Gving Up Everything
Ordinary 23 Year C
A Hebrew Catholic Perspective
St. Luke 14: 25 — 33
In this study, we come to the end of a series dealing with the qualities Jesus Messiah demands of those who follow him. Not unexpectedly, this passage of nine verses serves as a kind of ultimatum. But it is even more ― it is a call to the closest intimacy as His companions and co-workers.
Some Reflections On Our Text
Great crowds were traveling with him, and he turned and
The passage opens with a transition verse 25, “Great crowds were travelling with Him …” to signify that what follows was not spoken to the people inside, or looking into the prominent Pharisee’s home (see beginning of chapter 14). The clause presumes that He had resumed His travelling after the meal at the house of the Pharisee. If it was still the Sabbath, He would not have travelled very far as He was a devout upholder of the Torah which limited the distance He could walk on that day.
It is very human for those who teach the Faith to delight in large numbers of people responding to their teaching and to feel despondent when the response is small. Our Lord, however, offers a different model. He makes demands of those who wish to follow Him, which have the effect of a most severe sifting process.
• He teaches in a way that demands careful attention, even
when His listeners are very tired.
• He is uncompromising in what He requires, and can
appear to be rather blunt at times.
On this occasion Jesus turns to the crowd and, instead of welcoming them, seems determined, at first appearances, to discourage them. But we need to remember that they were not following in a sense of accepting the teaching of Jesus, or obeying his precepts for holy living. They followed in the expectation of a kingdom about to be established in pomp, splendour, and power — in which they would share. Our Lord goes out of His way to remove any misunderstanding.
If any one comes to me without hating his father and mother,
wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life,
he cannot be my disciple.
The first uncompromising rule for anyone who would be a disciple of the Lord is that they must hate father, mother, wife, children, brother, sisters, and especially — self!
Yes, the word “hate” is a correct translation and should not be “watered down”. Notice we don’t have to hate friends, neighbours, or the local inhabitants — only our nearest and dearest — those whom we naturally love and for whom we would do anything we could to help them!
This last point provides a clue to unpack the obvious dilemma: how on earth can hatred be the basis of Christian discipleship?
Many reading these notes will be aware that in the Aramaic language there is no “comparative” (e.g. good, better, best; or little, less, least.) Therefore, since we are working from a translation of the Bible into English, we must acknowledge that although the translation is correct, it actually means:
“If anyone comes to me to be my disciple, they must love father,
mother, wife and children less than me.”
But even this takes us only part-way to Our Lord’s actual meaning. It is an Aramaic way of saying more correctly:
“You must love them in every way but you must love me
This allows the followers of Jesus, paradoxically, to love Him above all else, without diminishing the love they naturally (and absolutely correctly) have for those whom God has given as their family. Note how Our Lord, in Semitic style, reinforces the absolute condition of loving one’s family as a pre-condition of entering His discipleship. In fact, the people listening to Jesus would, in their cultural setting, have heard it something like:
“You must love your father, mother, wife, children, and
whoever else you wish to include; but the demands they make
must not restrict your discipleship. You must be free to serve
me in the way I reveal to you.”
Here, Our Lord is taking up the teaching of Deuteronomy 33: 9 as demanded of the Levites of old:
“He says of his father and mother I have not seen them.
His brothers he does not know, nor does he know his children.”
This, then, is the real message. Yeshua, our Messiah, calls for dedication at this level, in order to prepare the foundations of the Kingdom of God. The terms apply until His Great Return at the end of time. The challenge at hand is vast but it is seen as a great privilege to be invited to join the Lord’s task force.
Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me
cannot be my disciple.
Our Lord goes on to list a further condition of discipleship, and this one will take a lot of explaining!
There was no mistaking this requirement, although of course, its full import was not yet appreciated. Martyrdom by the cruelest of tortures was to be accepted as very possible, even probable. Up until the time of the Christian Emperor Constantine, if you were ordained to the clergy you could expect a violent and cruel death. The spiritual understanding of dying to one’s own self by accepting the will of God in all things developed later. For now, Jesus was signalling that those who would truly follow Him would pay for the honour. As it has turned out, this condition has continued to apply on a wide front ever since. The extensive and inhumane persecution of devout Christians throughout the world today ought to stir Christ’s members to much prayer and fasting. We are entering another phase of horrific persecution.
Verse 28 — 32
Which of you wishing to construct a tower does not first sit
down and calculate the cost to see if there is enough for its
Otherwise, after laying the foundation and finding himself
unable to finish the work the onlookers should laugh at him
and say, ‘This one began to build but did not have the
resources to finish.’
Or what king marching into battle would not first sit down
and decide whether with ten thousand troops he can
successfully oppose another king advancing upon him with
twenty thousand troops?
But if not, while he is still far away, he will send a delegation to ask for peace terms.
Our Lord presents two parables to help His listeners make sound, reasoned decisions about whether to follow him as disciples rather than just on-lookers. They were parables — not allegories, and we must not assign symbolic meaning to each detail.
Is He saying it is better not to begin to be a disciple, and fail? A little time pondering these verses, strategically placed after sorting out the “not so sure”, will reveal that Jesus is hinting at calling disciples together for a major task. It cannot be taken on without reflecting on the real and full cost. It is no use acting on impulse; but only after careful consideration of all that is known so that a clear-cut decision can be made and adhered to.
The discerning will hear that He is calling for careful, conscious, yet generous acceptance of a great commission!
In the same way, everyone of you who does not
renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.
Readers of modern English will quite reasonably ask, “How can you do His work if you have nothing to do it with?” To add to the dilemma at this point we also need to know that the best scholarship tells us this condition is applicable to all disciples — St. Luke seems to make no distinction. Obviously it was to depend on circumstances.
Whilst the earlier conditions were at least clear to hearers, even if unpalatable, this one remained a mystery for many. It is an example of the kind of thing our Lord put forward for people to mull over and enquire about. Those who chose to follow, persevered and learnt what He meant. Others, less motivated, just quietly drifted off to other interests.
In truth, Jesus does not demand outright disposal of goods and possessions. What is necessary for discipleship is the yielding up of the right to ownership — the right to exercise direct control. Our Lord uses the present tense to imply a continuing attitude of detachment. So that remains something for us all to review in our own lives from time to time.
Jesus is not on about deprivation for its own sake:
• detachment from loved ones
• detachment from one’s own life
• detachment from one’s own possessions.
That would be cold, inhuman, and showing a lack of appreciation for the good things of life.
Rather he is challenging those who hear his call in the depths of their being, to be grateful for all those things, yet not be held back by them from becoming more attached to Him. Those who are enabled by the Holy Spirit, to hear that inner call to follow Him, He implies, will not perceive His demands as unreasonable, but to be the very way He is opening before them. That is, they cease to be a barrier and become instead the door to LIFE.
The choice to enter by that door, and remain in that way will always be ours to accept or decline.
“Those who trust in him shall understand truth,
and the faithful shall abide with him in love:
because grace and peace are with his holy ones,
and his care is with the elect.” (Wisdom 3: 9)
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“Proclaim the Gospel to Every Creature”
(Mark 16: 15)
Let us remember God’s Teaching, contained in His Word and in doing so,
Giving Up Everything
Ordinary 23 Year C St. Luke 14: 25 — 33
2 One of the paradoxes, entering our Lord’s service is the standard of love required.
3 “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my
Let us pray for one another that those who choose to be disciples of the Lord will
Luke 14: 25 — 33
Ordinary 23 Year C
25 6 Great crowds were traveling with him, and he turned and
26 “If any one comes to me without hating his father 7 and mother,
27 Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot
28 Which of you wishing to construct a tower does not first sit down
29 Otherwise, after laying the foundation and finding himself
30 and say, ‘This one began to build but did not have the resources
31 Or what king marching into battle would not first sit down and
32 But if not, while he is still far away, he will send a delegation to
33 In the same way, everyone of you who does not renounce all his
6 [25-33] This collection of sayings, most of which are peculiar to Luke, focuses on the total dedication necessary for the disciple of Jesus. No attachment to family (⇒ Luke 14:26) or possessions (⇒ Luke 14:33) can stand in the way of the total commitment demanded of the disciple. Also, acceptance of the call to be a disciple demands readiness to accept persecution and suffering (⇒ Luke 14:27) and a realistic assessment of the hardships and costs (⇒ Luke 14:28-32).
7  Hating his father . . . : cf the similar saying in ⇒ Matthew 10:37. The disciple’s family must take second place to the absolute dedication involved in following Jesus (see also ⇒ Luke 9:59-62).
Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised