Gospel Reflections for Sun September 8th

3 September 2013

The cost of discipleship (again)!


Luke 14:25-33


Here we are again! Just when it seemed that we had dealt with the Cost of Discipleship,  (see June archive - Luke 9:51-62) this topic is back again to haunt us. In the reading for this week, we have more exceptionally strong and confronting words from Jesus, right in the faces of the people, to try to do jolt them out of their set-in-concrete, self-centred attitudes. Note the convenient third party language that I have used ... them, their ... an easy way of deflecting these difficult words away from us! 

Note also that I have used The Message translation for the Bible-Gateway link because it perhaps helps us to better understand what Jesus is trying to say.The NIV on the other hand is extremely harsh - see verse 26 where we read: "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple." Come on Jesus, you've got to be kidding! This has to be high on the list of the top 10 hard sayings of Jesus.

What we have here is hardly a positive recruiting drive for disciples or a recipe for church growth! But let's not take this reading in isolation from the rest of the lead up in Luke and especially not without being aware of what happens when we turn the page into Chapter 15. 

A few points that may help us to sort through this conundrum:

  1. Jesus clearly had developed a teaching technique that incorporated shock treatment.
  2. Running through Jewish Society under the old covenant, there was an underlying perception of God that now needed some sorting out. Jesus is attempting to re-program the old thinking.
  3. For example, the misguided view that prosperity comes as a reward from God for doing good things and that adversity is the punishment for bad behaviour. Even today we are perhaps still guilty of the subconscious thinking, that if we jump on board with Jesus then life will be rosy.
  4. Jesus was not looking for the superficial go-with-the-flow "disciples" who just jumped on the euphoric merry-go-round with the rest of the masses expecting all of their problems to be solved. He was wanting real commitment and an understanding that life in Him, although ultimately the answer, was not always going to be glossy.
  5. Jesus (through Luke and the clever oversight of the Holy Spirit) has master-minded an incredible, (shock?) twist in the plot! (see below).

It may be helpful if we also see this reading as a prelude to the triple-treat "Lost" stories and the real Good News just around the corner as we turn the page into Luke chapter 15. In what is arguably the flagship of all parables, in the story of the Lost Son, Jesus unfolds in the clearest of terms, an image of God that leaves us in no doubt as to where we stand with Him. The outrageously crazy and radical view of a Father who loves us unconditionally, even in our lostness, no strings attached, is about to be unwrapped. In the Lost trio of parables, we are given a picture of a God who wants us to be with Him, who is watching for our return when we stray, who goes out looking for us and regardless of how badly we have stuffed up, or how hopeless we are in His sight, we find to our surprise, that all that has been wiped off the slate, no questions asked. We don't even get to bring that up in conversation with Him. 

It is perhaps also significant to look at what preceded our reading this week - the story of the great banquet. The doors of the function centre have been thrown wide open by Jesus for the biggest party ever and we, having been invited, simply need to walk through the open doors!

That's our God and the God that we celebrate and proclaim in Lutheran Schools. As we all struggle at various tiems with diificult and sometimes tragic circumstances, amongst all manifestations of daily life, may we be strengthened by the knowledge that the God of unconditional love is there in the midst of this, He seeks us out at all times, runs out to meet us and wraps his arms around us.