Did you notice how tough the Sunday gospels from Luke’s 14th chapter have been for the last few Sundays? On the surface, they could challenge our superficial ideas of the “gentle Jesus” and the gospels as “Good News!”.
In Jesus comes across as an obnoxious “know-it-all” guest. He was invited to the home of a rich Pharisee. First, he lectures the other invited guests on how they should behave. Then he takes on the host himself, telling him he should have invited more than just his friends – but also the poor and the marginalized.
Now, later in the chapter Jesus warns his followers not to follow him unless they are prepared to hate their father and mother! Following him is going to cost them.
Hardly a “prosperity Gospel” filled with promises to have only the good things we want!
What’s going on here?
We’ve seen how effective Jesus was in telling stories everyone could relate to.
Jesus was not a college professor lecturing “A” students about what to memorize in order to pass an exam. He used everyday examples to give anyone listening something to think about … and make choices.
Jesus used stories that spoke to his generation… and to our generation.
Luke’ use of Jesus stories
A generation after Jesus, Luke uses Jesus’ stories to help Gentile Christians facing painful choices.
Luke, a Greek speaking outsider himself, wrote primarily to those who, like him, were outsiders to the “in” group. Luke used Jesus’ own stories to speak to the everyday problems these second-generation followers were facing.
They were rejected, not only by the ”holier-than-thou” Pharisees. Further, even heir own families rejected them upset by their abandoning the greek family gods. Jesus implicitly reminds them of the necessity of making choices.
Painful realities and choices
Luke concludes chapter 14 with stories of Jesus reminding them that following him had its costs. Just because Jesus invited them to follow him did not mean they would not face painful choices. When they chose to follow Jesus there would be a price to pay.
At the end of chapter 14 he addressed the special pain they faced in the anger of their family. Members of their own family had turned against them because they were rejecting their pagan gods.
What a painful choice… avoid rejection by those closest to them… or … follow Jesus. So, Luke uses Jesus stories to help them think about the cost of alienating their flesh and blood.
Luke’s challenge then
First, he puts the choice in the starkest of terms. You may have to face the pain of losing your father or mother.
Then he asks, “think about the time you wanted to build something.” Didn’t you ask yourself whether you had the resources.
He asks do you have what it takes to stick to your belief in Jesus? He raises the question of whether they are prepared to go against even their family and traditions.
Luke speaks to us today
In our own day we face many similar challenges in following Jesus.
Pope Francis, echoing Jesus, reminds us over and over that we too have to take up our crosses in a world obsessed with what is best for me.
Our original fault, “me-ism”, thinks we will always have what we want in this life.
Jesus showed us his choice when he chose the path of ultimate love… loving even his enemies as they put him to death!
Will we choose the path of dying and rising with Christ when faced with hard choices?
Click below for an early audio version of this VIncentian Mindwalk