Lexegete™ | Year C | Luke
FIFTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST
Sept. 9, 2007 | (Lectionary 23)
Psalm 1 (Ps. 1:3)
Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18 (Ps. 139:1)
Holy Cross Day
September 14, 2007
Psalm 98:1-4 (Ps. 98:1) or Psalm 78:1-2, 34-38 (Ps. 78:35)
1 Corinthians 1:18-24
1a. Context: Luke 14:25-33
This text marks a break in the narrative with a shift in audience (from the rulers of the synagogue to the crowds) and in location (from a house to the road). However, there has been no corresponding shift in theme. The theme remains that of the coming reign of God. This text must be read within the full context of discipleship—its measure and its cost.
The full section consists of an introduction (v. 25), two parallel sayings on discipleship (vs. 26ƒ), two parabolic sayings with an application (vs. 28—30, 31f., 33) and a conclusion (vs. 34ƒ). The opening sayings and the application express the total commitment required from disciples; they repeat teaching found in 18:29ƒ an 9.23, and the parallel in Mt 10:37ƒ indicates that they form a Q doublet to the Marcan teaching. The summary in v. 33 is probably an editorial composition, based on Q (Marshall, p. 591). Why the compilers of the lexionary omitted vs. 34 and 35 is unknown. The preacher must include vs. 34 and 35 in study and preaching in order to retain the integrity of the section and the promise available to the disciple within the journey.
Since Jesus “set his face to go to Jerusalem” (9:51) Luke has been employing the theme of a purposive journey to the cross. This journey concerns itself with the cost Jesus himself must pay, and here a warning concerning the cost the disciple must pay in accompanying Jesus. Those who have accompanied Jesus (literally, “as many crowds were journeying with him”) were doing so with uncompromising enthusiasm. They thought that this march to Jerusalem was the victory march of the Messiah and they wanted to be on hand when he claimed the throne. In characteristic fashion Jesus reverses popular thought. This journey requires recruits and not spectators, disciples with undivided loyalty and a clear vision of what is required (Caird p. 178).
The guests in the preceding parable (14:15—24) refused to face the cost of accepting the invitation to the messianic banquet. Here the opposite is the case. The issue is embarking on the journey without first counting the cost. In either case the result is the same, that of missing the Kingdom. Missing the Kingdom is the same in both instances since those invited fail to heed Jesus’ call to bear one’s own cross and follow.” They fail to die to the self and hold Jesus and his journey as the center.
1b. Text: Luke 14:25-33
Lk. 14:25 Now large crowds were traveling with him; and he turned and said to them,
Lk. 14:26 "Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple.
Lk. 14:27 Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
Lk. 14:28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it?
Lk. 14:29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him,
Lk. 14:30 saying, `This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.'
Lk. 14:31 Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand?
Lk. 14:32 If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace.
Lk. 14:33 So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.
2. Analysis: Luke 14:25-33
vs. 26 μισεϖ (οψ μισει) does not hate
It is not hatred in the psychological sense—that of strongly disliking someone—but to renounce, reject or disown that relationship on religious grounds. It is hatred of those people to whom one is obligated to love (see αποτασσϖ below).
vs 27 “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me… ”
There is the expectation that to be a disciple of Jesus would be to share in his fate, or at least be brought into danger of death.
vs 28. πψργοω (υελϖν πψργον οικοδομησαι) desiring to build a tower
This is not a public structure such as a military fortress would have. Nor is it a simple field tower as in Mk 12:1 considering the extensive planning of a foundation. It seems to be a large tower-like private house of many stories. Thus a poor choice of text that President Reagan to used in justifying a military build-up.
vs. 33 αποτασσϖ (οψκ αποτασσεται) does not renounce, give up
In the NT this word is found only in the mid.: “to part from.” Here Jesus demands a radical renunciation of all possessions. This word is closely tied with misev above (to hate 26), but here with the distinction of property. Luke’s Gospel, more than Mt and Mk is concerned with possessions and their effect on discipleship. In many passages being rich is a stumbling block to true discipleship (18.22f) and is a negative good (8:14). In Luke Jesus gives strong ethical directions to the community together with the promise that renunciation of riches is the thing that will bring gain in this time and for eternal life.
vs 35 μϖροω (το αλαω μϖρανυη) the salt has lost its taste
The difficulty of this passage is that salt cannot lose its chemical qualities. Regardless of any dissolving or heating salt remains sodium chloride. Yet, various scholars have attempted to explain this saying by supposing an impure salt.
Certainly, Jesus knew that it is impossible for salt to loose its saltiness, and that impossibility is what lies at the root of this parable. It is akin to the parable of the camel and the needle’s eye or the rich man entering the kingdom of God. Here the point is from the other side, however. What Jesus brings and gives to his disciples cannot become tasteless—loose its value. The Gospel is as incorruptible and insoluble as
salt. The Gospel in not dependent upon the disciples. Salvation is a gift of God and thus cannot be destroyed.
Bertram, in TDNT (IV:838-9), writes of this word: “The μϖρανυη now suggests, not the physical impossibility of a change in the chemical constitution of salt, but the psychical possibility of a change in the faith of disciples. The warning concerns the earthly being of the disciple. He who through the powerful Word of Christ has become an apostle, a fisher, a shepherd, a rock, loses all value if his faith vacillates and he falls away. Thus the Lord’s word of grace becomes a word of judgment.”
3. Strategy: Luke 14:25-33
Jesus said, “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me, cannot be my disciple” (Lk. 14:27). “When Christ calls a man,” says Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “he bids him come and die.”
Both Luke and Bonhoeffer were writing to churches whose lives of faith were like that of our own, an established, complacent church, a church in which Jesus is one option among many, with a requirement of discipleship tailored to fit the individual’s tolerances and preferences. Luke and Bonhoeffer in their own situations knew there was more at stake in claiming discipleship of Jesus than the prevailing thought allowed or espoused. For Luke it was a church in mission to the very heart of secular Rome, for Bonhoeffer it was a church in opposition to the German Church which embraced and legitimized the Nazi party. For us today, the lines are drawn less well.
In writing about verse 26 of this text in The Cost of Discipleship (Chapter 5, “Discipleship and the Individual”), Bonhoeffer at first seems to call for a radical individuality of the disciple: “Through the call of Jesus men become individuals.” But it is a call to an individuality of which our society is unfamiliar. When confronted with a conflict of loyalty, the disciple will give priority to the requirements of the Kingdom, and even one’s own life may be disposable (Danker, New Age, p. 167).
It is the call of our society to fulfill one’s own potential that is at variance with Jesus’ call to come and die. It is difficult to make strong distinctions between discipleship and being a spectator. The daily life of discipleship in the American church today seems more akin to participation in an ice cream social or group therapy session than in a battle against the forces of evil that surround us. Regardless how much the church seeks to present itself to YUPPIES as the place where individuals may be “affirmed,” the call to a cruciform discipleship remains.
The individualism of Bonhoeffer’s Jesus is one that despises and hates one’s relatives, and more radically, is dead to itself. In hearing and taking up the call to discipleship a barrier is placed between the believer and natural life, between the believer and the self. Yet, this is not a call for becoming hermits or to hold life in contempt, “it is the life which is life indeed, the gospel, the person of Jesus Christ…. By his (Jesus’) calling us he has cut us off from all immediacy with the things of this world. He wants to be the center, through him alone all things shall come to pass” (Bonhoeffer, p. 106).
The death of the individual, and the hating of all that is of the world are harsh things for Christians of any era to hear and even harder to follow, but they are the way to true discipleship. However, the preacher had best be wary lest he or she preach a message of good works to attain discipleship, as though one really had the capacity to die to the self. The Old Adam and Eve in each of us fights (literally) like hell not to die. The way to the radical discipleship Jesus calls us to is not through our own power or intent, but through the One who has already “taken up his own cross.”
It is the power of God in the incarnate Word to convict us of our self-centeredness. It is through our dying together with him in the death of Baptism (Romans 6.4) that we die to the self and are raised again as new creatures to live as God intends us to live. In this death we become freed from that which holds us back from the journey with Christ as his disciples. And in being so freed we can come back to them in a new way. In writing of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice Isaac, Bonhoeffer says, “…at that very moment all that he (Abraham) had surrendered was given back to him…. but henceforth he will have his son in quite a new way—through the Mediator (Christ) and for the Mediator’s sake” (p. 111).
The gift of discipleship which Jesus opens to us on the cross and which he brings and gives to his disciples cannot become tasteless—loose its value—just as salt cannot become tasteless. The Gospel is as incorruptible and insoluble as salt. The Gospel in not dependent upon the disciples’ individual capacity to follow, but upon Christ alone. Salvation is a gift of God and thus cannot be destroyed. But there is a warning.
The warning concerns the earthly being of the disciple who through the powerful Word of Christ has become an apostle, a fisher, a shepherd, a rock, loses all value if he or she turns back to the old self seeking to storm the gates of heaven independently. In refusal to die daily through repentance and in a return to the ways of the old self, the Lord’s word of grace becomes a word of judgement.
Exegete: Rev. Thomas S. Hanson
4. References: Luke 14:25-33
Bonhoeffer, Dietrich, The Cost of Discipleship, revised edition. Translated by R. H. Fuller. (New York: The Macmilliam Company, 1963).
Caird, G.B. The Gospel of St. Luke. (Baltimore, Maryland: Penguin Books, Inc., 1963).
Danker, Frederick W. Jesus and the New Age: According to Luke (St. Louis, Missouri: Clayton Publishing House, 1972.)
________________. Luke in Proclamation Commentaries: The New Testament Witness for Preaching, Gerhard Kordel, ed.
(Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1976).
Juel, Donald H. and Buttrick, David. Pentecost 2: Series C in Proclamation 2: Aids for Interpreting the Lessons of the Church Year, Elizabeth Achtemeier, et al, eds. (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1980).
Kittel, Gerhard and Friedrich, Gerhard, eds. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. 10 vols. Translated by Geoffrey W. Bromiley. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1964).
Marshall, I. Howard, The Gospel of Luke: A Commentary on the Greek Text. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1978).
5. Worship & Music Suggestions
That this text comes on the Sunday before Labor Day, one may wish to use the holiday to talk about and to celebrate the various vocations of the congregation as being ways of cruciform discipleship in the community.
Lord of All Nations, Grant Me Grace (LBW 419)
Take My Life, That I May Be Consecrated, (LBW 406) Don‘t forget
that the line goes through the word “consecrated!”
“Take Up Your Cross,” the Savior Said (LBW 398)
Let us Ever Walk With Jesus (LBW 487)
God, My Lord, My Strength (LBW 484)
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