In Luke 14, Jesus describes three types of people who cannot be His disciples. The first is anyone who comes to Him who “does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life” (v26). We know that this doesn’t mean that we need to actually hate our family members. How do we know that? We are commanded to honor our fathers and mothers. Other passages in both the Old and New Testaments describe how Christians should love their family, friends, and even enemies.
Jesus often spoke in hyperbole to emphasize a point. The point here is that a Christian’s love for Jesus should be so supreme that any other love is like hatred by comparison. If a Christian had to choose between family and Jesus, he is to choose Jesus. The message here is about supreme love and devotion.
The second type of person who cannot be His disciple is “whoever does not bear his own cross and come after” Him (v27). Some think that this is referring to some specific hardship in their lives, but remember that a cross was a symbol of death. It was an instrument for capital punishment, and it was a horrid, shameful death. To bear one’s own cross is to be so wholly devoted to Jesus, that he would be willing to follow Him even if that meant being crucified. In fact, some of His followers would actually be crucified.
The third type of person is anyone “who does not renounce all that he has” (v33). The disciple of Jesus is willing to lose anything for the sake of Christ.
All of these things together make it clear that Jesus calls for total devotion. He does not want disciples who want to worship Him and something else. He does not want followers who are half-heartedly pursuing Him.
Now, this should make us uncomfortable. No one follows Jesus with such perfect abandon and zeal. But Jesus wasn’t setting a standard for salvation. All who trust in Jesus will be saved, not by their works, but by His, and His perfect sacrifice, and His resurrection.
However, this does set the perfect standard of discipleship. As blood-bought believers, we are called to a total devotion. It’s not Jesus plus everything else. It’s Jesus in everything. He is to be supreme in every aspect of our lives. And by His grace, this happens progressively in a Christian’s life. His Holy Spirit causes us to love Him supremely, increasingly until we die. Praise God!
1 Chronicles 26