Discipleship has been on my heart a lot the past year. What does it mean to be a disciple? What does it mean to make disciples as Jesus commanded us to in the “Great Commission” of the church? Exploration of this topic has brought me to a Bible study workbook called “Discipleship The Growing Christian’s Lifestyle” by James and Martha Reapsom. It’s a pretty straight forward type of study: Look up verses, think about them, answer questions. I enjoy taking time to think about and “chew” on portions of scripture. This study, however, has led me to some of the hardest verses in the Bible for me to wrap my mind around. Luke 14:25-35. They’re all about what it costs to follow Jesus. Modern Christianity, especially American Christianity, seems to focus on all the good stuff we get when we follow Jesus: He wants a relationship with us, He loves us unconditionally, He chases after us and woos us to yield to Him, He heals our hearts, He blesses our lives, etc. All these things are so very true of Jesus and His love for us, but He also says some very hard things in these verses. Things like, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters- yet even their own life- such a person cannot be my disciple.” or “In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.” Those are both bars set very high by Jesus, Himself, and they aren’t exactly what I would call “Feel Good” quotes.
I think looking at these verses in the light of the Apostle Peter’s life has helped me understand them better. Peter was there when Jesus said these words, and It is recorded that Peter had a mother in law, so this meant he was a married man. Jesus wasn’t speaking of Peter hating his wife. He was setting a comparison of our commitment to Him over the other relationships we have. The Greek for the word “hate” in verse 25 means “to esteem less”. Jesus is first. His direction for our lives and His will comes before any other endeavor. Another thing that strikes me about Peter being a disciple is that when the rubber hit the road and Jesus was crucified, he bailed. Jesus had told the crowds the day He taught on the cost for being a disciple that they would need to “Consider the Cost” of following Him. Peter considered and when the threat was there the first time around, he denied Jesus and ran away. But Jesus doesn’t leave Peter there in his mess. He meets him on a beach days after the resurrection, with a fish breakfast for Peter, who had given up the whole disciple thing and decided to go back to what he knew before, fishing. Jesus didn’t meet him with an “I told you you’ve got to hate your family and give up everything quote.” Instead He asks Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” Jesus knew Peter’s heart was desiring to follow Him. It was just a case of the “spirit being willing, but the flesh being weak.” Then Jesus’s promise of the Holy Spirit empowered Peter in his human frailty to be the disciple that Jesus wanted him to be all along.
It seems to me that every time I come across the words of Luke 14 I do a little self examination. Do I love Jesus more? more than my own family, my things, my hobbies, my life… Do I have what it takes to “Consider the cost” and give up everything I have? For someone who struggles with feelings of insufficiency on the regular, these verses rattle something inside of me. I probably feel like Peter did on that beach when Jesus asked him three times, “Peter do you love Me?”. Peter replied, “Lord You know all things, You know that I love You.”
Peter was the fireball preacher on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2. He was a major leader in the early church, and he died a martyr’s death. He fulfilled the call that Jesus gave to him despite his internal struggles of his younger years. He literally “took up his cross” to follow Jesus as he was crucified himself, upside down as he requested because he was, “not worthy to be crucified in the same manor of his Lord” But all these things weren’t because Peter was some spectacular guy who could do anything Jesus wanted him to on his own. It was the power of the Holy Spirit inside of him that gave him the power to be Jesus’s “witness/ martyr”.
So back to me and my spiritual heart check. God knows me. He sees inside. My spirit is willing, but my flesh is weak. I need the power of the Holy Spirit, just like Peter did so I can have the power to be a witness as well, and I too can follow Him wherever He leads because Jesus sees deep inside of my heart as well. I love Him and want to be whatever He wants me to be. The Spirit will help me in my weakness just as He helped Peter. So Be it! Amen