Pentecost 13 2019, Proper 18
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
September 8, 2019
Deuteronomy 30:15-20, Philemon 1-21, Luke 14:25-35
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Today is the opening day for our Sunday School; it is church and school picnic day, it is a great day for families to come to church together, and today we get the Gospel reading Luke 14:26 (ESV) 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.
Hate is a such a strong word. What is Jesus doing here? And he is not done. He goes on with more qualifications to be His disciple.
Luke 14:27 (ESV) 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.
Luke 14:33 (ESV) 33 …any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple. 
This is a hard teaching from Jesus. Jesus is being honest and clear as to what it takes to be a disciple; a follower of Jesus. Mark Twain once said, “It ain’t the parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.” This section of God’s word is clear; it is just hard. Maybe we should switch to a different reading.
Sometimes when we are trying to recruit someone for a volunteer position we like to minimize the commitment in order to encourage someone to sign up. Say we are looking for someone to head up Vacation Bible School. What does it entail? Ohhhh, it’s not much…just a couple of meetings…a few phone calls…no big deal. Often we are afraid that if we are honest it will scare people away. But it is not right to give people false expectations. Jesus is being honest with us about what it takes to be His disciple.
Jesus is on His way to Jerusalem and He has been encouraging people to repent and follow Him before it is too late. Jesus wants people to follow Him; to be His disciple, but He does not want people to do this without examining what that means.
A great crowd is following Jesus toward Jerusalem. What are they expecting from Jesus? What are they expecting will happen in the great city? Jesus turns around to address the throng and He gives them the hard, honest truth about what it means to follow Jesus. He does not sugar coat the truth. Jesus isn’t trying to trick people into thinking that being a Christian is going to make you healthy and rich and smart and popular. He isn’t telling people that being a Christian will solve all of your family issues, or get you a raise at work, or make all your troubles go away. He is not saying that being a Christian is just an hour commitment on an occasional Sunday morning.
Being a Christian is hard; it is full commitment; it is all encompassing. Being a Christian is going all-in on Jesus.
In poker when someone has a very good hand, or they are pretending to have a very good hand they will risk everything on that one hand. They will go all-in and bet all their chips. It is bold to risk everything.
Jesus is basically telling the people in the crowd that to be his disciple you need to go all-in for Jesus. You have to hate your family. Now, Jesus does not mean that you should nurture spiteful thoughts about your father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters. He does mean that you need to love Jesus more. Jesus comes first in life. Jesus is number one. You have no other Gods. Following Jesus means going all in for Jesus.
You take up your cross to follow Jesus. Being a Christian can bring trouble and persecution. In Jerusalem, people are going to kill Jesus for being Jesus, and they will kill Jesus’ followers for being His followers. That happened at Jesus’ time and it still happens in places today. Jesus is teaching that you cannot be a follower of Jesus and then quit when the going gets tough. Following Jesus means going all in for Jesus.
Following Jesus means renouncing everything that you have. Nothing in your life is more important than Jesus.
Jesus is letting you know that as a Christian you don’t get to negotiate over the terms of how you are going to follow Him. You don’t get to say, “Jesus, I will follow you, but my family comes first.” Or, “I will gather to worship, but only if I feel like it. Jesus, I will follow you, but don’t expect me to give a sacrificial offering; that money is mine. I will follow you Jesus, but I will not love my enemy or forgive the person that wronged me.” Jesus is teaching that you do not get to negotiate the terms of being His disciple.
You do not get to reserve parts of your life from Jesus’ lordship and control. You don’t get to say, “I’ll follow you Jesus, but don’t think that means you have a say over my sex life, or how I run my business, or my lying, or my selfishness, or my drunkenness.” We do not get to come to Jesus and negotiate the terms of what it means to be his follower. To follow Jesus is to go all in on Jesus. Your whole life; 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Your entire existence. All aspects of your life. Your time, your relationships, your school life, your job life, your free time, your money; everything is dedicated to living out God’s will for your life.
So trusting Jesus, go all in anyway. Go all in for Jesus knowing your efforts won’t be good enough. Fully trust in Jesus knowing you are going to fail; knowing you will not find perfection in yourself. Go all in for Jesus because Jesus goes all in for you. He washes you clean and gives you His perfection. He gives you His holiness. He gives you the Holy Spirit. He gives you the gift of faith.
This is a difficult teaching for all of us. It is not easy to follow Jesus; it is not easy to go all in. It can make you wonder, “Do I have enough faith to be a follower of Jesus? Do I have it in me to go all in for Jesus?” And, honestly, the answer is no. On your own you do not have enough faith; you do not have it in you. You cannot do it. You cannot commit enough. You cannot be faithful enough. Neither can I. Neither could Jesus’ first disciples. On that fateful Thursday night in Jerusalem we get to watch Peter; big strong, decisive disciple Peter. That Peter. We watch Him three times deny that He evens knows Jesus because he is afraid. It is indeed a tremendous struggle to go all in for Jesus in a world that wants you to go all in on yourself. It is a troubling truth that because we are infected with sin we are incapable of being fully committed Jesus followers. And yet that is what Jesus demands.
So trusting Jesus, go all in anyway. Go all in for Jesus knowing your efforts won’t be good enough. Fully trust in Jesus knowing you are going to fail; knowing you will not find perfection in yourself. Go all in for Jesus because Jesus goes all in for you. He washes you clean and gives you His perfection. He gives you His holiness. He gives you the Holy Spirit. He gives you the gift of faith. You don’t have to rely on your own faith; you rely on the Holy Spirit. Jesus goes all in for you. Jesus, who is eternal God, gives up the throne of heaven to humble Himself and be born a lowly human infant. He has no golden cradle but instead is laid in an animal feed trough. Jesus is fully committed to you when He is born under the law and fulfills the law for you. He gives Himself completely to the task of saving you from your sins. Jesus gives up everything for you as He offers Himself as the sacrifice for the sins of the world on the cross at Calvary. Jesus doesn’t just bet what He could afford to lose, He gives up everything. Everything is stripped away from Him, and He hangs in agony on the cross, shedding His blood and giving His very life for you, to pay the price for you. Jesus holds nothing back. He fully commits to paying the price for your sins. He dies for you and He rises from the dead to conquer death forever. And because Jesus went all in for you and rose from the dead for you, you will rise from the dead on the last day. Death does not have the victory.
Jesus went all in for you so you, trusting His promises, can go all in for Him. Now, being all in for Jesus doesn’t mean that you run away to a monastery and spend your life in prayer. It does not mean abandoning your family and your job, and building a commune up on a mountain. Being all in for Jesus means knowing you are a sinner who has been forgiven of all your sins. It means knowing that you have eternal life in Christ. It means you do what you have been given to do according to God’s plan. Are you a child, parent, student, teacher, worker, employer, hearer, pastor, citizen, ruler? Do what you are supposed to do. As a follower of Jesus you live your life doing the right thing because it is the right thing. Love God and love your neighbor. Do what you are supposed to be doing, and when you fail to do what you are supposed to do, repent and trust completely in Jesus’ forgiveness.
In Christ you have been born again by water and the spirit in Holy Baptism. You are a new creation no longer made for this world, but made for eternal life. Jesus went all in for you and He calls you to go all in for Him. Knowing your own fallen human nature you know this will be a daily challenge. Being a follower of Jesus will bring struggles, and difficulty, and persecution. It will be hard. But being all in for Jesus and walking in the will of God, doing things God’s way, knowing you are forgiven by the blood of Jesus will bring you peace and joy that the world cannot give. Delighting in God’s will and trusting in Jesus to save you brings you blessed assurance that even though you walk through the valley of the shadow of death you fear no evil.
Losing yourself in Jesus’ love and forgiveness brings you an incomprehensible peace knowing you have been made right with the creator of the universe. Not from anything you have done, but because of what Jesus has done for you. You can trust Jesus’ promise that you will live with Him forever.