No promise of easy

This coming Sunday is the 23rd Sunday and we are considering the reading from Luke 14. In yesterday’s post we provided some context for the flow of the Lucan narrative and took a deeper look at the word “can” which is repeated in the ominous, “cannot be my disciple.

Many scholars tag the whole of this gospel reading as “The cost of discipleship.”  The verses are unique and peculiar to Luke, focusing on the total dedication necessary for the disciples of Jesus. It must be remembered that Jesus is on the way to Jerusalem and has already predicted his death. This is a serious matter and so any person who would follow Jesus should be prepared to leave all behind and make their commitment to the journey that will unfold before them.

Joel Green [564] notes that there are “important topical connections between the current narrative unit and the preceding one. Particularly in Jesus’ story of the great banquet (vv 15–24), he had introduced the possibility that one’s ties to possessions and family might disqualify one from enjoying the feast. As Jesus turns to address the crowds traveling with him, he lists allegiance to one’s family network and the shackles that constitute one’s possessions as impediments to authentic discipleship. Albeit for a different audience, then, Jesus posits the necessity of a corresponding transformation of life in both instances. This conjunction of emphases reminds us that the new practices counseled by Jesus in vv 7–14 are not isolated behaviors but, from Luke’s perspective, must flow out of a transformed disposition, reflecting new commitments, attitudes, and allegiances. That is, the conversion that characterizes genuine discipleship is itself generative, giving rise to new forms of behavior.”

It is here among the crowds of people that Jesus continues to teach discipleship to would-be disciples. Jesus makes no attempt to lure them, rather he makes clear that the way is not easy. Several phases reoccur in these verses:

  • If any one comes to me [and does not] … he cannot be my disciple” (v.26)
  • Whoever does not … cannot be my disciple.” (v.27)
  • everyone of you who does … cannot be my disciple.” (v.33)

The three conditions laid down concern renouncing family ties that would prevent one from becoming a disciple, bearing one’s cross, and forsaking possessions.  Between the second and third sayings twin parables illustrate the folly of failing to consider the cost of an undertaking: the tower builder (vv.28-30) and the king going to war (vv.31-32). The form of the question points to the expected answer for each, “No one, of course” (cf. 11:5, 11; 14:5; 15:4, 17:7). Verse 33 is the conclusion: we must renounce all that keeps us from the fullness of discipleship.

Joel B. Green, The Gospel of Luke (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1997) pp. 563-8

Image: Apologia Studios CC-BY-SA

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