Once again we are on the road with Jesus as He makes His way toward Jerusalem. There is quite a good-sized crowd travelling with Him along the way and at some point in their progress Jesus speaks to them about the cost of being His disciple. His remarks are set up in 14:26-27:
If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
These words will sound a little crazy if we don’t recognize that Jesus has inserted a bit of hyperbole to make His point. No, we need not literally hate our families; obviously hate is not the way of love. Yet we also mustn’t allow them to keep us from following Jesus, or be so concerned with what they think of us that we will turn our backs on our Lord. The same is true of ourselves; we must not be so concerned with our own persona and interests that we cannot put His first, for if we do not put Him first, we will not be a disciple.
Reduced to simplest terms, a disciple is one who knows what the Master knows, and who does what the Master does, thus a disciple will put neither their own interests nor those of other people ahead of their Master’s interests. To better illustrate His point, Jesus tells a parable:
If a person is going to build something, in the parable it’s a tower, they must first obtain a good estimate of the building cost, for if they do not, then they run the risk of having to halt construction midway through the process for lack of money to complete it. It seems like common sense doesn’t it?
Then He gives another example, this time of a king thinking about making war on a neighboring king. He must consider his chances of winning the war before he jumps into a fight. If it turns out that he is unlikely to survive the war, he must seek a diplomatic solution. Again, this is common sense.
What Jesus is trying to tell people is simply that following Him isn’t going to be all peaches and cream; there may well be problems that come up in this life. Doesn’t this remind you a little bit of the warnings we saw in chapter 13?
In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples. (14:33)
Then He closes with an interesting observation…
Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out.
“Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.” (14:34-35)
Here He uses common salt as an analogy to discipleship; a disciple is like salt. If salt is no longer salty, then what good is it? It’s only good for being thrown away. If a disciple of Christ is pulled back into the old ways and no longer follows the Master, then what good is he to the Master? Yes dear reader, this is another warning…
It is also another illustration of what He means by “giving up everything”. The Master must come first.
This is a very touchy point, for there is a great deal of nuance here for the reader to pick up on. All too often, preachers and commentators leave this at a very negative point and launch into discussions of heavy religious duties and obligations, into hellfire and damnation or finger pointing and condemnation, and in so doing leave wreckage in their wakes. The problem that these preachers and commentators have is that they forget the building project and the king, and concentrate on the salt… and they don’t know the first thing about cooking, except that their wives do all of it for them!
Let’s pause and talk about the nature of salt so that we can have ears that hear.
I will run a Bonus Post about salt tomorrow morning; see you then!