June 17, 2018
“Not my President,” was a phrase heard in the aftermath of the last election. The phrase was used by some people who did not vote for President Trump. They were upset and so they made it clear that President Trump was not their President. Of course the reality is that by virtue of being a citizen of the United States and living in the United States, President Trump is their President. He’s just not their preferred president.
Jesus Christ is reigning as Lord and King over the universe. Of course, it is very clear that Jesus is not everyone’s preferred Lord and King. And most people in the world want little to do with Jesus. What about you? We are looking at the fine print involved with being a follower of Jesus. In every relationship there is always fine print, implications that can’t be ignored. Today we see that if Jesus is your King, he must have first place in your life.
I. JESUS IS ACCESSIBLE TO ALL PEOPLE. Lk.14:25
In Luke’s gospel there is an emphasis on the crowds who followed Jesus. It begins in Lk.4:37. There we read, “And reports about him went out into every place in the surrounding region.” In 5:15, we read, “But now even more the report about him went abroad, and great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities.” Lk.6:17-19 says, “And he came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon, who came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. And those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. And all the crowd sought to touch him, for power came out from him and healed them all.” In 8:45 we read that the crowds were pressing in on Jesus. In 9:11 it says, “When the crowds learned it, they followed him, and he welcomed them and spoke to them of the kingdom of God and cured those who had need of healing.” In 11:29 we read that the crowds were increasing. And now in 14:25 we see that great crowds accompanied him.
I point this out to show that Jesus made himself accessible to all who had a desire to see him and be with him. And there were many who wanted to see Jesus. Why did they want to be with Jesus? From the verses that we read, it would seem that people were drawn to Jesus because of his life giving, authoritative teachings and his miracles. But it was more than just his teachings and miracles. Jesus was a humble, kind, and gracious person. He went around doing good because he is good. And it isn’t surprising that people began to wonder about Jesus. When Jesus asked his disciples in Lk.9, “Who do the crowds say that I am," His disciples answered, “John the Baptist. But others say, Elijah, and others, that one of the prophets of old has risen.” And as Jesus’ ministry continued many of the people began to wonder if Jesus was, indeed, the Messiah, the Christ. When Jesus entered into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, many welcomed him as the messianic king. They just didn’t understand much about his kingship. And in the end they rejected Jesus because he did not meet their expectations.
That said, clearly Jesus welcomed everyone. He associated himself with everyone. He was comfortable hanging out with men and women, rich people, poor people, old people, children, religious people and sinful people. And he still welcomes everyone to himself.
But obviously things are different today because Jesus has ascended to the Father. What draws people to Jesus today? Let me suggest a few thoughts. Some people are drawn to Jesus as they read about him in the New Testament. They read about Jesus and they are struck in a positive way by his character, teachings, ministry, death and resurrection. Others may attend a church service of some kind or hear a radio program and they are drawn by what they hear concerning Jesus. Others are drawn to Jesus by the lives of Christians. After all, as Christians we embody the life of Jesus. In fact Jesus dwells in us through the Holy Spirit. And finally, everyone who is drawn to Jesus, is drawn by the Holy Spirit. We should welcome anyone and everyone who expresses any kind of interest in Jesus. Their interest shows that the Holy Spirit is drawing them. Our hope and prayer is that as people are drawn to Jesus they will come to understand that Jesus is God in the flesh who has done all that is necessary for us to receive forgiveness of sins and new eternal, transforming life in the kingdom of God.
But it is immediately important to point out that the life we receive from Jesus is an embodied life. It is not a life that we receive when we die. It is a life that is received from Jesus as we repent of our sins and put our ongoing trust and confidence in him. In other words, it is a life that is meant to be lived out here on earth, right now.
At the parsonage we have old American Standard toilets. When I need to replace the fill valve I go out to Lowes or Menards and buy one. But the old American Standard toilet tank does not like the new fill valves. In other words the newer fill valves don’t fit the toilet. So I usually end up modifying the valve so it will fit. The new doesn’t really belong in the old. Now the new life that we receive from Jesus doesn’t fit well in this present world. This present world and every person who lives in this world, is broken and fallen and continually being ruined by sin and the dark forces of evil. When Jesus walked this earth many received him but many more did not. It did not go well for Jesus.
When we receive the life of Jesus our broken lives begin to be transformed as we follow Jesus. So we also no longer fit well in this world. Jesus told us in Jn.16:33 that in this world we will have tribulation, trouble. We continue to be troubled by the sinful habits that reside in our bodies. We continue to be troubled by those who are antagonistic to Jesus and the gospel. We have trouble. So while Jesus welcomes everyone, not everyone welcomes Jesus. Not everyone enters into his life and seeks to follow him in living out his life.
This is why Jesus calls believers the light of the world. The church, made up of believers, is on display to show the marvelous work of God in reconciling all things to himself. So as we move on in this passage, let me reemphasize that following Jesus calls for some radical action on our part. This is part of the fine print of being a follower of Jesus. You see…
II. THOSE WHO FOLLOW JESUS MUST PUT HIM ABOVE FAMILY. Lk.14:26
In Lk.14:26 Jesus turns to the crowd and says, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” Wow! Here it is Father’s Day and how is that we are looking at these words of Jesus? Why on earth would Jesus even say such a thing? Does Jesus really want us to hate our family members? When you speak with your dad today please do not say, “I hate you dad, in Jesus name!” That is not what Jesus is saying.
So what is he saying? In order to understand Jesus’ words we need to appreciate the cultural context. In the culture at that time, loving and honoring one’s parents was virtually the highest obligation of a person. Family honor was a deeply held value. You didn’t do anything that might bring shame on your parents or your family. Remember the story of the blind man in Jn.9. When the parents were asked about their son they distanced themselves from him. “Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself." And then John includes an explanatory note. “(His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone should confess Jesus to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue.)” You see, anyone who became a follower of Jesus, would be alienated from their family. That is a high price to pay.
It is still this way in many cultures around the world. Family is what defines us as people in society. In the United States the value of family is not as strong. We value independence and individualism. We raise our children to leave the nest and establish their own lives. And yet, there are many people living in the United States today who are from cultures that have a similar perspective as the Jewish culture in Jesus’ day.
So Jesus is using hyperbole. He is saying, “If you are going to be my follower, you must love me and put me above all other family relationships. I must come first in your life. If you honor your father or mother above me, you cannot be my disciple. If you honor your spouse or children or your brothers and sisters above me, you cannot be my disciple.”
Think about what Jesus is saying. In Judaism the only one worthy of more honor than one’s parents was God. And here is Jesus requiring the same honor that was to be given to God. Well, clearly in making this requirement, Jesus is claiming to be equal with God.
Now before I say anything else, let me point out that in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Jesus also endorses the commandment to honor one’s father and mother. In addition to this we see that Jesus highly values marriage to the point that he warns against divorce. What is more we see how Jesus treasures children. So Jesus is not telling us to actually hate family members.
But he is requiring that as his followers we put him above all family relationships. This means that Jesus along with our obedience to his teachings and commands, must come first. This priority was seen early in Jesus’ own life. When he was 12 years old his parents brought him to the temple for the feast of Passover. So there was Jesus at the temple. When it was time to return to Nazareth, Mary and Joseph thought Jesus was with relatives and it wasn’t until a day’s journey that they realized Jesus was not to be found. Quickly they hurried back to Jerusalem and after 3 days they found him in the temple sitting with the teachers listening to them and asking questions. All the teachers were amazed at his understanding. When Mary and Joseph asked why he had done this, Jesus said, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?" Or as the old King James puts it, “wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?” Already at the age of 12 Jesus prioritized the things of God above his earthly family.
Then as an adult we read in Lk.8:19-21, “Then his mother and his brothers came to him, but they could not reach him because of the crowd. And he was told, "Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, desiring to see you." But he answered them, "My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it." Ouch. That seems a little insensitive. But no. Hearing and doing the word of God takes priority regardless of the personal cost.
Jesus must have first place in our lives even above loyalty to our family and even to our own self. How should you and I renounce our families? Perhaps the place to begin is to have DTR with yourself. DTR stands for, “Define the Relationship.” Dating couples have DTRs every so often. They need to define the relationship. So ask yourself, how much do I value Jesus and knowing him? If you answer that question it will help you define your relationship with Jesus. And then it is important to fix your eyes on Jesus day in and day out. Let Jesus fill your heart and mind. This will involve thoughtful reading of the scriptures and prayer. It will involve ongoing thought about how you live your life from one moment to the next.
There may be some activities that we just can’t participate in with our families because we are followers of Jesus. Or, as you seek the Lord, he may call you into his service to be a pastor or missionary and that may not meet with your family’s approval. Well is Jesus Lord or your life or not?
Followers of Scientology learn about the practice of disconnection. Disconnection is “the severance of all ties between a Scientologist and a friend, colleague, or family member deemed to be antagonistic towards Scientology. The practice of disconnection is a form of shunning.” Sometimes marriages are ended and children are separated from their parents. It is a very controlling practice and is just one more indication that Scientology is a cult.
Jesus is not interested in disconnecting you from your family and loved ones. But he wants everyone to know that those who choose to follow him may encounter conflict because Jesus is Lord and King. Following Jesus becomes our priority. We seek to be as gracious as we can be. Our goal is not to sever family ties. Often family ties are severed by the family that cannot accept our relationship with Jesus. If that were to happen would you choose your family over Jesus? If Jesus is your King, he must have first place in your life. Amen