Luke 14:25-35

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"The Cost of Being a Disciple" by Kazakhstan Artist Nelly Bube.


Except for verses 2-6 this entire chapter is Law. Look at the last sentence. God put ears on sinners to listen so that they might repent.

Verses 1-24 denote one occasion when Jesus was invited by a leading Pharisee to a dinner.

Verses 7-11 were spoken to all the guests who were scrambling for the most important seats.

Verses 12-14 were spoken to the host with reference to his selfishness.

Verses 15-24 were addressed to one of the guests, and stress the need for repentance.

Verses 25-35 were spoken to the large crowds on the way. The entire section stresses the need for the proper resources in Christian living or sanctification. Verses 26, 27 and 33 state and restate the same principle: the person who has insufficient resources cannot be Jesus' disciple. Two illustrations, verses 28-32, lie between these statements. Both have the idea of "test" in common, the first the test of completing, the second the test of final victory. Failure to pass the first "test" results in ridicule. For the second it's defeat. Human nature abhors ridicule and defeat. To avoid these, each is to ask himself: "Do I have the proper resources?" Verses 28-33 are found only in Luke.

Above all, this chapter is not calling for "commitment," "surrender," or a "decision." This sections is NOT talking about what a person, in his own strength, CAN do but rather what he CANNOT do. Lenski gets at it when he says with reference to verse 33: "The vanity of all that lies in ourselves."

Luke 14:25 Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said:

Luke 14:26 "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters -- yes, even his own life -- he cannot be my disciple.

A fact or particular condition. The conclusion is found in the last five words. How you apply this to yourself will depend on how you answer the "if" clause.

"Hate" must be understood Christocentrically. It does not denote an evil disposition. It means to abandon, so far as spiritual resources are concerned. Look at Matthew 10:37 and John 12:25. Our closest relatives and not even we ourselves can furnish us with the forgiveness of sins and the resultant strength to live the Christian life. In that sense they are we ourselves must be hated.

Discipleship with Jesus is impossible if we make gods of human beings.

Luke 14:27 And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

"Pick up and carry" just as Jesus did on the way to Calvary. He carried the cross in our stead, in our place. Now He lays a cross on us to test us. On the two ideas laid side by side look at Hebrews 12:2-3. Look at Galatians 2:20. Failure to bear one's cross disqualifies the person.

Luke 14:28 "Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it?

This sentence runs on to the end of verse 30 and comprises an illustration. Its central thought is the magnitude of the task.

You don't build a large tower, a huge task, unless you first sit down and estimate the cost.

Luke 14:29 For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him,

"After he has laid the foundation but is unable to finish the job." Everybody is watching this man who has assumed a huge task. They expect him to finish. But when he can't, the begin to ridicule him.

Luke 14:30 saying, 'This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.'

Their ridicule is expressed in words. In application Jesus is picturing the man who could not accomplish the very difficult task of living a Christian life because he did not have the proper resources.

Luke 14:31 "Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand?

"Or" means "here's a second example." Jesus uses a second example to stress the thought of the magnitude of the task. The sentence runs on to the end of verse 32. The sentence, analogical to verses 28-30, is complex involving an indirect question. By the way, both sentences have "having sat down" in common. This denotes careful deliberation.

The picture her is of two kings meeting in battle with their respective armies. The first king has only 10,000 troops. The second has 20,000. The odds are two to one. To be outnumbered two to one is a formidable task. It demands careful deliberation lest defeat result.

The expected answer is: "He surely will!"

Luke 14:32 If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace.

"But if he does not," and then supply the thought, "sit down and deliberate before going into battle." "Peace" here is not the peace of victory, but rather that of ignominious defeat. In application Jesus is picturing the man who could not accomplish the very difficult task of winning the victory over sin, his own flesh, and the devil because he did not have the proper resources.

Luke 14:33 In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.

This verse is the key to the whole passage. God does not require us to renounce our possessions. Poverty is no virtue. God does require that we say goodbye to all our own resources, our own supposed self-righteousness and strength. At this point the preacher must be able to distinguish Law and Gospel carefully. The whole passage is a good example of the second use of the Law, to show people their utter inability to reconcile themselves to God, to save themselves, and then to live the difficult Christian life of sacrifice and suffering. But justification and sanctification (which must be sharply distinguished) are a gift of God in Christ. See Galatians 2:20.

"In the same way" or "in view of what's been said in verses 28-32." There are no exceptions. My flesh is always saying that I'm different, I'm much better than others, I don't need repentance and faith.

"Give up" is to "say goodbye to," "to have nothing to do with." ALL his VERY OWN possessions, in the sense of he CANNOT be my disciple. Is Jesus here driving us away? By no means. He uses sharpest Law to warn us against trusting in our own righteousness and strength and that of others. Notice how sharply John the Baptist spoke in Luke 3:7-14.

Sanctification, the great tower and the difficult battle of good works, cross-bearing and self-denial, MUST follow justification. But there can be no sanctification unless a person has the resources of justification, the atonement, reconciliation with God through Christ, offered in the means of grace.

Luke 14:34 "Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?

This is a summary statement. Everyone will agree with this axiom. "Therefore, salt is good; but if even salt has become tasteless, with what will it be seasoned?" In application, if a Christian abandons his God-given resources in Christ, Christian living becomes impossible.

By the way, this verse rules out: "once in grace, always in grace," and verse 33 rules out synergism, the idea that natural man has inherent spiritual powers of his own. At all times he must approach his Lord as a beggar.

Luke 14:35 It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out. "He who has ears to hear, let him hear."

Useless for the soil. Useless for the manure-pile. People throw saltless salt away. In application Jesus means that if a man loses his Christian faith and faithfulness, he becomes utterly worthless, not even good dung, if we may be blunt.

The last sentence is very frequent in the mouth and teaching of Jesus. Everybody has ears. "Let him be constantly hearing." God put ears on sinners to listen to Law and Gospel constantly. The Law always accuses and condemns. And then the Gospel constantly gives the proper resources. And then the Law serves as a guide for Christian living. The Christian is constantly moving in this sphere.


Adapted from Exegetical Notes, Series C Gospel Texts, Sundays After Pentecost, by Harold H. Buls, Concordia Theological Seminary Press: Ft Wayne IN, 1979, pp. 47-49. Used with permission.

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