Luke 14:25-15:10 (The Cost of Discipleship, and the Parables of the Lost Sheep and Coin)

25Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: 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. 27And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. 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? 29For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, 30saying, 'This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.'

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? 32If 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. 33In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.

34"Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? 35It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out.
"He who has ears to hear, let him hear."

1Now the tax collectors and "sinners" were all gathering around to hear him. 2But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them." 3Then Jesus told them this parable: 4"Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.' 7I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

8"Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? 9And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.' 10In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents."

1. A mark of true discipleship is the commitment to love Jesus more than family, possessions, or life itself.

"If anyone comes to me and does not hate....he cannot be my disciple."

By recording these shocking words of our Lord, Luke is once again stating, as he did in Luke 6:46-49, and 13:22-30, that for one to merely have association with Jesus does not necessarily constitute true faith.

"The meaning of "hate" carries a comparative force here. The idea is not that we should hate our family or lives, but that in comparison to Jesus, if we are forced to choose, the winner in that choice must be Jesus." (Bock, NIV Application Commentary: Luke, p. 401, emphasis added)

Jesus certainly wasn't promoting hatred of family when He held up the fourth commandment of Moses ("honor your father and mother") while taking issue with a man-made rule - taught by the Pharisees and law-teachers - that gave a Jew the right to neglect care for his parents because he was giving "service to God instead" (Mk 7:9-13).

Also, Paul upholds the importance of family when he says to Timothy: "If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever" (1 Ti 5:8).

Nevertheless, family devotion can become a huge idol that stands in the way of following Jesus, partly because it seems so innocuous: "We tend to agree that there is something sordid about the attitude which gives priority to money-making over the nobler and more humane issues of life. But proper care for one's family is one of those....issues. ...Nevertheless, a man or woman may be so bound up by family ties as to have no time or interest for matters of...the kingdom of God" (F.F. Bruce, The Hard Sayings of Jesus: Hodder, pp. 119-120, emphasis added).

Discussion Question #1: What are some ways in which we can learn to give Christ priority in every area of our lives?

2. There is a cost to Christian commitment.

"Suppose one of you wants to build a tower..."
"Suppose a king is about to go to war..."

- true faith must come to terms with the fact that to call Jesus Lord means to do what He says (Lk 6:46).

- "As a builder estimates costs or a king evaluates miltary strength, so a person must consider what Jesus expects of his followers" (NIV Study Bible, p. 1566, emphasis added). One such "cost" of following Jesus is enduring the hostility that inevitably comes from the world (Jn 15:19; 1 Jn 3:13), the devil (1 Pet 5:8-9; Rev 12:10) and our own sinful corruption (Gal 5:17; 1 Pet 2:11) as the disciple learns, by God's grace, to become more and more like Christ.

- "any of you who does not give up everything he has" - this statement seems to be promoting asceticism. But if it did, how could some of Christ's followers (like Zacchaeus, Mary and Martha) open their homes to Him if they did not have the means or goods to do so? "...renouncing all (means) that everything we have is at Jesus' disposal for purposes that please him, and that it must never get in the way of radical obedience to his command to love" (Piper, What Jesus Demands FromThe World, p. 73, emphasis added).

3. God will dispense with professing Christians who do not continue on the path of discipleship.

"Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness..."

Some might take issue with Jesus' salt illustration because the salt we use most often - sodium chloride - can never really lose its "salty" properties, and, by extension, its flavour. But Jesus is likely referring to the salt found in the Mediterranean sea: "Most salt came from the Dead Sea and contained impurities (carnallite and gypsum). If not processed properly, it would have a poor taste and would be worse than useless, being unusable for food and creating a disposal problem. If the conditions of discipleship (vv. 26–27, 33) are not kept, the disciples likewise will become less than worthless" (ESV Study Bible, p. 1988).

Such a warning might strike fear into us, wondering if we can meet the demands of discipleship. We need to be assured, however, our walk of fruit-bearing discipleship was ultimately initiated by God (Jn 15:16) and so it will be completed by Him also (Phil 1:6). Christ's warnings are some of the means used by God to keep His true disciples on the right path (Ex 20:18-20; Jer 32:40; Acts 27:21-32).

4. The LORD takes the initiative in seeking to save sinners, and rejoices when He has done so.

"Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them..."
"Suppose one of you has ten silver coins...."

For the second time in Luke, we see Jesus eating with those considered the outcasts, the scum of the earth (the first occurs in 5:27-32). The self-righteous Pharisees and law teachers pour scorn - once again - upon our Lord for doing so in 15:2. In response, Jesus tells the three famous "lost" parables (the third of which we will look at next week).

"In the first two parables, Jesus emphasizes the loss sustained by the owner, his anxious and rigorous search for the object, and his joy when he finds it" (Boice, The Parables of Jesus, p. 49). Just because God is sovereign, we should not conclude that He is any less distraught than anyone would be when a person is lost, nor that He is any less joyful when he or she is found. "Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?" (Eze 18:23)

Discussion Question #2: As we prepare ourselves to share the gospel with those who don't know Christ, how can we dismantle the kind of attitude that's characteristic of the Pharisees, and cultivate the compassionate mindset of Jesus?

Next week: Luke 15:11-32 – The Parable of the Lost Son (a.k.a. The Prodigal Son Parable)