. Hug them & love them because Jesus first loved you. Hug them, kiss them & tuck them in at night, because you have been loved & rescued from your sins. Amen.
Oh, that the Lord would guide my ways to keep His statutes still! Oh, that my God would grant me grace to know & do His will! Order my footsteps by Thy Word & make my heart sincere; let sin have no dominion, Lord, but keep my conscience clear. Assist my soul, too apt to stray, a stricter watch to keep; & should I ever forget Thy way, restore Thy wandering sheep. Amen. LSB 707:1-3.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet