Have you ever wondered what it
must be like to be so popular that crowds and groupies
follow you wherever you go? I can visualize the
audiences of the most famous singers and bands, arms
stretched out just longing to touch or be touched,
throwing pieces of clothing, eyes crying, voices
shouting, signs waving. Each person hoping to become
more than just a nameless face, hoping to be recognized
as an individual. Most stars work the crowds so that
they scream for more and raise the noise to a feverish
Have you watched political
conventions? Thousands of people wearing hats and other
political apparel, waving, shouting, cheering, blowing
noise makers. And the men who hope to become our chief
executive are working the crowds to get the vote. It's
such a disgusting display of human nature - the herd
When the fate of our nation is
at stake and our part in world negotiations stands as
precariously as it does, the masses join bigger crowds
and get caught up in all the hype instead of going
beyond what the media feeds us. What about just as
feverishly hitting the books, learning about the
economy, world culture, and international relations.
Human tendency make it apparent that it is easier to add
one's voice to the joyous shout and then throw insults
and abandon the leader when something goes wrong than to
accept one's role of responsibility.
Now before you start throwing
eggs at me because you love getting caught up in the
enthusiasm of concerts and conventions, look at Jesus.
The gospel of Luke frequently mentions these crowds that
follow Jesus. If you go through the book and circle that
word and then go back and read the texts that go with
it, you will see the trend.
Most of the people probably
joined because a neighbor happened to say, "Hey, this
guy's got a great sermon, you ought to come out and hear
him. He's a dynamic preacher." Or maybe someone who had
been sick, heard he could get a miracle cure and went
out to be healed. The voices were those of praise,
amazement, and fear. This man is almost too good to be
true. People waited for him around every corner. They
praised God for this wonderful gift of a man who could
do great things for them. The charisma Jesus had must
have been amazingly contagious because by chapter
twelve, Luke tells us the crowds gathered by the
thousands -so many - that they trampled on one another.
And then in chapter thirteen, when Jesus' opponents were
put to shame by Jesus' clever responses the crowds ate
it up - they rejoiced at all the wonderful things he was
There Jesus was at the height of
his popularity! If he had played the crowds like our
usual presidential hopefuls, Jesus could have presented
a serious bid for political and religious upheaval of
the human kind. But instead he turned to them and placed
responsibility back on their own shoulders.
Jesus knew where he was headed.
His face was turned toward Jerusalem and the fate that
awaited him there. He knew that to obey the Father was
going to mean sacrificing everything. And, sadly, he
knew the fate that awaited the twelve that had walked
with him daily for three years.
So he turned to the people who
had been traveling with him and "told it like it is."
Now when we read this passage, it is difficult to think
that hating our family members is a requirement of
discipleship unless, of course, there's good cause like
abuse. And, it goes against all the sermons we have
heard Jesus speak of loving neighbor and enemy alike.
That's why a careful reading of this passage is
essential. We must keep in mind the coming trials that
will await Christians in the years after his death.
Jesus is talking about prioritizing - about choosing
ahead of time the decisions that will - by necessity -
and without a doubt - have to be made. He is almost
telling them to grieve now the losses that will surely
come while you have the time and the ability because in
the future you will have to act firmly and decisively
and grieving will hinder your effectiveness as a
The passage says, "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." The word "cannot" often
is interpreted that we are being prevented from being
disciples if we can't do the required task. But it has
more to do with the depth of our character and strength
of our will. How intense is our decision? For, if we
cannot envision the day when we would or could step out
of the loving relationships we have had to take a stand,
then we are simply not able - not capable - to be Jesus'
Jesus is laying it on the line
and giving the crowd a chance to evaporate away quietly
and peacefully. Several chapters before this one, we
read of individual people approaching Jesus and asking
to be a follower. And he said, Sure, but do you realize,
I don't even have a pillow to place under my head at
night? Another wanted to go bury his Dad, but Jesus said
someone else can do it for you, I need you to go and
proclaim the kingdom of God. Another wanted to go say
goodbye. But Jesus said, "Son, if you feel the need to
look back at the things you've left behind, then don't
even start on this journey."
Jesus makes it clear that you
have choices. You can weigh it all out ahead of time.
Because to be a disciple of Jesus could be costly. The
day could come when you will lose everything by choice
or by force. And could you do it without hesitation? Or
would you be the first to say, "Hey, what kind of God
allows this to happen? God should have intervened and
prevented this." Jesus clearly says that to be able to
be his disciple you must be able to renounce it all.
How many of us have unfinished
tasks or projects lying around the house, the garage, or
the work place? I know I do. As a hobby seamstress, I
have tons of fabric, patterns, and already cut out items
that have been waiting - some of them for years - but my
priorities dictate that my energies need to be spent
To be a disciple of Jesus Christ
is a life long project that does not end when we say, "I
believe." That is only the beginning. Jesus talks about
the tower builder who estimates carefully the expenses
involved in his project so that he can finish it. Jesus
uttered those very words from the cross at the moment of
his death, "It is finished." Jesus understood that his
entire life was a task to be completed. He knew that it
would cost him everything to demonstrate to the world
God's love for all humankind. And, so did his disciples.
All but one was martyred for proclaiming the kingdom.
But on Pentecost they counted the cost and moved forward
What unfinished work is in your
life and the life of this congregation? How many of us
have had to give up so much to maintain our beliefs and
our principles? How much more is there to do? Who has
made promises and then backed out because of the expense
in money, time, or personal sanity? At what point do you
compromise your faith? Only you have the answers to
those questions. But be sure to listen when you sing the
hymns or pray such things as "use me Lord." You can be
guaranteed, God will use you and in a way that may cost
us everything. But the good news is this: The more we
are used, the more valuable we become and the closer we
are to realizing the incredible purpose and fullness of
life to which we are called.