Sunday, September 04, 2016

That's One Way to Thin the Crowd

In today's Gospel reading, Luke 14:25-33, Jesus places some very difficult demands on the crowd trying to follow him.

Now large crowds were travelling with him; and he turned and said to them, ‘Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, saying, “This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.” Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.
That's one way to thin the crowd. So much for the radically inclusive Jesus without the radically exclusive Jesus. Everyone is invited to follow him, but he will stop, turn around, and demand that you drop all the baggage you are carrying if you wish to continue down the road with him. This is where most of us fall short as we are unable to let go of the false sense of security we get from our material and spiritual baggage. Jesus calls us to change, and yes, that means giving up sinful desires as well as some things we would never have thought of as sinful such as love for family.

Jesus was building a foundation, an army to carry the cross forward after his death and resurrection.

Oh, how that army has grown bloated with camp followers and slowed by the loads of baggage it has accumulated. Perhaps that is the reason why the mainline Protestant denominations are in decline.

We need to remember that Jesus intended his army to be a mean, lean, fighting machine.


  1. You mention "love for family" from the text and expand the text to include "giving up sinful desires." But the statement that worries me -- in the sense of "That we may depart this life in your faith and fear, and not be condemned before the great judgment seat of Christ" (BCP 1979 Evening Prayer) -- is: "therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions." Are we obligated to literally do this? How do we exegete ourselves out of the literal meaning of the text?

    1. Perhaps by looking at the problem of the rich man and the camel through the eye of the needle. Since most of us cannot give up everything we have to fall down and trust in our Lord and Savior. For Him, nothing is impossible.