Luke 14:25–35 . . . Bible Study Summary with Questions
A Disciple Must Hate His or Her Family Members
In the event that you haven't yet or recently read today's eleven-verse passage (shown below), you'll quickly feel the tension therein. Right off the bat, Jesus requires every disciple to hate those whom he elsewhere commands us to love. The key to resolving this tension lies in how we define the term "hate" as Jesus uses it here and how we appreciate its implications of that term for 21st-century disciples.
The tension increases when we read how Jesus concludes today's passage by asserting that those of us who don't give up everything we own can't be his disciples. Verse 33 makes sense only when we approach it in the light of having the correct view of discipleship, which we'll also cover today.
Discipleship Can Demand Much (14:25–27)
Last week's focus on those Pharisees who were invited to dine with Jesus (14:1–24) has shifted to a large crowd of people, following our Lord as he traveled. Although the text doesn't mention a specific venue, Jesus is walking from one town to another, probably toward Jerusalem. Likely surrounded by his closest disciples, we also see an endless stream of curious people following them. Presumably, he turned around to address this great multitude, stopping them in their tracks with these words: "If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters — yes, even their own life — such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple" (vv. 26–27).
Imagine yourself, a follower of Lord Jesus, hearing him say that to you. How would that make you feel, and what would be your reaction? Jesus' words are stunning, shocking just about everyone who heard that first demand that Jesus placed on his disciples. He clearly inferred that many people were onlookers who merely accompanied Jesus without being a true believer in him.
Okay. We've come to the tension of the word "hate" used in v. 26. What does Jesus mean by saying that one cannot be his disciple without hating his family members? Fortunately, the Bible gives us a very clear and acceptable definition of this term, beginning in the Old Testament. We see in Genesis chapter 29 how: Rachel was loved more than Leah; Leah was unloved; Leah was hated. "Hated" literally is "unloved." So, to be hated, in this instance, is to be loved less than another. In Exodus 20, the same sense of "hate" is found in the second commandment; it states that to have other gods, is to love them more than God, thereby hating God.
The New Testament also helps us appreciate the meaning behind "hate." In Romans 9:13 we read, "Just as it is written: 'Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.'" It's easy to see that God chose Jacob above Esau, giving Jacob the preeminence and blessings that normally went to the oldest son. But God did not hate Esau in the way we think of hate. God's compassion on Esau and his descendants is evident. God hated Esau in the sense that he loved Jacob more. And in Matthew 10:34–39, his wording doesn't speak of "hating" father and mother and other loved ones, but of loving them more than our Lord. Thus, to "hate" in our text means "to love less than." Jesus is saying this: In order to be my disciple, men and women must love me — the Christ — more than their parents, more than their mate, more than their children, more than their sisters and brothers.
We look next at understanding who he commands his disciples to hate (i.e., love less). Seemingly, there's a deliberate, descending order in the text: parents are listed first, mate and children second, siblings last. Based upon Jesus' words in v. 33, "those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples," the text appears to sum up in slightly different words the discipleship's demands as detailed in vv. 26–28. In v. 27, Jesus is talking about one's family; in v. 33, he speaks of one's possessions. In essence, one's family makes up a part of one's possessions, which he or she must "give up" before becoming a true disciple.
When our Lord demands that his disciples must "hate" their family, he means that they must give up their dependence upon family, while depending totally upon him. To be his disciple is not only to love him more than anyone or anything else, it is to depend upon him. Independence of God is at the core of sin, while dependence on him is at the core of discipleship.
We'll next look at what vv. 26 and 27 demand of disciples: hating one's own life and taking up his own cross. When one decides to follow Christ and become one of his disciples, one must: surrender other sources of "life" before following Jesus wholeheartedly as his disciple; relinquish all self-seeking; give up one's goals to pursue Jesus' goals. Just as the Master takes up and carries the weight of his own cross, so we, too, must take up and commit to carrying that cross which God has ordained for us.
Deciding to Become a True Disciple (vv. 28–32)
Obviously, Jesus would rather have men "count the cost of discipleship and choose to drop out" than to simply "tag along and go with him without a full commitment." Jesus' words here not only state that "discipleship comes at a very high cost," but also imply that "the price of discipleship is often collected subsequently." Jesus informs these would-be followers of what their costs will be so they won't commit themselves to a course they'll not complete.
Our Lord cites two illustrations showing people who failed to first estimate costs before initiating a project. The first is that of a man who proposes to build a tower without calculating the total cost, thereby realizing his inability to complete it. The "unfinished tower" would become a monument to this man's folly: What the man thought would bring him fame, would bring him shame. The second illustration involves a king who intends to wage war against another king without calculating whether or not he had sufficient manpower to win. Because he was outnumbered two-to-one, he had to humble himself and surrender to his enemy mercilessly. Again, he was put to shame because he commenced his proposed project without counting the cost. [In Warren's commentary on the Parable of the Cost of Discipleship), he presents what it takes to be a true disciple of Lord Jesus.]
The two illustrations have at least three points on which to focus: (1) Jesus wanted all men to know, in advance, that the price of discipleship was high. With Jerusalem and Calvary coming up, Jesus didn't want men and women to decide to follow him wholeheartedly without first knowing the cost, i.e., that there would be a "cross" for them to bear as well. Jesus wanted men to calculate up front the total cost of true discipleship; (2) Jesus wanted men to purposefully choose to become his disciples, rather than to be automatically attracted to him and merely be a follower. The difficulty of Jesus' intentional wording caused people to leave and ponder what he meant. In both illustrations, Jesus said that each man should have sat down and considered what he was about to decide to do. After all, quick decisions are made only by those who make an uninformed commitment; instead, slow, deliberate decisions are made by those deciding to make long-term commitments; (3) Jesus wasn't looking for people who had the resources to follow him, but for those who, after thinking about it, knew they didn't. Instead of looking for a few good men who'd insist on first counting the cost and finding themselves sufficiently equipped to follow through in their commitment to the end, Jesus realized that none of his disciples had the capability to follow through; they all forsook Jesus, even Peter, who assured Jesus that he was fully committed and he'd never forsake him.
In both of the Lord's illustrations, each man failed to follow through; neither had the means to finish what he'd have started. In reality, no one has the resources in and of himself to be a true disciple of Jesus Christ, any more than he or she has the resources to earn God's favor and eternal life. This is precisely why Jesus began by teaching that, in order to become his disciple, one would have to "hate" his family, to renounce his dependence upon it, and depend instead fully upon Christ alone. Our Lord isn't trying to get these followers to muster up sufficient commitment to become disciples, but to get them to realize that no one has the resources to follow him, apart from his enablement through the Holy Spirit. Discipleship is not following Christ with sufficient means to do what he commands, but with forthright dependence on him to enable us to do as he says.
Discipleship in Jesus' Eyes (vv. 33–35)
Discipleship, as shown in v. 33, is not a matter of how much we have to offer, but of renouncing all that we think we have to offer. And in vv. 34–35, Jesus explains why he discouraged having a large following: disciples must be distinctly focused and committed, not simply numerous. Think about this: Very little salt is required to season a large quantity of food because salt has a very distinct flavor. But when salt loses its distinctness, it loses its value. Excessive quantities of indistinct, ineffectual salt can't satisfy a food's need for saltiness.
In the same way, great numbers of disciples cannot guarantee greatness of impact. It's not the number of disciples that matters, but their distinctness from others. The world will take little note of a large group of people who think, feel, and act like them. However, it will take note of those very few disciples who act Christ-like and whose lives are distinctive.
"Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear." The final verse is one that's found several times in the gospels, always used in a context where our Lord's words aren't expected to be understood by the majority, and where Jesus encouraged his listeners to ponder his words carefully to learn and appreciate their meaning. Let these last words have their full and hearty impact on us as well, for not all of us will grasp what Jesus says, especially in relationship to the cost of our becoming true disciples.
- Q. 1 If Peter, James, and John couldn't follow through fully, why would you think that you could?
- Q. 2 Do you believe that you have the means to become one of his true disciples? If so, who do you hate?
- Q. 3 When did you realize that following Jesus was costly to you? How so?
- Q. 4 Have you ever wondered, since then, if the cost was worth it? What keeps you going?
New International Version (NIV)
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The Cost of Being a Disciple
25Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: 26"If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters — yes, even their own life — such a person cannot be my disciple. 27And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
28"Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won't you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? 29For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, 30saying, 'This person began to build and wasn't able to finish.'
31"Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won't he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32If 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. 33In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.
34"Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? 35It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out.
"Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear."