This quarter’s lessons have looked at a lot of angles of discipleship. From the practices of disciples to the Grow cycle of discipleship, we see the multiple elements that enter into following Christ. But the core attitude that makes discipleship real and authentic is found in Christ’s mindset of humility and self-denial. In particular, the role of self-denial in discipleship is highly accentuated in the fourteenth chapter of Luke. Here, the phrase “he [or she] cannot be my disciple” is repeated three times. For all the chatter about Jesus wanting to call each of us to be His disciples, this chapter seems to diverge and mentions how not to be Christ’s disciple.
The first phrase is found in Luke 14:26, where Christ says, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” At first glance this sounds harsh, and certainly it is a radical statement. In many cultures, relationships with parents, spouse, siblings, and family are paramount. But rather than the modern connotation of hate, the original Greek word miseo denotes loving less and placing lesser value. In other words, following Jesus is not just an addendum to your life; it is a complete reevaluation and transformation of it. Relationships are completely rearranged, so that Christ is at the center and all relationships stem from that primary one. The beautiful thing is that in keeping Christ at the center, we allow Him to be the means by which the relationship is preserved.
Not only in relationships but also in our own personal lives we are to subjugate and surrender our entire being to Christ as our Master. He continues, “Whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple” (v. 27). It reminds us of Luke 9:23, where Jesus said similarly, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” In this statement, Jesus may have been foreshadowing the death He was going to die. Moreover, He was calling His disciples to be willing to die not only physically, but also dying to self for Him! This cannot be done by our own human strength, but in a discipleship relationship with Him, it will happen! Christ acknowledges that this is such a radical call, it warrants some thinking and preparation. Hence He mentions the need to count the cost before accepting the call.
The last phrase is found in verse 33: “Whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.” This completes Christ’s radical call to discipleship: He asks for all your relationships, all your life and even death, and all that you have. What else is there to the human identity than who we know, who we are, and what we have? This can be boiled down to the three verbs of knowing, being, and having, and God wants all of them to be calibrated to Him for full discipleship.