Sermon title:  THE COST OF FOLLOWING JESUS

 

Luke 14:25-33      Immanuel Baptist Church – Sunday, March 24, 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

Did Jesus really say that?

 

Luke 14:25 and 26 tells us,

 

25 Large crowds were traveling with Jesus,

and turning to them he said:

 

26 "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.

 

Yes, he said it, all right—but what did he mean?

 

Jesus said that in the Aramaic language and culture.

 

Luke wrote it down in the Greek language.

 

And we’re reading it today in the English language.

 

Did something get lost in translation?

 

Or, did Jesus really mean

that we should

hate ... father and mother,

... wife and children,

... brothers and sisters”?

 

Most of the time,

everything in the Bible’s original languages

translates easily and directly into English.

 

There’s no mystery as to what is meant.

 

However, there are a few words—just a handful of words—

that give translators trouble.

 

And that’s where it’s helpful for us

to understand the translation issues.

 

Believe it or not,

the words for “love” and “hate” fall into that category.

 

For example, biblical Greek has 4 different words—

each with a different meaning—

that can all be translated by our English word “love”:

Eros means erotic or romantic love,

Storge means family love, as for your children,

Philia means friendship or brotherly love

and Agape means principled or godly love—

even for those who don’t deserve it.

 

But all 4 of those different Greek words

can be translated simply by the same English word “love.”

 

So, unless we look at the context,

we can misunderstand what was meant.

 

Even when we use the word “love” in our own conversations,

the context can change the meaning.

 

We mean something different when we say,

“Johnny loves his father,” or

“Johnny loves his new bride,” or

“Johnny loves butterscotch pudding.”

 

Or, we can even use the word ironically,

as when we say,

“I just love to go to the dentist,”

and everyone knows we mean the opposite.

 

Similarly with the word “hate” in the Bible.

 

It can take on different meanings,

depending on the context.

 

So, did Jesus really mean

that we should

hate ... father and mother,

... wife and children,

... brothers and sisters”?

 

To understand what Jesus meant,

we need to realize that

in that Middle-Eastern language and culture

the word translated “hate” sometimes meant

simply to “love less than.”

 

Jesus’ point was that

we need to love him more

than we love our close relatives—

not that he wanted us to actually hate them.

 

How do we know that?

 

We have to understand Jesus’ words

in the context of everything else Jesus said.

 

And the New Testament is full of Jesus telling us

to “love” one another.

 

He said in Luke 10:27

that we must love our neighbors.

 

He said in Luke 6:36

that we should even love our enemies.

 

And, beginning in John 13:34,

Jesus said love

is the identifying mark of true Christians.

 

He said,

 

34 "A new command I give you:

Love one another.

As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

35 By this all men will know

that you are my disciples,

if you love one another."

 

So, our Lord made it very plain

that he wants us to love one another.

 

Love is the identifying mark of true Christians.

 

And Jesus’ disciples understood

that this love applies especially

to our close relatives.

 

We are to love our

“father and mother,

... wife and children,

... brothers and sisters.”

 

At Matthew 15:4,

Jesus condemned the scribes and Pharisees

for not loving father and mother.

 

He reminded them

that this is one of the Ten Commandments.

Jesus told them,

“4 For God said, 'Honor your father and mother'

and 'Anyone who curses his father or mother

must be put to death.'”

 

So, he certainly wouldn’t be saying now

that we should actually ‘hate father and mother.’

Jesus also taught that men should love their wivesnot hate them.

 

The Apostles understood

what Jesus taught them,

and they passed on to us at Ephesians 5:25,

 

"Husbands, love your wives,

just as Christ loved the church

and gave himself up for her."

 

And at Colossians 3:19,

"Husbands, love your wives

and do not be harsh with them."

 

And Jesus taught us to love our children—not to hate them.

 

In Luke Chapter 11,

he compares God the Father’s love for us

to our love for our own children.

 

So, he certainly didn’t mean now

that we should “hate” our children.

 

He was using that Aramaic, Middle-Eastern cultural expression

to mean that our love for Jesus

should be greater than our love for our children.

And when Jesus said

 

26 "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,”

 

he certainly didn’t mean

that we should actually “hate” our brothers and sisters—

just that we should love Jesus more than them.

 

We know that

because First John, Chapter 2, Verses 9-11

was written by Jesus’ close follower, the Apostle John,

and he says there,

 

“If anyone claims to be in the light

but hates his brother,

he is still in the darkness.

 

10 Whoever loves his brother remains in the light,

and there is no cause of stumbling in him.

 

11 But anyone who hates a brother or sister

is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness.

 

And at 1st John 4:20-21, John wrote

“20 If anyone says, "I love God,"

yet hates his brother, he is a liar.

For anyone who does not love his brother,

whom he has seen,

cannot love God, whom he has not seen.

21 And he has given us this command:

Whoever loves God must also love his brother.

 

So, all of this helps us understand

that when Jesus said

 

26 "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,”

 

he was using that Aramaic, Middle-eastern expression

to show that we must love Jesus more

than we love our close relatives.

 

----------------

 

In fact, if we turn to Matthew Chapter 10,

we’ll see that Jesus explains it for us there.

 

He shows there that it is a matter

of loving Jesus more

so that if our close relatives

oppose our following Jesus,

and force us to choose between them and Christ,

we will put Jesus first.

 

Beginning in Matthew 10:35, our Lord says,

 

35 For I have come to turn

'a man against his father,

a daughter against her mother,

a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law--

 

36 a man's enemies

will be the members of his own household.'

 

37 "Anyone who loves his father or mother

more than me

is not worthy of me;

anyone who loves his son or daughter

more than me

is not worthy of me;

 

38 and anyone who does not take his cross

and follow me

is not worthy of me.

 

Penni and I saw those words play out in real life

when we became followers of Jesus.

 

For years, we had been members of a sect

that called itself “Christian”

but that denied the deity of Christ.

 

They taught that Jesus was just an angel,

and that you couldn’t have a personal relationship with Jesus.

 

You couldn’t pray to Jesus,

and you certainly couldn’t expect an answer

to personal prayers.

 

Your relationship with God

had to be through their organization and its hierarchy.

 

Well, instead of reading just that sect’s books,

Penni and I began reading the Bible itself.

 

And our personal Bible reading led us to Christ.

 

We found Jesus and began to follow him.

 

And, naturally, we talked to everyone about Jesus.

 

But all of our friends and family members

were in that cult.

Penni’s best friend, who called herself a “Christian,”

 turned to Penni and said,

“Jesus, Jesus, Jesus—all you talk about now is Jesus.

I’m sick of hearing about Jesus.”

 

Penni lost her best friend.

 

Penni said to me,        “Being a Christian is no picnic.”

 

I replied,

“Jesus didn’t say, ‘Pick up your picnic basket and follow me.’

He said, ‘Pick up your cross and follow me.’”

 

So, one by one, we began to lose our friends.

 

But the real test came

when we realized we needed to get out of that cult

and follow Jesus in a real church.

 

One of the rules of that sect

was that you can’t associate with anyone who leaves the group—

not even say “Hello” if you see them on the street.

 

They cut you off completely.

 

When Penni and I were about to leave the group,

we visited her parents to tell them.

 

And we expected

that they would follow the rules,

and would cut us off

and would not see us anymore.

 

So, for us it was a question of loving Jesus so much,

that Penni would risk losing her parents.

 

And we knew that Jesus said,

 

37 "Anyone who loves his father or mother

more than me

is not worthy of me;

 

So, Penni had to choose between them and Jesus.

 

But we got a happy surprise.

 

When we told them

that we were going to follow Jesus and leave that sect,

they told us that they, too,

now recognized that sect as false.

 

They themselves wanted to leave it,

but they were afraid to tell us,

because they knew that we were strong members,

and they were afraid that we would cut them off.

 

So, we were ready to lose father and mother for Jesus’ sake,

but as it turned out,

we didn’t.

 

But we know many people

who have lost father and mother

or wife or children

even some who lost everything they had—

in order to follow Jesus.

 

And there are some who have lost their lives.

 

At John 12:25, Jesus said,

 

25 Whoever loves his life will lose it,

but whoever hates his life in this world

will keep it for eternal life.

 

That’s another case of the word “hate”

being used in the sense of “loving less.”

 

When we ‘carry our cross and follow Jesus’

we need to love him more than we love life itself—

because, at some point,

we may need to give up our life to follow him.

 

That’s why Jesus tells us, right up front,

what it may cost us

to follow him.

 

In the next parable in our Responsive Reading,

he tells us to “estimate the cost” or “count the cost.”

 

In Luke 14:27 he says

 

27 And anyone

who does not carry his cross and follow me

cannot be my disciple.

 

And then he gives this parable:

 

28 "Suppose one of you wants to build a tower.

Will he not first sit down

and estimate the cost

to see if he has enough money to complete it?

 

29 For if he lays the foundation

and is not able to finish it,

everyone who sees it will ridicule him,

30 saying,

'This fellow began to build

and was not able to finish.'

 

Where Verse 28 says estimate the cost”

some translations say count the cost.”

 

The Cost of Discipleship is the title of a book

by the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

 

Bonhoeffer himself paid with his life.

 

When Adolf Hitler and his Nazis rose to power in Germany,

Hitler’s people took control

of most of the Protestant churches.

 

Those German churches removed the Old Testament from their Bibles,

and they began to teach Nazi ideology

instead of Jesus’ teachings.

 

The official program

was to remove the Bible and the cross from church altars

and to replace them with Hitler’s Mein Kampf and a sword.

 

 

Bonhoeffer preached sermons

condemning what Hitler was doing.

 

And he taught pastors to follow Jesus, instead of following the Nazis.

 

In the summer of 1937, S.S. leader Heinrich Himler

declared Bonhoeffer’s ministry work illegal.

 

The Gestapo closed the seminary

where Bonhoeffer had been teaching,

and arrested 27 of his students and pastors.

 

It was around this time

that Bonhoeffer published his book

The Cost of Discipleship.

 

Eventually, Bonhoeffer joined those

who were secretly trying to replace Adolf Hitler

with a government that would make peace with the Allies.

 

The Nazis arrested him in 1943

and kept him in prisons and concentration camps

for the last year-and-a-half of the Second World War.

 

On April 9, 1945, just weeks before the war ended,

they hanged Bonhoeffer at Flossenburg concentration camp.

 

It cost him his life

to follow Jesus in Nazi Germany.

 

In Luke 14:31, Jesus went on

to give another parable

illustrating the same point:

to count the cost of following him.

 

31 "Or suppose a king is about to go to war

against another king.

 

Will he not first sit down and consider

whether he is able with ten thousand men

to oppose the one coming against him

with twenty thousand?

 

32 If he is not able,

he will send a delegation

while the other is still a long way off

and will ask for terms of peace.

 

33 In the same way,

any of you who does not

give up everything he has

cannot be my disciple.

 

Choosing to follow Jesus

isn’t a light matter—it’s serious business,

like going to war.

 

You need to know what you’re up against.

 

The wicked one, Satan the devil, controls this world.

 

Turning against this wicked world

to follow Jesus

puts us into a fight for our lives.

 

Our eternal lives are at stake.

 

Many churches in this country

are now being taken over

by homosexual activists.

 

They install lesbian or homosexual pastors,

or they fly the rainbow flag outside the church.

 

And, the Massachusetts legislature is now being used to enforce

gay activist ideology.

 

On March 13th the House overwhelmingly passed Bill H-140.

 

They voted 147 to 8, to make it illegal for counsellors

to try to talk a young person

out of pursuing a homosexual life-style.

 

So, it would be against Massachusetts law

for a counsellor to tell a child or teenager  that homosexual conduct is a sin.

 

If Governor Baker signs this bill,

a Christian counsellor who reads to a youngster

the Bible verses that condemn homosexual conduct

could lose his or her license

and be put out of business.

 

--Even if the parents hired the counsellor to help their child.

 

--And even if the youngster asks for help

to overcome unwanted homosexual desires.

This same bill passed both houses on Beacon Hill

during the last session of the legislature

but failed to make it to Governor Baker’s desk

in time for his signature.

 

But now the Massachusetts Senate is scheduled to vote

on an even stronger version of this bill, called “S-70.”

 

This Senate version of the bill

would actually label it “child abuse”

for a counsellor to give a youngster

the Bible’s teachings on this matter.

 

And it would require “mandated reporters”

to file a “Section 51-A” child abuse report

with the authorities

or else face a fine or imprisonment.

 

This means that pastors and paid church staff,

as well as medical personnel, police officers and many others

may be required by law

to report such Christian counselling

as “child abuse.”

 

The 51-A report would authorize the Dept. of Children and Families

to investigate the family

and possibly remove the children from the home

on the grounds of “child abuse.”

 

So, the legislators on Beacon Hill

are trying to enforce on the rest of us

the beliefs of the homosexual activists.

 

Down through the centuries,

Christians have been persecuted in many countries—

including some where the Gospel had previously

been freely preached.

 

Like our brothers and sisters

who are suffering persecution in other lands,

we need to remember

that the hope ahead

is far greater

than any anything we might lose this world.

 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was led away to be hanged,

just as he finished conducting a Sunday service

for his fellow prisoners.

In his parting words, he said,

 

"This is the end—

for me the beginning of life."

 

Yes, our Lord said,

 

 “Anyone who does not carry his cross and follow

me cannot be my disciple.”

And “any of you

who does not give up everything he has

cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:27, 33)

 

He wants us to know, right up front,

what it may cost us to follow him.

 

Some give up property.

 

Some give up friends or family. 

 

Some give up their lives. 

 

But the eternal reward in heaven

is far greater than anything we may lose.