*The Following is an excerpt from The Sending Church by Pat Hood.
“Obedience always comes at a high price. That’s why Jesus said, If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26) If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. (Luke 9:23)
Obedience costs us everything, even our lives. This kind of obedience is sometimes hard for me to wrap my brain around. It’s easier to grasp obedience when it involves supporting a child in another country for $30 per month. Or, when we take a name from the Angel Tree and spend a few dollars to make Christmas special for a needy child. It’s not difficult to think about obedience in these realms because they don’t really cost us that much. But, at some point, people need to understand that true obedience costs more than some pocket change and a little time.
Many look at people who obey God on a high level as weird, abnormal, or fanatical because they willingly give up some really cool stuff and don’t seem to care. But, the secret is, they do care.
When they move their teenagers from the safety and security of a great local high school, they care. When sick and aging grandparents are left thousands of miles behind, they care. When some of the ‘creature comforts’ of home are sold or left behind, they care. When they risk losing their job or their friends for sharing their faith, they care.
Jesus dramatically illustrated the cost of obedience when He gave the crowd those mind-boggling words in Luke 14…the ones about hating your father, mother, wife, children, etc. And normally this is the time when the preacher steps in and bails you out saying, “That is not what Jesus was really saying.” But I am not going to bail you out. I want you to pause and feel the weight of what real obedience looked like to Jesus.
Now granted, there was an original context (time, place, people) where Jesus spoke these words. When He said hate, He was saying we should “love less.” Jesus often used hyperbole to make a point. But, that doesn’t detract from the weight of Jesus’ words or give us an escape clause. Bottom line, we must be willing to sacrifice everything for the mission.
Jesus talked a lot about feasts, banquets, and celebrations in Luke 14. These elements were huge in the celebratory culture of Judaism. People approached life with great passion and loved any occasion to do it up big.
Jesus illustrated the invitation of eating “bread in the kingdom of God” as being invited to a great banquet.
When one of those who reclined at the table with him heard these things, he said to him, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” But he said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.'” (Luke 14:15-24)
But, the people that were invited had better things to celebrate. And in reality, no excuse given in the RSVPs would have been considered evil – materialistic and temporary maybe – but not evil:
- New property (v. 18)
- New livestock (v. 19)
- A new wife (v. 20)
All of these things provide perfectly good occasions to celebrate. All of them are the kind of things “normal” people chase. No crime, no corruption, no Ponzi schemes – normal pursuits considered by Christ followers as blessings from God – but that was not the point. These perfectly honest pursuits become evil when they take Jesus’ place in our life or become “excuses” not to do what God wants us to do.
The original word in the Greek means, “to beg a person’s release.” In essence, “My honor binds me to consider your invitation, I cannot ignore it, but I have more important things to celebrate.”
The crowds were growing, but they had no idea Jesus was headed toward Jerusalem to die. When Jesus invites us to journey with Him, He is inviting us to die. Jesus wanted them, and us, to count the cost of following Him. So, He equated following Him to taking up a cross. This would have been a little hard for Jesus’ crowd to wrap their brains around.
The cross had nothing to do with Christianity at the time. As a matter of fact, there was no such thing as Christianity at the time because Jesus had not yet died on the cross. So, what was He talking about?
They knew what a cross was. They had watched people die on the cross. They had seen people hang in agony on the cross for days. They knew the cross meant death. So, there was nothing beautiful, sentimental, or sacred about it at the time. It was hated and loathed because it was a symbol of oppression and execution. It would be like Jesus telling a crowd in 2013 that, in order to follow Him, they had to take a lethal injection.
Think about it – when Jesus’ listeners saw someone carrying a cross in their day, whether it be friend, foe, or family, that was the last time they ever saw them! Carrying a cross meant you were going to die. What a profound picture of obeying Jesus.
But keep in mind that, although the message scared many people away, the people that kept following Jesus knew what they were signing up for. So, were they weird, fanatical, or abnormal? No, they were obedient! They fully understood and embraced Jesus’ “ask.” (150-56)
Let me pose this simple question: Does Jesus’ definition of obedience match ours? Think about it.
Hood, Pat. The Sending Church. (B & H: Nashville, 2013)