Luke 14:25-33 Now large crowds were traveling with Jesus; and he turned and said to them, "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. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. 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? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, saying, `This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.' 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? If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions."
Reflection How could Jesus who was all about healing and dinner parties and searching for every lost sheep and even the smallest coin; how could Jesus who went to great lengths to tell the story about the prodigal father who spared no expense to welcome home his profligate son who had squandered ever bit of his inheritance; how could Jesus instruct the crowds and us to get rid of all our possessions if we want to be his disciples?
Thank goodness for my seventh grade English teacher who introduced me to that extravagant figure of speech, the hyperbole. Without it to amplify my understanding of Jesus’ words to the crowds of follk that were traveling with him I would be bereft. If I want to become Jesus’ disciple I must “give up all (my) possessions,” including all of my relationships and even my own life! Really! Jesus’ use of exaggeration works with me. It evokes a strong response. There are things and people in my life that I don’t want to give up. And frankly, I prefer not to die today. But as soon as I get over reacting I remember, Jesus’ point is to get me to dig a bit deeper.
What is Jesus actually telling me to get rid of? What does he mean by possessions? I apologize for being a bit nurdy and going back to my Greek translation of the text. Another perspective from the Greek reads, “Therefore everyone of you who does not take leave of all that he himself possesses is not able to be my disciple.” Notice the slight of hand? Rather than speaking of possessions as a noun, an object or asset that we own I believe Jesus was speaking of possessing as a verb, how we relate or hold onto relationships and all things in our lives. I believe Jesus is telling us, possessing is not the way to relate with people and things in our world.
We are not to treat people and things (even our own life) as objects to grab, seize, dominate, control or hold onto. That is not the way of being Jesus’ disciple. Rather, the way of being Jesus’ disciple is with an unclenched fist and open heart. Being willing to let go of all ideas of ownership, control, dominion or entitlement can be a bit like dying, dying to our sense of the way things are or ought to be. That is the cost of becoming Jesus’ disciple.
Jesus invites us to become, which is to say, to be reformed, transformed, and reborn in relationship with him. What the master transmits to the disciple is not possessed. It is born. I wonder if that is what Jesus meant when he said to Nicodemus, “‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit...?” (John 3.5-6)
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