Throughout the Gospels, we see enormous crowds following Jesus. He was like no other teacher of his day. He taught new perspectives to ancient Jewish teachings. He inspired people to be more then they were. He challenged them to draw closer to God. You could say, he challenged people to become authentic disciples.
Jesus attracted these crowds because he so commonly taught outside of the temple, and did so many wonderful signs outside the temple.
On this day, he looked at the crowds and he saw a group of people who were following him for the sake of watching him do amazing things. They had gotten so used to his incredible signs that for many, their only reason for following Jesus was to watch him. Let's call them consumers of Christ's ministry. Consumers come to be fed, nurtured, and possibly even entertained by Christ. What they didn't do was, in turn, take the information received from Christ and pass it along to anyone else. They didn't help further Christ's ministry at all.
Jesus looked at this crowd, a crowd of consumers, and he said these words to them. If you have your Bibles with you this morning, or you're following along in the Bible app, which I hope you're doing one of those two, you may notice that these words are written in Red. Many Bibles use red letters to notate Christ's words in the Gospels.
Back to our passage, Christ said to this crowd of consumers,
Most translations say "if you hate your father and mother." I love the fact that the Contemporary English takes the hyperbolic intentions of Christ into consideration when translating here. Christ wanted to emphasize the importance of his statement. He makes a similar when he says,
Christ wanted to emphasize that following him was not an easy thing. You must be WILLING to give up everything for Christ. The only way to do that is if he is the most important relationship you have.
There is always a cost in our lives for following Jesus, but in my personal experience, I have learned there is a more significant cost for not following Jesus.
What Jesus promised is that if we agree to put him above everything else, if we agree to obey his teachings, to sacrifice things that the world says is important, and to repent, then we will have a spiritually blessed life.
Christ brings this point home when he said,
What an odd thing for him to say to this group. He had just challenged them to love him more than everyone else in their lives. Now he wanted them to be willing to become criminals and to carry a cross towards death.
They key here is the extent that a person hates his or her own life. Now I don't mean we should go sit in a dark corner of your room and wallow in your own self-pity. Christ is trying to say that this life is nothing if we aren't willing to do the work that he calls us to do. If we are not willing to make the selfless sacrifices just as he did, then why are we here? If we can't obey Christ, no matter what the cost will be, no matter what people will say, then why are we here?
If we can't repent and change our ways, then why are we here?
Who is Jesus? This question often fills philosophical debates on college campuses and within the walls of church rooms during group meetings. Most people would agree that he lived and most would agree that he died. The place where people argue is what effects he had on the world and if he came back to life again.
Read Matthew 16:13-20.
- Who were people saying Jesus was?
- Who did his disciples say he was?
- Why do you think Jesus didn't want his disciples to share that he was the Messiah?
Read Luke 14:25-27.
- Who do you picture to be in the crowd following Jesus?
- How do you think this crowd responded to Jesus' words?
- What does it look like to love Jesus more (phrasing of the CEV) than everyone else?
- How does loving Jesus more affect our relationships with others?
- How could loving Jesus more make us better employees?
- What does it look like for us to take up our cross?
Read Matthew 5:13-16.
- What does it mean to be a disciple?
- What kind of things does a disciple do? What don't they do?
- How can you increase the amount that you follow Jesus in your life?
- Do your good deeds shine above everything else you do?
Prayer for the Week:
Lord, help me love you more and myself less. Show me the places in my life where I need to increase my dedication to you so that I can shine in this world. Help me carry my cross daily, dying to myself so that I can live in you. During this first week of Lent, show me what is stopping me from being truly set free from sin.