You might call this discussion “One Daddy’s Lament.” Or to put an even finer point on it, “My Daddy’s Lament.” Or even “This Daddy’s Lament.” The “This Daddy” in that title referring to me.
All if which I will explain in mere moments as you listen to this PODCAST.
But for now, I don’t have to tell you that Jesus was a radical in every sense of that word. Jesus did things that were totally unexpected, unpredictable, unconventional. More to the point of this discussion, Jesus said things that were totally unexpected, unpredictable, unconventional.
I have no doubt that if we had been alive and well back then, privileged to watch Jesus in action, and to hang on His every word, there would have been situations weekly if not daily where we would have done a total double-take. We would have cocked our heads, blinked our eyes, pulled on our ears, and said to ourselves, “Jesus did what? Jesus said what?”
You talk about a guy marching to His own drumbeat, that was Jesus.
And that is certainly true here. As Jesus came to the conclusion of His training session, as He prepared His men for their very first missions trip, Jesus — Are you ready? — basically put the whole of the Christian life into its proper perspective.
What does it mean to be a committed Christ-follower? Jesus answers that question here. What does it cost to follow Jesus? Jesus answers that question here.
All of this in what is arguably the single most radical statement that Jesus ever made.
Let’s start by reading Matthew 10:38
Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me.
Notice that He didn’t say that becoming a Christian is about a hasty, emotion-filled, rock and roll inspired prayer in an effort to escape the fires of hell.
It is about a sober reflection, during which we count the cost of making the commitment to follow Jesus. And this is the cost: to take up your cross and follow Him. It’s the heaviest possible cost. It potentially will cost us EVERYTHING.
We know this because it was a common theme in Jesus’ teachings. He demanded total devotion from anyone who wanted to call themselves a “Christ follower”.
We see this later in Matthew 16:24
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.”
We are talking about total and complete devotion. When he spoke of the cross, the people he was speaking to knew exactly what he meant. Their streets were lined with them, with dying bodies hanging from them. So, in other words, Jesus was saying, “You must be willing to die for me if you want to follow me. You must be willing to do everything that I say, even if it costs you your life.”
Total obedience, no matter what the consequences. Deal or no deal.
Only God has the prerogative to put this kind of expectations on His followers. And Jesus knew that He was God!
And this doesn’t just apply two thousand years ago. According to Pope Francis in a recent address,
“There are more martyrs in the Church today than there were in the first centuries.”
That’s saying so much, considering that ten of Jesus’ original twelve disciples died a martyr’s death, as did so many other Christians in that first century.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Being tortured by the likes of an ISIS militant, but since I am going to die anyway, someday, I can’t think of a better way to meet my end than for my faith. I echo Paul’s words in Acts 21:13
“I am not only willing to be put in jail for the Lord Jesus. I am even willing to die for him in Jerusalem!”
But, getting back to the original text that we are studying this week. Matthew 10:38 is but one small portion of a more important context. When we look at Jesus’ message in Matthew 10:34-39, we see an ever deeper meaning to His words.
34 “Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! I came not to bring peace, but a sword.
35 ‘I have come to set a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.
36 Your enemies will be right in your own household!’
37 “If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine.38 If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. 39 If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.
The point of this passage is the family and friends of anyone who decides to follow Christ. For a person to lose his or her life for Jesus is relatively easy. Losing your family and dear friends is something else entirely, and something so much more important to ponder.
In other words, are you willing to lose your family and dearest friends for Him? That’s the question that Jesus asked then and it’s what He demands today.
He’s not saying that we, in fact WILL lose them. He is concerned whether or not we are WILLING to lose them. You see, for some of us, the price you will pay for following Jesus is losing your cherished relationships with loved ones who do not love Jesus. Few things in life hurt more. Yet it happens all the time.
But understand, that God, in His infinite love and wisdom, will never overrule their free will and drag them, kicking and screaming against their will, into His kingdom. He gives ever single one of us the right to turn against Him, despite the agonizing pain that it causes Him.
But what kind of man comes with a sword, promising to tear families apart? Well, keep in mind what He said. He didn’t say that this was his PURPOSE for coming. He is saying that this is the consequence of His coming. Given who He is, an infinitely holy, God, and who we are, sinful human beings, there is a definitive line drawn between Jesus, along with those who decide to follow Him and those who refuse and deny His invitation.
Yet there are two keys to remember, if our relationships are severed due to the choice to follow or not follow Jesus: 1) If a friend or family member rejects Jesus’ offer, know that they are rejecting Jesus – NOT YOU. What we do need to do is make sure that it is, in fact, Jesus that they have refused and that you haven’t grown so obnoxious that you have driven them away without revealing who Jesus really is.
Secondly 2) While they may reject us, we are to never reject them. Shunning has no place in the kingdom of heaven. God shuns no one. The father of the prodigal is out on the front porch looking out for the return of his wayward son every day.
Also, realize that this is nothing new. Adam and Eve lost Cain, David lost his son Absolom, the prophet Isaiah lost his wife, even Paul was abandoned and left with only Luke near him when he died – despite the thousands that he discipled. Jesus, Himself, even was betrayed and disowned by two of his dear friends, Judas and Peter.
But I’ll tell you what – no break has ever existed that is greater than when Jesus became the living personification of every sin of the entire human race, as Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:21
For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin,[e] so that we could be made right with God through Christ.
So, by becoming the offering for our sin, Jesus was driven to the point of crying out, Not “Father, Father!”, but “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). Every other time Jesus cried out to God, He called Him, Abba. But not this time. The separation was too huge because God is infinitely holy, and Jesus bore the sin of the world.
God, being God, cost Him His only beloved Son.
So, when Jesus said in Matthew 10:35
“I have come to set a man against his father,”
Did you know He was talking about Himself?
So, if Jesus never asks of us anything He, Himself, was unwilling to do, the rest of His message makes so much more sense, and offers so much more hope.