Many people come to God because they need healing, miracles, signs, wonders, prophecies, extraordinary abundance, financial blessing, power etc. But the journey with Jesus is not only about these.
The truth is that the journey with Jesus can be so uplifting and abundant with grace, blessings, unlimited favours and everlasting life. We encounter graces when we walk with God.
Hence, the journey also demands commitment, sacrifice, sincere and indefatigable love even in suffering, challenges, and painful moments.
Many saints passed through persecutions, loss of lives and great challenges but instead of giving up on God, they used those opportunities to prove their love and faith in Jesus.
In the Gospel
In the gospel, Great crowds accompany Jesus on his way and He turns and speaks to them. ‘If any man comes to me without hating his father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters, yes and his own life too, he cannot be my disciple’. Then He adds that Anyone who does not carry his cross and come after Him cannot be His disciple’.
Therefore, the crowd is on a walk with the Lord, Jesus then reminds them that every journey with Him is not always rosy.
In essence, the way of Christianity is not only about favours and miracles. It means that Sacrifices, crosses and challenges are also part of the journey.
In essence, to relate with Jesus and follow Him is not a journey without sacrifices. In this relationship and journey, the cross is inevitable.
To Be A Disciple.
To be a disciple of Jesus is to give up our passions, emotions and self desires and allow God to take control of everything we do.
When Jesus says that anyone who does not carry his cross and come after Him is not worthy to be a disciple,means that for one to be a true disciple of the Lord, he must appreciate the crosses that come to his way.
This means that challenges and problems do not need to force us to lose hope in God or abandon our faith.
Therefore, to walk with Jesus is to never give up on Him, despite the challenges along the journey.
A disciple is like a student and a follower whose intention is to be like the master.
Therefore, the journey with Jesus is a journey of discipleship. It is a call to give up anything that will stand on our way to this.
The Crowd Mentality.
What happened in the gospel is that in Luke 14, after the parable of the banquet where Jesus uses a feast to illustrate what the kingdom of God is like, the crowd joined Him. By following Jesus, the crowd show their eagerness to be part of that wondrous feast Jesus talked about.
So, Jesus then reminds them, that what they think, is not how it is. Every journey with Him is not always rosy. There is a suffering part of it.
Some scholars explain that at this time even, Jesus is on His way to Jerusalem, so the crowd may think the Messiah is now on the way to take charge of the Kingdom.
Then, Jesus makes it clearer to the crowd that this journey is not only about accepting the invitation but it has its own demands.
Therefore, there is more in being His disciple. It is not merely belonging to the crowd and being an O yes member. This goes beyond being a church member to total commitment. It involves dedication and sacrifice.
The Journey Involves Hatred
Jesus tells the crowd “If any man comes to me without hating his father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters, yes and his own life too, he cannot be my disciple”.
In essence, the journey involves hatred but what type of hatred?
We remember that In John 13:34, Jesus asks His disciples to love one another. He even asks His disciples to love their enemies in Matthew 5:44 so what is the reason for the call to hate our lives even those who are related to us?
The point is that Jesus is not telling us to quarrel and fight ourselves as Christians. He is revealing that the journey with Him means that every other thing in life should be secondary. Therefore, we shall put Him first before any other thing.
What this means is that Faithfulness, love and obedience to the Lord must take priority before every other self desires.
We cannot disobey Him to obey anyone. We cannot say no to Him to obey our emotions. He should be the first. This journey is not a journey to love your friend more than you love Jesus but the other way round.
The Journey goes with the Cross.
Jesus reminds those that are following Him that Anyone who does not carry his cross and come after Him cannot be a disciple.
Therefore, It is a journey with the cross. To understand this clearly, we have to key into the Jewish understanding of carrying a cross at this time.
At the time of Jesus, a man must carry his cross to the place of his execution before they crucify Him with it.
In carrying a cross He must focus all his energy on the destination. Therefore, any sign of tiredness, will always lead to flogging.
So, when Jesus talks about the cross, He wants us to consider other things as unimportant when it comes to following Him and focus entirely on the journey.
It is a life of total surrender and abandonment of every other selfish desire. Just like the cross is synonymous with humiliation, pains and suffering, always know that it may not always be easy. So, we have to focus.
The Journey Leads to Death.
Secondly, in the Jewish world, the journey with the cross always leads to crucifixion and death.
Therefore, the journey with Jesus is a journey to crucify our earthly desires. It is a call to die to sin that we may resurrect to new life.
When you seek miracle, healing, life etc from God, do not forget also to put to death anything that comes in between your relationship with God. It can be hatred, the quest for power, the life of immorality, wickedness, envy etc.
Therefore, God is the first. All other inordinate desires that separates us from Him must be buried. God needs more of our relationship.
Thirdly, Jesus does not say carry a cross or the cross but Our cross. This means that we all have our individual crosses.
There is no one without a cross. These crosses may even arise from the demands of who we are or our positions. Let us carry them for the love we have for God.
The Journey to Come After Him.
Despite these, Jesus says we must come after Him in that statement. So, In this journey, we have to walk with Jesus and follow His way of life.
It is a call to be humble, loving, merciful, prayerful, encouraging the suffering, helping the sick and the downtrodden, close to the poor, a life of faith and total communion with God.
The Journey of the Will.
The two parables today simply infer that we must calculate the demands of this journey before we venture into it.
It is a journey of willful decision to be his follower despite whatever we may encounter in life.
It is not necessarily a life of singing and dancing unto the Lord and when problems come, we run away from God. We have to make the decision just like the apostles to stand firm despite the opposition.
So, the journey with Jesus has a cost, we have to measure the cost, and willfully decide to venture into it.
It means that the love of God must be with all our hearts, soul, strength, mind etc. ( Luke 14:25-33). It must involve all without reservation and thus give up anything we have that takes us away from God.
So, as we journey with Jesus, let us always expect the favours and the challenges. Most of these challenges are still blessings in disguise.
May God help us to remain strong in our journey with Him, forgive us our sins and make us stand firm even in the face of opposition. Amen.