accounting02Luke 14 Continued

25.  Now great multitudes went with Him.  And He turned and said to them,

Now we move from this supper to an event that happens later. Yet it is placed here, I believe, to make us think about the great contrast this makes with what we have been reading in the chapter before this. Though the Pharisees and men like them might have been rejecting the Lord, still great multitudes of the common people were following Him. They were not rejecting Him, as their leaders were.

Now the Lord turns to this multitude and speaks to them, giving them the important teaching they needed, just as He did for the rulers who had invited Him to dinner.

26.  “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.

The Lord tells them that all who come after Him must hate father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sister, and even his own life, or he cannot be His disciple. This seems an extreme criterion indeed. In this case, “hate” is used as an extreme word to emphasize Christ’s point. A similar truth is taught in Matthew 10:37, where Christ said, “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me.  And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.”  The point is not that they were to literally hate these people, but that they should count Christ of so much greater importance than them that they would leave them behind, cut off their relationship with them, and almost appear to “hate” them as they seemingly heartlessly left them behind to follow Christ. If any of these people, even those with whom he has the closest of possible relationships, would stand in the way of his being a disciple, then he must treat that one as if he hated him, and leave that person behind to follow the Lord Jesus.

Some have declared that the word “hate” here means “love less.” This seems to be a true teaching. In Genesis 29:31, the text says that the LORD saw that Leah was hated. Yet the previous verse, Genesis 29:30, says that Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah. Thus he did not hate her, but loved her less than her rival. Certainly the Book that tells us to honor father and mother does not turn around and tell us to hate them. Yet even father and mother must be loved less than the Lord Jesus Christ.

Notice, though, that this was a criterion for being a disciple. This was not a criterion for being saved. These people who literally followed Christ around while He was walking on earth had to meet certain conditions in order to be His disciples. This was one of them. This is not something that is demanded of people today, however. We must not pull these verses out of their context and make this something that we have to demonstrate today. We should indeed love the Lord more than any other, but that does not mean that we have to “hate” our relatives in this same sense.

Yet still, this is an important thing for us to think about and consider. Do we evaluate all things, even those most dear to us, and conclude that they are inferior to our love for Christ? I spoke of those who “marry a wife” or “marry a husband” earlier in the chapter and that this can lead them away from Christ. We should never let such a thing be. We should not marry one who is not willing and eager to follow Christ, even as we are. We should not let even our closest relationships hold us back from being faithful to Him as we should be.

The Lord also tells them they must hate their own lives also. Yet this is not the word for “life” in Greek, but rather is the word psuche or “soul.” The soul has to do with the desires, and thus can speak of the comforts of life that fulfill them. It was necessary for them in order to be His disciples even to be willing to give up the comforts of life to follow Him. Indeed, journeying with Him was not always a pleasant road!

If there is anything that holds many back from following the Lord today, it is the comforts of life. We live in a society where there is so much entertainment available to us and so much to comfort us and fulfill our desires that it is easy for us to get pulled into worrying about comforting ourselves full time, and never have time left over to wholeheartedly follow the Lord. The pleasures of this life are a subtle but powerful pull indeed. We need to be willing to leave all these behind in order to follow what is of true value, which goes far beyond anything that can just offer comfort to the soul.

27.  “And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.

The Greek word for “cross,” stauros, is merely the word for “stake.” Remember that the Roman language was Latin, not Greek, and so the Greeks did not use the Roman word crux, which we make English as “cross.” It seems that they chose this word meaning “stake” to use for the instrument of crucifixion much as we use the terms “the chair” or “the chamber” for instruments of capital punishment used in our day. These things are far more than a simple chair or your average chamber. Yet calling them by these simple words almost seems at the same time to diminish and to increase their significance and gravity.

As far as a criterion for being a disciple, though, it could be that this word carries its literal meaning and just indicates a literal stake. It seems that carrying a walking stick was almost like the initiation into Christ’s band. All of His disciples had to carry one. Yet this was not an uncommon thing in that day for anyone traveling by foot. As anyone knows who has used one, a walking stick can be a benefit in a great number of ways.

Yet when we consider the context, we will see that what the Lord is talking about is giving up all you had before, and being willing to pay the price to be a disciple. In the light of this, the stake here could be symbolic of just how much those who came after Him had to give up in order to be a disciple. It was as if they had to trade in parents, family, spouse, children, home, business, and everything else, and replace them all with nothing but a stick in order to follow Him. This was truly a great sacrifice, and a large price to pay. We might suggest, though, that the Lord was more than worth it. So as the previous verse spoke of the rejection of all earthly relationships compared to following Him, so this verse has to do with the rejection of all earthly possessions in comparison with following Him.

We cannot help but note, too, that the use that the word had been put to in applying it to crucifixion had probably thrown this word into considerable disrepute. We know that when criminals went to their crucifixions, they were forced to carry their own cross to the place of their death. The Lord Himself is said to have borne His cross to the place called Golgotha in John 19:17. So to bear the cross was also a symbol of great shame and humiliation. This was utter revoking of all pride, and even all self-preservation, and taking up an instrument of torture and humiliation. Though the literal reference may have been to walking sticks, there were other words the Lord could have used for this. He clearly wanted them to get the idea that the determination to follow Him could be a costly one indeed. They needed to be certain they were willing to pay the price.

28.  “For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it–

The Lord uses an example of one who intended to build a tower, and yet did not sit down first to count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it. The word “count” means to calculate. One who did not calculate this would be most foolish indeed. It is most unwise to undertake a project that you do not have the resources to finish.

29.  “Lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him,

Once this one has laid the foundation and then finds he does not have the funds to finish, all who see it begin to mock him.

30.  “Saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’

A person who started a building project like this and was not able to finish it would indeed be a laughing stock. I believe that what the Lord wants to impress upon the multitudes here is that they need to consider the price before they determine to follow Him. We will see that as we get down to verse 33. Sad indeed is the case of one who begins to follow Christ and then finds that the cost is more than he is willing to pay!

31.  “Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand?

Now Christ uses the illustration of a king who is going to make war against another king. He has only ten thousand troops, and his adversary has twenty thousand. This king had better consider whether he thinks he will be able to win the war even with this disadvantage. Of course it is possible that he could, for numbers are not everything. Yet he needs to consider it.

The same is true as we consider whether we are willing to truly follow Christ. If we do, we will find that there are a great many more against us than are for us. The world and those who follow its ways have us far outnumbered. Are we willing to accept the ostracism, the lack of friends, the mockery, the misunderstanding, and everything else that will come with standing for the Lord against this world and its ways? We had better consider this before we set off to the war.

32.  “Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace.

If this king does not believe he will be able to win the battle, he had better send a delegation of peace to the other king while he is still a long way off. That way, he can avoid this battle which is almost sure to go against him.

33.  “So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.

Christ now comes to the point of these two examples. Just as the builder had to consider what was necessary before he built and the king had to consider what was necessary before he went to war, so these people needed to consider what would be required of them before they decided to become Christ’s disciples. Otherwise they might end up unable to make the sacrifices necessary and so be in great difficulties like the builder or the king who did not consider the cost of what they were doing.

What Christ declared to be the cost of being a disciple was forsaking all. This is what Peter, Andrew, James, and John did in Luke 5:11 when they left all they had to follow Him. All His disciples had shown themselves willing to leave it all behind (except perhaps Judas, who tried to get it all back again by stealing from the Lord.) That is what He was requiring at that time.

The same is true of those who wish to follow the Lord and the truth today. They may not have to forsake everything, and that is good if they do not. Yet it could be that there are many things that they may have to give up in order to follow Him. The price can be ostracism, can be loss of family and friends, loss of prestige, loss of comforts, or many other things. Are we willing to pay this price, if it is necessary? For being a disciple of Christ can cost such things. Let us hold all things loosely, and be willing to give it all up in the service of our Lord!

34.  “Salt is good; but if the salt has lost its flavor, how shall it be seasoned?

The Lord declares that salt is good, an interesting remark. Of course He meant in flavor, as we can see in context. Yet it seems doubtful to me that He would declare anything to be good that is in fact inherently bad. There is a prevalent belief today that salt is bad, and that it is a bad thing to eat it. Yet Christ declares that salt is good. Could it be that salt has gotten a bad reputation in our day that it does not deserve?

At any rate, the Lord’s point was certainly not about salt, so we should not make too much of this. He speaks of a salt that has lost its flavor. How could flavorless salt again be seasoned? To try to make bad salt flavorful again by salting it would indeed be a useless and ridiculous thing to do.

35.  “It is neither fit for the land nor for the dunghill, but men throw it out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”

Such salt would not be fit for the land as fertilizer, having lost its potency. Neither would it be fit for the dunghill, for it would not aid in breaking down the rubbish there. Rather, He says, men throw it out wherever they can.

So salt without its saltiness is worthless. In the same way, if these people sought to serve God and bring others to Him and yet lost their own enthusiasm and dedication to following Him, how could they then be made to follow Him again themselves? In that case they would be worthless disciples, just like flavorless salt is worthless, and fit only to be thrown out.

We need to be careful of this too in our day. How many have started out to serve the Lord, and then have backed off from that when they found that the way is hard? How many have begun to seek after truth, and then have abandoned the search when they found that the way is lonely, or that men are not interested in anything that does not fit into the creeds and orthodoxy that has been handed down to them? We must use care that we maintain our saltiness as servants of our Lord. Otherwise, we may come to the place where we are no longer useful as servants.

Then, He uses His solemn pronouncement: that he who has ears to hear, should hear. The phrase, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear,” is a phrase of solemn warning, and is spoken to all who were considering becoming His disciples.  This was not a thing without great responsibility.  And woe to the one who like Judas would prove unworthy of the title!