Jesus mentions three marks of a disciple in John. In Luke 14, Jesus mentions three things that disqualify someone from following him. These are the only statements I know of where Jesus says, basically, “If you do this, you can’t follow me.”
These three statements are incredibly challenging. I never want to explain away the sting that Jesus intended to be felt by these statements. Yes, we have to interpret them. But, they were intended to be hard. Jesus meant for them to sting.
When it comes to these three statements — or all of scripture for that matter — we’re not just reading the Bible.
We have to allow the Bible to read us.
Whatever interpretation we land on, the challenge of Jesus’ words needs to remain. If you find yourself thinking, “That sounds demanding,” it’s because Jesus’ words in Luke 14 are demanding. They were/are intended to challenge us.
According to Jesus, these three things disqualify you from following him…
Disqualification #1: Higher Allegiances
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26).
I think it’s obvious that Jesus doesn’t want me to hate my wife mainly because Scripture is clear elsewhere about how I should treat her (Eph. 5:25). So, what do I do with this statement? I could conclude that it’s hyperbole, move on, and forget it.
This is definitely hyperbole. But, I’m convinced Jesus meant for this statement to be shocking and challenging. I’ve heard some people conclude that our love for God should be so great that, by comparison, our love for anyone else is like hate.
I’m not sure about that. This much is clear to me. If we’re going to follow Jesus, he requires that our ultimate allegiance is to him.
Disqualification #2: Lack of Commitment
“And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27).
The cross was/is a symbol of death. Carrying a cross was part of the corporate punishment of crucifixion. When someone carried a cross in the first century, they were walking to their death.
My best understanding of what Jesus is getting at is this:
If your commitment isn’t so great that you’re willing to die…you can’t follow Jesus.
Disqualification #3: Refusal to Sacrifice
“Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If 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. In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples” (Luke 14:31-33).
This is pretty straight forward. Jesus was encouraging the crowd to count the cost of following him. Because, if you aren’t willing to sacrifice everything, you can’t follow Jesus.
According to Jesus, if one of these three things is missing, you can’t follow him.
This is sobering stuff. Which of Jesus’ teachings do you find the most challenging? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Leave a comment below!