Anyone who does not carry his Cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.
In today’s Gospel Jesus seems to do all he can to put people off from following him. No sane, reasonable person, he seems to say, would seriously consider becoming his disciple. A disciple of his must hate his family, and even his own life. At this point we rush to the learned footnotes, and we read, with relief, that “hate” here is a Semitic idiom. It refers not to negative emotion, but to preference. Nevertheless: the language Jesus uses is deliberately, provocatively strong, even violent. It would not be less shocking for a contemporary Jew than it is for us, because precisely their religion put enormous emphasis on love for one’s own family. Then Jesus says that any disciple of his must be ready to carry his Cross. This is an invitation willingly to undergo the most horrible, humiliating, extreme manner of tortured, agonised death, quite commonly carried out in public at the time, as a very effective means of terrifying the subject population. Finally, to follow Jesus you have to give up all your possessions; otherwise, “you cannot be my disciple”.
Jesus spoke these words on his final journey to Jerusalem. He addressed them in the first place to those who were with him because caught up in the excitement and enthusiasm of the crowds. Happy to follow the superstar celebrity, and eager to witness yet more sensational miracles of healing, they hoped above all for imminent political liberation. But no: discipleship of Jesus must cost a lot more than easy conformity with the crowd. St. Luke’s Gospel is the only one to report the two rather strange comparisons Jesus makes here: the man planning to build a tower, and the King preparing to set out for war. It’s as if Jesus here turns and confronts the fickle rabble. Do you want to follow me? He asks. Think: it will cost you more than you bargained for. Are you ready or able to pay the price?
The sayings are deliberately paradoxical, and the comparisons certainly cannot be pressed. Because actually it would never be reasonable to sit down and decide not to follow Jesus. No, every sane, reasonable person should want to be his disciple, and should be happy to pay the full price he asks, with joy and gratitude.
Today’s Gospel gives us the chance to affirm once again, to ourselves, to one another, to the Lord, that yes: we do want to follow Jesus! We do want to be his disciples! For he is the Lord. He died for us, and rose again from the dead. He is the Son of God; he is our Saviour, our Redeemer, our Life, our Light, our Salvation, our Hope, our Love, our Glory, our Joy. He is not a threat to us, not a harsh tyrant, not a cruel Master. No, Jesus came to heal, to liberate, to lift us up. He offers to take away from us what we want and need to get rid of - to be free from. That is, above all, our sins, and also our worldly attachments. In their place he offers us what is utterly and ultimately desirable: a share in his own divine Sonship; true holiness; the fullness of eternal life; union with God in heaven.
Please continue to pray about your discipleship love and prayers Revd Sara