Jesus is surrounded by all the markings of great success because “great crowds” accompanied him. With such popularity, you would have thought that he would do all that he could to keep in the good favor of the people. He would lace his words with carefully designed appeals to the popular mood of the crowd, imitating their desires, become a voice for their passions, making sure that he is the apple of the eye of this great crowd that follows him. But Jesus does none of that. Instead, he shoots straight and talks straight, and indeed tells the crowd to “count the cost” of following him.
We too are not to use hidden or deceptive means to win followers. We are to avoid manipulation, deceit, worldly cunning, political backbiting, or smooth talking. Jesus did not engage in salesmanship to win people; he spoke the truth. “He who has ears, let him hear.”
Verse 26 is particularly alarming. What can Jesus mean by saying we must “hate” our family, and even our own “life”? Clearly, he does not mean treat your family badly, any more than he means treat yourself badly. Jesus wants us to take care of our families. But the love and desire and commitment that we are to have for Jesus is so great, that by comparison our love for our family seems to be little more than hate. When push comes to shove, we will follow Jesus even if our family tells us not to. And we will follow Jesus even if someone threatens our very life. Our love for Jesus is so great that in extremis the love we have for ourselves and for our family seems to be hate, and is such a high love that by comparison even family love is hate.
We are to bear our own “cross” (14:27). To be a disciple of Jesus means to put him first. To put him first means to die to our selfish self. That selfish self must, as it were, be nailed to the cross. When we do that we discover true life. But it begins with a death to sin and to self; that is often called repentance. Until we nail the selfish self to the cross, we will never discover the true self which is made to be in loving obedient relationship to Jesus Christ as our Lord!
Verses 28-32 lay out this need, then, based upon this call to commit ourselves fully to Jesus, to count the cost. Note again how clear Jesus is, how non-manipulative. We are to be sure to tell people the “real deal” about following Jesus, not make it something that it is not. There will be those who will come trying to manipulate us to gain followers for themselves, but Christ is not like that, and nor are we to be. He speaks the truth in love.
Verse 33 is again the extreme situation laid out as a principle. In principle, following Jesus means that everything we have and own is now his. Normally this means that we use our time, talent, and treasure for God’s kingdom purposes. In extreme situation, if we are asked to bow before an idol or deny Jesus, we renounce all possessions and carry on following Jesus, for a disciple has already renounced all to put Jesus first when they first began to follow him.
Verses 34 and 35 uses Jesus’ image of salt. Salt was of great value in the ancient world. It was used for preserving meat. Elsewhere Jesus describes Christian as the “salt of the earth”—we are his global moral preservatives. The chemical salt cannot “lose its saltiness,” but salt can become corrupted by mud and dirt and other additives and so in that sense “lose its saltiness.” The point of the metaphor is that in this context we are to be those disciples who are wholly committed to Jesus and not “lose our saltiness.” May God grant that we follow Jesus, take up our cross, and put him first and above all. For he is worth it all! “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
To receive God Centered Bible devotionals directly in your inbox, sign up here.