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The Twelfth Sunday after Trinity is on September 4, 2022.

Readings for Year C can be found here.

The Gospel reading is as follows (emphases mine):

Luke 14:25-33

14:25 Now large crowds were traveling with him; and he turned and said to them,

14:26 “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple.

14:27 Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

14:28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it?

14:29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him,

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

14:31 Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand?

14:32 If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace.

14:33 So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

We are in the middle of Luke’s episodes of our Lord’s teachings. These began in Luke 9 and continue through most of Luke 19.

Last week, we had His lesson on humility to the Pharisee and his guests where He had gone to share a sabbath meal. It was a foresight into the kingdom of God.

Today’s reading is about the gravity of discipleship. It is not to be taken lightly.

Luke tells us that large crowds were travelling with Jesus when He turned around to speak to them (verse 25).

Matthew Henry’s commentary asks us to note the contrast in the lesson taught with last week’s:

See how Christ in his doctrine suited himself to those to whom he spoke, and gave every one his portion of meat. To Pharisees he preached humility and charity. He is in these verses directing his discourse to the multitudes that crowded after him, and seemed zealous in following him; and his exhortation to them is to understand the terms of discipleship, before they undertook the profession of it, and to consider what they did.

John MacArthur calls this lesson ‘extreme’ in its seriousness:

we find ourselves in the 14th chapter of Luke at a time in the life of our Lord when He is moving from town to town and village to village and He is preaching to the people, doing miracles, healing. Always, He is calling people to follow Him, to become His disciples, to come after Him. And in paragraph after paragraph we hear the words of Jesus. In this particular one we have a very strong call to discipleship. And it is an example of how Jesus always called people to follow Him. In fact, the words that He gives here are found in many other places in the four gospels, very similar words or almost exactly the same words, so we know this to be a constant pattern in His teaching. And His calls are extreme by any measure.

Henry says that many people thought Jesus was an earthly Messiah who would bless Israel and give them an easy, prosperous life over the Romans.

However, they were mistaken:

There went great multitudes with him, many for love and more for company, for where there are many there will be more …

He takes it for granted that they had a mind to be his disciples, that they might be qualified for preferment in his kingdom. They expected that he should say, “If any man come to me, and be my disciple, he shall have wealth and honour in abundance; let me alone to make him a great man.” But he tells them quite the contrary.

He said that those who come to Him who do not hate — dislike, not despise — their family members or their own lives in preferment to Him cannot be His disciples (verse 26).

The word for ‘hate’ is not a cruel or hostile one. Students of the Old Testament know that ‘hate’ was used in the story of Jacob and Esau in Genesis.

MacArthur explains:

Is He talking about emotional hate, psychological hate?  Is He talking about a bitter, angry, hostile attitude? That would be contrary to everything we know about the fact that Jesus said we’re to love one another.  No.  You have to understand that this is a kind of Hebraistic expression.  You remember, Jesus also said this:  “No man can serve two masters. He will love the one and hate the other.”  It’s a way to indicate preference or loving one more and loving one less.  And that’s precisely what Jesus said in Matthew 10:37 when He said almost the same thing, only He said there if anyone loves father, mother more than Me or wife or husband more than Me or brother, sister more than Me, he cannot be My disciple.  So when you compare that passage, this is simply a way to speak of preference, loving one more and another less.  It’s what He said as well in the Old Testament repeated in the New, “Jacob have I loved and Esau have I hated.”  It does not mean that God literally, emotionally hated and despised Esau.  It meant that His priority, His covenant, His promise, His love in that sense with all of the implications was given to Jacob and not to Esau; Jacob, then being the preferred one.  The Old Testament also says if a man has two wives, he’ll love one and hate the other and all it means is not that he will actually love one and despise the other emotionally but rather one will be preferred over the other.  And that is what Jesus is saying here.  You have to understand this, that while your priority may have been in time past the relationships around you and you did what those around you wanted you to do, your family, those that were intimately in your lifes…in your life, they were the ones who basically charted your course, because those relationships meant so much to you, those are all sublimated…those are all subordinated.  From now on, you love Me with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.  What honors Me, what pleases Me, what I desire, what I will, what I command as the Lord of your life takes precedent over all other demands and relationships.  He also said at the end of verse 26, this is not just true of the people around you; this is true of your own self viewYou have to hate your own life.  What does that mean?  That you have some kind of morbid, suicidal attitude?  That you’re somewhat masochistic or self-destructive?  No.  What it means is that you consider yourself and your will and your ambition and your desire and your purposes as minor, miniscule, unimportant compared to your desire to do what honors your Lord.  When you come to Me, Jesus says, you’re not just adding Me to your life.  I’m not just decoration.  I’m not just the topping.  I’m going to take over.  You will receive eternal life.  You will receive a place in heaven.  You will receive blessing in time and unlimited and inexplicable blessing throughout eternity.  Your sins will all be forgivenGrace, peace, joy, fulfillment forever will be yoursBut for that gift I want to take control of your life so that I may truly fulfill it, truly satisfy it and truly use it for My glory and your good.  That’s why Romans 8:28 says, “All things work together for good to those that love God.”  Why?  Because God is working what is best for time and eternity in and through those who are His own.  You’re willing then to subordinate all relationships to the lordship of Christ.  You’re willing to subordinate your own life.  Literally, it’s a kind of death.  It’s a kind of death.  You lose your life to find it.  You die to live.

It was six months before His death that Jesus delivered this lesson on discipleship. No one, other than He, knew that the Crucifixion was looming. Yet, He told the people that whoever does not carry the cross and follow Him cannot be His disciple (verse 27).

Henry intimates that, even if we are not called to do so, we must be prepared for such an eventuality:

He must bear his cross, and come after Christ; that is, he must bear it in the way of his duty, whenever it lies in that way. He must bear it when Christ calls him to it, and in bearing it he must have an eye to Christ, and fetch encouragements from him, and live in hope of a recompence with him.

MacArthur agrees that this is not a figurative expression and that this is the most serious consideration we can ever make in our lives:

The price for following Jesus in those days and in history in many places and even today in parts of the world, you name the name of Jesus Christ, it could cost you your life. The cross here is simply a symbol of death. It was a torture instrument used to execute people. It’s not a mystical idea. It’s a very concrete way to express martyrdom. Are you willing to give your life? Are you willing, not only to give up your desires, your ambitions, your dreams, your hopes, all the things that you think are your well-crafted purposes and plans, abandoning them to My sovereign authority, subordinating them to My will, but even to the point where it could cost you your life? Are you willing to say with the apostle Paul, “For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain”? Are you willing to say that? Are you so eager to have your sins forgiven and the hope of eternal life that if it cost you even your life in this world, that’s a small price to pay?

Jesus then cited two practical examples to illustrate His lesson.

The first was about the building of a tower, probably a manned watchtower to guard farmed fields. Who would not do an estimate first and seriously consider whether he has enough money to complete it (verse 28)?

Henry says that the same holds true of our commitment to Christ, but he begins with a practical material calculation, which was as true then as it is now:

he must be sure to count upon a great deal more than his workmen will tell him it will cost.

[2.] Those that intend to build this tower must sit down and count the cost. Let them consider that it will cost them the mortifying of their sins, even the most beloved lusts; it will cost them a life of self-denial and watchfulness, and a constant course of holy duties; it may, perhaps, cost them their reputation among men, their estates and liberties, and all that is dear to them in this world, even life itself. And if it should cost us all this, what is it in comparison with what it cost Christ to purchase the advantages of religion for us, which come to us without money and without price? [3.] Many that begin to build this tower do not go on with it, nor persevere in it, and it is their folly; they have not courage and resolution, have not a rooted fixed principle, and so bring nothing to pass. It is true, we have none of us in ourselves sufficient to finish this tower, but Christ hath said, My grace is sufficient for thee, and that grace shall not be wanting to any of us, if we seek for it and make use of it. [4.] Nothing is more shameful than for those that have begun well in religion to break off; every one will justly mock him, as having lost all his labour hitherto for want of perseverance. We lose the things we have wrought (2 John 8), and all we have done and suffered is in vain, Gal 3 4.

MacArthur gives us an insight into Middle Eastern culture which would have resonated with our Lord’s audience:

Now, you’ve got to understand, the ancient Near East is an honor-shame culture. You just don’t do things that bring shame on yourself. It’s very important to protect your honor. And the point is, when you’re going to do something as formidable as build a tower…this isn’t the little shack, this isn’t something alongside the house or an addition. We’re talking about a tower. It might have been a watchtower, because in ancient days, enemies attacked by burning fields, sowing tares in the fields and so towers were often built in these great estates from which the people could protect their land. They were used sometimes as great grain storage places like we have silos today. This would be a rather large enterprise, not just a minimal kind of enterprise, but this man is going to build a big tower and everybody in the community is going to know it. And nobody would do that if he was going to wind up with nothing but a foundation and everybody laughing at him … When you’re going to build a tower, he says in verse 28, you’re going to sit down and you’re going to calculate the cost to see if you have enough to complete it. Otherwise you’re left with a half-finished building and a permanent monument to your stupidity. That’s a big issue in an honor-shame environment. You want to make sure…here’s the operative word…that you can finish, that you can complete it.

Otherwise, Jesus said, when the man can afford to lay only a foundation and not finish the tower, all who see it will begin to ridicule him (verse 29); they will say, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish’ (verse 30).

MacArthur points out that ‘this fellow’ or ‘this man’ is derogatory in the original Greek:

In fact, in verse 30, the expression “this man” in the original Greek is derogatory. It could be translated “this fellow,” a kind of a scorn or ridiculing approach. Began to build and wasn’t able to finish…That is a huge element of dishonor in the thinking of the ancient Near East.

There is another Greek element to this:

And verse 30, you don’t want people to say you were not able to finish.  The two times the word “finish” is used, verses 29 and 30, it uses the word ekteleō. Teleō is to finish.  Teleō…Jesus said tetelestai, which is a form of that, on the cross: “It is finished.”  It’s a pretty…pretty final word.  But when you add an ek to it, you compound its intensity, to really finish, to finish to the very last component.  You don’t want your life exposed to ridicule.  So what’s Jesus saying?  He’s saying, look don’t come to Me on some emotional level.  Don’t come to Me because you’re feeling some disappointment, you’re feeling some confusion in your life, you have been left in the lurch in some relationship and you’re looking for a skyhook.  Don’t come to Me to pacify you over some temporary matter.  Don’t come to Me with any kind of superficiality.  I’m telling you, you must, first of all, be willing to abandon all the priorities of the past that have dominated your life so that it is a kind of dying in order to live.  And you’ve got to assess the legitimacy and the integrity of the expression that you’re making at this point to be sure you really have what it takes to finish this.  Are you…Are you just responding to a moment’s emotion? 

Henry says:

Begin low, and lay the foundation deep, lay it on the rock, and make sure work, and then aim as high as heaven.

One cannot say fairer than that in either a practical or spiritual sense.

The second practical example Jesus laid before the crowd was that of a king about to wage war. Would he not consider that if he has 10,000 troops he might not wish to go to war with an opponent who has twice as many troops (verse 31)? He will send a delegation to negotiate peace instead (verse 32).

Henry says that this is not unlike the consideration of spiritual warfare in our Christian journey:

Note, [1.] The state of a Christian in this world is a military state. Is not the Christian life a warfare? We have many passes in our way, that must be disputed with dint of sword; nay, we must fight every step we go, so restless are our spiritual enemies in their opposition. [2.] We ought to consider whether we can endure the hardness which a good soldier of Jesus Christ must expect and count upon, before we enlist ourselves under Christ’s banner; whether we are able to encounter the forces of hell and earth, which come against us twenty thousand strong. [3.] Of the two it is better to make the best terms we can with the world than pretend to renounce it and afterwards, when tribulation and persecution arise because of the word, to return to it.

MacArthur points out that no ruler will go to war if he thinks he will lose. He will try to negotiate a peace:

… if he comes up with the conclusion that he can’t win, verse 32 says, while the other is still far away, he’s going to send a delegation and ask terms of peace. He’s going to send a delegation and say: “Look, we know you can defeat us so what do you want? There’s no sense in spilling all this blood to get to the same end that we could get to by negotiating. So we lose a little of our freedom. So we have an occupation. At least we’re alive.” No king would go to battle and put himself and all those who were following him in danger if there was a way to negotiate a peace.

Then comes our Lord’s often misunderstood conclusion: no one can be His disciple unless they give up all their possessions (verse 33).

Henry says that, if we love our possessions more than anything else, it is not a good idea to pretend to become a disciple of Jesus:

That young man that could not find in his heart to part with his possessions for Christ did better to go away from Christ sorrowing than to have staid with him dissembling.

MacArthur explains the Greek used in this verse:

“No one of you can be My disciple who will or does not give up all his own possessions.”  In what sense do you give them up?  Well, how do you become a Christian?  By selling everything you have and giving it away and becoming a beggar?  Is that what He’s talking about?  Maybe there’s some help with the Greek here.  The original language in verse 33, “give up,” apotassō, say good-bye to.  That’s exactly what it means, to say good-bye to.  In what sense?  Well, it’s not calling for socialism. It’s not calling for you to sell your house, sell your car, sell all your possessions in your house and go out on the street and beg.  That’s not what it’s saying.  What it’s calling for is thisYou become a steward of everything and an owner of nothing.  What you’re saying is: I don’t have any relationships that aren’t subordinated to your lordship I don’t have any self-interests that aren’t subordinated to your lordship.  It doesn’t mean that I ignore my family, cease loving my family.  I want to love my family and maybe love my family more.  It doesn’t mean that I stop my education; that I stop moving down a path to do whatever I can do and to be the best I can be in whatever field I choose to the honor of the Lord.  It doesn’t mean that I unload everything I have.  It just means that all of that is subordinated to what God wants for me.  I hold to nothing in this world, not the relationships, not my self-interests and not the stuff, not my money and my possessions.  I am a steward of all of it and I want to discharge that stewardship before God.  I want to take care of my relationships.  I want to take care of my family.  I want to love them.  I want to take care of my life.  I want to be disciplined.  I want to be healthy.  I want to be useful to the Lord in a physical sense.  I want to make my mind and my body all that it can be to serve Him.  And I…and I want to use whatever He’s given me, a house and a car and a bank account for the glory of His kingdom.  But all of it is subject to His sovereign design.  That’s all He’s saying.  He’s saying: What would you be willing to give up … And if you had plans and ambitions in certain things and I asked you to do other than that and My Spirit directed you to give your life in some service over here, would you be willing to do that?  And even if I asked you to die in the cause, would you do that?  And if I asked you to take everything you have like He asked the rich young ruler in Luke 18, if I asked you to take everything you have, sell it all and give it to the poor, would you be willing to do that?  It isn’t that you’re going to have to do that.  I don’t know what God’s purposes are.  God hasn’t stripped me of everything and He hasn’t stripped all of us of everything.  But I do understand unequivocally that I am a steward of everything and an owner of nothing.  And my priority is this: to love the Lord my God, to love my Christ with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength beyond any love I have for my family, for myself, or for anything in this world.  This is what Jesus is asking.  He’s not asking you to sort of tack Him onto all your stuff and all your self-interests and all your relationships …  Becoming Christ’s disciple demands an abandonment of past priorities.  Everything changes.  It is a whole new life view.  The apostle Paul, Philippians 3:8, says, I looked at it all.  When I saw Christ, I looked at everything in my past and, boy, there were some wonderful things.  And I counted it manure…that’s what he said…compared to Christ.  And he said I ran to Christ to receive a righteousness not my own.  And now all I want, he said in Philippians 3, is to know Him.

MacArthur concludes in a condemnation of the prayer call and the false prosperity theology:

Jesus doesn’t say, hey, just pray the prayer; don’t worry about it — which would be a typical way to approach it. He says don’t even think of this until you know that what is going on in your heart will carry you to its completion. Step back. So when you evangelize somebody and you give them the gospel, you say, now that you understand the gospel, you understand the objective facts of the gospel, Jesus, God in human flesh, lives a sinless life, virgin-born, lives a sinless life, dies a substitutionary death for sinners, raised…is raised from the dead, ascends to the Father, intercedes for us, comes again, you give them the whole layout of the gospel, salvation by grace alone, faith alone and Christ alone, now you know all that? Yes, yes, I know that. Do you believe that? I think I believe that. Oh, good, pray this prayer. No. Let’s back up a little bit. Now, do you understand that He’s saying you’re going to need to love Him as Lord and He’s going to take the priority over your family, over yourself, and over all your stuff? You become an owner of nothing, even relationships, even your own life, everything you possess. You become a steward of everything. At the discretion that God prompts, it is used for His glory and it may even cost you your life. Step back. Don’t be in a hurry here. And assess whether you really have what it takes to build this tower, whether you’ve really assessed what this is going to cost you. That’s all these little stories are intended to say, that when you come against something that is formidable and has massive implications for you or for all the people around you; for you, in the case of the tower, for everybody that is around you, in the case of the king; this has massive implications. You better back up and make sure you have assessed your present powers. And is this faith the real deal? Is this repentance the real repentance? Jesus is halting people. He’s putting the brakes on … You have nothing to fear in saying to someone, “I want you to think about this, I want you to consider the cost carefully.” You have nothing to fear. What you’re doing is stopping people from superficial, non-saving delusion. You’re backing them off and saying, let’s find out whether this is really the work of the Spirit of God and what is happening in your life is not a momentary, emotional thing, but what is happening in your life is the true, regenerating work of the Holy Spirit producing an unrelenting repentance and an undying faith that will go through every barrier. You do all the important things in life by calculating carefully. This is the most important thing you’ll ever do. This is more important than any tower you’ll ever build, more important than any enemy you’ll ever meet. And so the Lord says, you want to be My disciple, do you? Well, you have to abandon your past priorities and you have to assess your present powers.

Following Christ is a serious commitment and not one to be taken lightly.

God is not our butler, nor is His Son. We serve God through His Son.

It is not about our needs or desires, it is about the divine will working through our lives.

May all reading this have a blessed Sunday.


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