Luke 14:25-35 (winter, AD 29)
Many moons ago an evangelism team came to the school run by our church. After a clear and engaging gospel message, the speaker called for a show of hands: ‘Who wants to accept Jesus into their hearts today?’ (not that Jesus ever told us to do that, but moving on…). About 50 children raised their hands.
Within a few days, on the blog site of their ministry, they declared that during a ‘mission’ to the Cayman Islands, fifty children had given their lives to Jesus during our school assembly.
What really happened is that fifty impressionable children obeyed the impassioned urgings of a compelling speaker into the physical act of raising their hand. There was no follow-up, no conversation, nothing with any of these children – there couldn’t be, as the teachers were given no time to note down who’d raised their hands.
That incident is symptomatic of a widespread tendency to seek comfort or notions of success in numbers. People are urged to say or do something, in the moment, and feel their ticket to heaven has been punched, and that the evangelist/church/speaker has done a good job.
Jesus did evangelism very differently. In response to there being “Large crowds” (v.25) following him, he warned anyone thinking of becoming a disciple that there would be a high price to pay. Following Jesus means that God becomes the number one priority in your life. You will be strongly opposed and it may cost you everything you have.
So…are you sure you want to follow Jesus?
None of us want to suffer or to give up everything. However, if your sins really have been forgiven and God is living in you, then however faintly, your answer will be “Yes, I do want to follow him, whatever the cost”.
When I jumped in and said, “I do”, earlier in the wedding vows than I was supposed to, I knew that marriage to the love of my life would be hard work, and that singleness was a more restful option (Paul says as much in 1 Cor 7). I also knew that being Rachael’s husband was the only way I wanted to spend the rest of my life. 22 years later I can say that, well-informed as I was, I knew nothing of the extent of the challenges of having a successful marriage. I can also say that with a million opportunities to have that decision over again, the only thing I’d change would be marrying Rachael earlier. My relationship with her is one of the defining characteristics of me, even as we have our distinct existences. It is who I am.
So we need to be more honest in our evangelism. Don’t blithely tell people to, “Repent, it’ll be great”, and don’t skip repentance altogether as if we’re inviting people to a social club. Tell them of their sin, their dire need of forgiveness, the great mercy of our Creator, the great sacrifice of Christ, the infinite gift of reconciliation and relationship with our Father, and a life of unparalleled joy. Tell them also of suffering, rejection by the world and discouragements, and reassure them that through all of it, God will never let them go, never let anything come between them and him.
Being your Father isn’t simply what God does, it’s who he is.
Following Christ isn’t what we do, it’s who we are. Anything less isn’t following at all.
Regarding the use of the word ‘hate’ in v.26:
“The call to ‘hate’ is not literal but rhetorical. Otherwise, Jesus’ command to love ones’ neighbour as oneself…makes no sense…it is not a call to be insensitive or to leave all feeling behind… Following Jesus…is to have priority over any family member and one’s own life…” (Bock, in ‘Luke 9:51-24:53, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the NT)
Re verse 34, I’m going to repost what I wrote a couples of months ago from the other notable place this metaphor is used, in the Beatitudes from Matthew 5:
Salt is not limited to a single function, so there is no singular meaning to Jesus’ analogy in these verses. Rather, the variety of its uses speaks to the variety of ways in which Christians’ impact on society should be positively felt.
• A preservative (before fridges were invented salt was necessary to use for preserving meat)
• Associated with purity (Exodus 30:35; 2 Kings 2:19-22)
• Flavour-enhancer (hence the makers of processed foods put in lots of salt in to compensate for the lack of natural flavours!) Colossians 4:6
• Associated with the destruction of impurity (Deuteronomy 9:23; Judges 9:45)
• Creates thirst
• Added to sacrifices (Leviticus 2:13)
• A sign of loyalty (Numbers 18:19)
• Fertiliser (Luke 14:34-35)
• Symbolic of wasteland (Deuteronomy 29:23; Judges 9:43)
• Used in cleaning newborn babies(!) (Ezekiel 16:4)
Given the context, the three uses of salt that are probably most in view are the preservative, the flavour-enhancer and the purifying influence.
Salt, i.e. sodium chloride can NOT become less…sodium chloridey… However, ‘salt’ to a first century Jew was an extremely impure or crude compound that contained salt; a rock with salt in it rather than table salt, which is what you get when all the rock is out of the way. That’s fine until the rock comes into contact with water, at which point the salt dissolves, leaching out of the rock.
Then, the rock that was referred to as ‘salt’ has now lost its saltiness, and furthermore given what we know about how it’s lost that saltiness, it is obvious that it cannot be made salty again.