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25 Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, 26 “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. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.
Notes: So, Jesus calls for a follower who will hate his mother and father, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters--yes, even his own life. The point of the list is that no other relationship is first for a disciple. "Hate" is used figuratively and suggests a priority of relationship. Jesus is first. To follow Jesus means to follow Jesus, not anyone or anything else. A disciple is a learner, and the primary teacher in life is Jesus. This total loyalty is crucial, given the rejection and persecution that lie ahead. If his followers care more about family than about Jesus, when families are divided under pressure of persecution, they will choose against Jesus. This is what lies behind Jesus' remarks. Discipleship is not possible if Jesus is not the teacher.
This is why bearing the cross and coming after Jesus is the issue of discipleship. Learning from Jesus means following him, experiencing the rejection he experienced and so bearing the cross he bore. We cannot "learn Jesus" without being prepared to walk this path. Discipleship is basically allegiance. To follow Jesus is to rely on him. Paul makes the same point in different imagery in Romans 6.
Two pictures illustrate the teaching, though each has a slightly different point. The first picture involves the building of what is probably a watchtower for a vineyard. To be a success, this building program must be planned out carefully; otherwise the builder may well start the project but not finish it. Failure to finish would make the builder a laughingstock to neighbors, as his half-finished shell of a tower casts its incomplete shadow over the land. So Jesus asks what person does not first sit down and count the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it. How sad it is to start something and not finish it. The failure is evident to all. Verse 30 expresses the public response in very mocking terms, as all around belittle "this fellow." The shell of the building echoes the shell that remains of this man's reputation. The implication is that embarking on discipleship is just the same: we do well to reflect on what it will take to finish what we have started.
The second picture is of a king who finds his forces outnumbered as he considers going to battle. After calculating the cost in terms of destruction, he decides that appealing for peace is a better idea. The king reflects, then acts.
Many readers take this to be a second example of taking stock, just like the first illustration. But there may be something more here. In the case of building the tower, all the options lay with the builder. In the case of potential war, the situation is forced on the king. Only a foolish king would try to take on a stronger foe when he is outnumbered two to one. So it is prudent to seek peace with the stronger foe. There is a "more powerful one" than Satan to deal with in life: God. It is wise to count the cost of facing him. There are benefits in allying ourselves with God rather than having him as the decidedly stronger enemy.
The application that Jesus states here is without apology: "In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple." Jesus must be first. Those who are disposed to oppose God's will should count the cost. Much better to pursue peace with God on his terms. His terms for peace are gracious, but disciples must acknowledge that he is the one and only source of life and spiritual well-being for us all. May God bless you all.
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