In today’s reading we see some of the criteria Jesus sets out if one wants to be his disciple. There is no way around it, if one wants to call themselves a disciple the criteria are difficult to say the least. Lets’ look at what Jesus says:
26 “So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.
The revelation of Jesus is public not private. It is not enough to be quiet disciple. Not everyone will be called to be an evangelist or preacher but everyone will be called to testify to the truth. Are you ready to defend your faith in the modern world? Do you have an answer if a modern day atheist challenges the existence of God? If you go to a cocktail party and the issue comes up can you articulate a defense of traditional marriage? Can you lovingly articulate the pro-life position and do you oppose abortion where ever possible?
28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. 32 So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, 33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.
Jesus wants you to know that what he is asking you to do will not be easy. Proclaiming truth will bring opposition. In every generation those who are deep in sin often will lash out against the righteous. But you have nothing to fear from those who might harm your body. Be ready to accept whatever sufferings proclaiming the gospel might bring you because it is your soul that is being saved. Note, Jesus is speaking hear about suffering that might come from acknowledging him. While this is also true about natural suffering (like illness or loneliness, etc) it is particularly true about suffering from having acknowledged Jesus.
34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter- in- law against her mother- in- law. 36 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.
The gospel will divide, even families. What is important to understand is that it does not divide by judging but rather it divides by inviting. Everyone is invited into communion with Jesus. Some will choose to enter that relationship. Others will not and for those that reject the invitation guilt will often overcome their conscience. They will feel rejected, hurt and like they are being judged. In fact they are but usually not by the disciple but rather by truth itself.
37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
This is a hard saying because at first glance is seems to diminish the importance of the love we feel for our family members. Really what Jesus is saying is that you must be detached from this world. You must put God first above all things. However, the result of that will not be that you will not love your family less, you will love them more. You will love them with an earthly “normal” love but you will also love them with a holy “spiritual” love. You will end up not being detached from the world but rather you will be more engaged with the world when you appreciate it more honestly. Rather than being attached to material things (from food to Ferrari’s) you will savor material things appreciating them in their proper context.
38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
What will your cross be? Clearly this verse does not mean that every person will have to be martyred for God. Maybe you’ll have to give up a career to raise kids. Maybe you’ll have to take care of a sick parent. Maybe you’ll struggle with alcohol. Jesus doesn’t want you to pursue only earthly happiness. If you seek him, if will lead you down a different unexpected path. How many times have you heard stories like this? When a person says they gave up the flashy high paying job in the big city and became a baker, or teacher or whatever in a small town. Seek the road God wants you to walk.
40 “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me.
This is perhaps one of the hardest sayings for our modern ears. To be a disciple means to receive those who Jesus sends to you. Sometimes that will be the poor, the sick, the lonely, the needy, etc. But we don’t often have homeless people knocking on our doors. Who else is included? Most assuredly it includes Jesus’ appointed ministers. We know that in this chapter Jesus was speaking to his Apostles, so in the first instance it includes them. We also so, most specifically from Paul’s letters to Timothy, that Paul appointed Timothy head of the Church in Ephesus and told Timothy to find new men to appoint in his place, so we know that from the beginning Jesus has had visible appointed ministers. Why would anyone reject such a person? The answer is described in all the verses before. When truth is presented to people, conscience kicks back. The gospel is public, not private, the ministers of God can be seen. The gospel divides. Everyone is invited but some will reject even what is obvious. One must love Jesus MORE than this world. In this world it’s easy to join a church that changes with the times. But that is not what Jesus calls us to do in the verses above. He calls us to take the different path. One must go to his ministers and accept the difficult things that they teach. Those things might impose crosses on you. Maybe you can’t get divorced and remarried. Maybe you can’t support your friend’s gay marriage. Maybe you can’t vote for a politician that funds abortion.
41 The one who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and the one who receives a righteous person because he is a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. 42 And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple; truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.”
Finally, your motivation matters. If you choose to do right because you know that is what Jesus teaches that is the best motivation. To act rightly because you love the Lord and want to abide by his will is the truest motivation. It is the motivation we will have in heaven.