Luke 14:25 Now large crowds were traveling with him; and he turned and said to them, 26 “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. 27 Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
Wow. This is a very high challenge passage indeed. V.25 says there were large crowds traveling with Jesus. We don’t know exactly what inspired Jesus to make these remarks, but we can guess. I’m thinking there were many who followed him but had not really thought it through. It may have been interesting to keep up with Jesus for a few days and see the show – people healed, demons cast out, authorities challenged, and more. But I expect many people didn’t last long. At some point reality kicked in and the need to attend to loved ones prompted people to turn back. So Jesus addressed the issue head-on.
The Greek word “μισέω” is translated into English as “hate”. The New Interpreter’s Bible describes this word as “Semitic hyperbole”. Below is a quote:
“Hate” (μισέω miseō) does not mean anger or hostility. It indicates that if there is a conflict, one’s response to the demands of discipleship must take precedence over even the most sacred of human relationships.”
Jesus knew that many well-meaning followers would eventually be confronted with the difficult choice of continuing to follow Jesus or returning home to attend to loved ones. Jesus was simply giving voice to this conflict, challenging his hearers to make the sacrifice necessary to transition from casual follower to committed disciple.
It’s not unusual for Christian believers to experience conflict between faith and family members and/or close friends. Spouses sometimes argue when one is committed to tithing (returning 10% of income to the Lord) but the other is not. Children don’t always understand when a parent says no to a game or practice or recital or performance on the Sabbath. Friends can think it strange when a Christian declines to go into certain places or engage in certain activities that seem perfectly acceptable to others.
Christian faith doesn’t always bring people we love closer to us. In fact, discipleship can result in relational distance or even separation.
I’ve had this happen to me many times and it can be incredibly painful. I suppose that’s why Jesus described this experience in v.27 as “the cross”. Lord give us courage and strength when we have to choose between you and our loved ones. Amen.