At that time, large crowds were traveling with Jesus. Turning to them, he said, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—indeed, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. Anyone who does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:25-27).
Has this ever happened to you? You’re making a significant purchase or signing a binding contract, either online or in person. It’s time to check a box, make your mark, or otherwise signify your approval. But just above the signature box you notice lines upon lines of miniscule and indecipherable legalese. Even if you could understand it, you know there’s just not enough time to read every word. So, we usually just gloss over it and—for all we know—sign our lives away along with our children and grandchildren!
While this tactic is often utilized with the best of intentions to protect the business with which we’re negotiating, we can’t help but suspect that all the fine print is masking something vitally important. We rightly wonder whether or not someone might be taking advantage of us. And I’m sure you could cite plenty of instances where the fine print came back to bite you or someone you know.
As Jesus was resolutely making his way toward Jerusalem, he noticed that the crowds were quickly multiplying. Maybe they were drawn to his teaching. Maybe they were drawn to his miracles. Maybe they were drawn simply because others were drawn to Jesus, and they wanted to jump on the band wagon. Whatever their reasons, Jesus insisted they all know exactly what they were getting themselves into.
Facing them directly, Jesus said that following him for the sake of rewards was not enough. On the contrary, there would be a cost to pay. Jesus was on his way to lay down his life for the sins of the world. Anyone who would follow him, therefore, must be prepared to do at least two things: (1) love Christ more than anything or anyone else in the world and (2) brace for suffering.
There’s no fine print here. There’s no effort to spin the facts to make them more palatable. Jesus states the cost of finding everlasting life plainly and simply. To follow Jesus is to lay down one’s life for him without exception or qualification. He wants more from us than shallow, lukewarm, and casual obedience. He wants to forgive us, to pour out his grace on us, and to make us holy as he is holy.
As we journey toward Holy Week and Easter this year, may the Spirit lead us to recognize and give thanks for the clarity of Jesus’ call to discipleship. And hearing the call, may we follow wholeheartedly.