Luke 14:25-35

Evangelism is Discipleship


Luke 14:25-35

Intro: It may be overstating when I compare Jesus’ pathway in Luke 14 to a tornado. But He has been terribly disrupting – blatantly healing on the Sabbath (vv.1-6), exposing the pride of the other guests (vv.7-11), handing His host a revised guest list (vv.12-14), and, with apparent arrogance, speaking of “eating bread in the kingdom of God” (v.15) as “my banquet” (v.24). And even though the scene changes (v.25), He doesn’t stop – He goes right on disrupting! There are huge crowds going along with Him but He attempts to destroy the “Jesus bandwagon” be repeatedly declaring who “cannot be my disciple” (vv.26, 27, 33). It’s as if Jesus is determined to upset not only His severe critics (vv.1-24) but also His potential friends (vv.25-35). Ordinary human leaders delight in having the masses follow them. Jesus, however, does not accept a superficial following of Him, but subjects those who desire to follow Him to the most severe sifting process. His demands are breathtaking. In today’s passage, Jesus outlines the conditions that exist for anyone who wants to be His disciple. He has questions for us that emerge from the text.

Luke 14:25 Now great multitudes went with Him. And He turned and said to them, 
Luke 14:26 “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.

Often in Luke, crowds are presented as pools of neutral persons from whom Jesus might draw disciples. This is the case here.

Christ is not facing reluctance from the multitudes, but enthusiasm. He was not trying to convince them to follow Him. He made no appeal. They came to Him. But they had no idea that He was going to Jerusalem to be mistreated and killed.

So, Luke wants us to read these verses with the understanding that Jesus is saying to the crowds, “Oh, you think you want to follow in my steps? We will see about that.”

Verse 26 tells us first about the doctrine of Christ before it speaks about being one of His followers.

Look at the text. Who gave Jesus the right to talk that way? Who does He think He is? Can He really mean that He deserves the supreme place in the lives of any who would follow Him? What sheer audacity!

“hate…father and mother, wife and children”

Is Jesus’ statement encouraging would-be disciples to alienate themselves from the ones they love the most? Or even to have tense or strained relationships with family?

“Hate” is not an absolute term here. It is relative. There is no place in Jesus’ teaching for literal hatred.

Telling people to hate what they love is hardly the way to become more popular, and Jesus knew this demand would have exactly the opposite effect.

Rather than increasing the numbers of His followers, such a confrontational statement would cause many of them to walk away.

In no way would Jesus ever contradict anything He had already said or that the Scriptures taught from Moses. 

Luke 14:26 is simply Commandment #1 restated for the NT in different language.

Exodus 20:3 You shall have no other gods before Me. 

What is Jesus assuming by what He says? Luke 14:26 is as transparent a claim to deity by Jesus as John 8:58!

John 8:58 Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.”

No one but God has the right to demand such ultimate loyalty from us. And Jesus does so.

If we take the word “hate” literally, this would be a reversal of the 5th commandment to honor father and mother, something that Luke has explicitly shown that Jesus was careful to keep.
Luke 2:51 Then He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them, but His mother kept all these things in her heart.

The rest of the NT testifies to the importance of a believer’s family.

1 Tim 5:8 But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

Furthermore, He has commanded us to love even our enemies.

Luke 6:27 But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,
Luke 6:28 bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you.

Therefore, it is impossible to hold the position that Christ is telling His hearers to literally hate their earthly families.

But hating can mean something like “loving less” or “not the favorite.”

Gen 29:31 When the Lord saw that Leah was unloved, He opened her womb; but Rachel was barren.

Deut 21:15 If a man has two wives, one loved and the other unloved, and they have borne him children, both the loved and the unloved, and if the firstborn son is of her who is unloved, 
Deut 21:16 then it shall be, on the day he bequeaths his possessions to his sons, that he must not bestow firstborn status on the son of the loved wife in preference to the son of the unloved, the true firstborn.

What Jesus surely means is that the love a disciple has for Him must be so great that the best of earthly loves is dramatically less. 

Scottish theologian Thomas Boston – No man can be a true disciple of Christ, to whom Christ is not dearer than what is dearest to him in the world.

There are times when our love for family can get in the way of our love for Christ. It does this when we let our parents discourage us from making a more complete commitment to Jesus.

It does this when a marriage turns inward instead of outward to serve others out of the strength of a godly partnership.

It does this when we have an idolatrous attachment to our children and their activities, with little time left over for gathering with God’s church.

Shall we hate our families with malice in our hearts? Of course not. But He does mean that when God’s will clashes with the wishes of our most loved relationships, then it is them we disappoint and not the Lord.

Jesus is telling us not to let the claims that our families make on us interfere with the claims He makes on us.

If Christ is not our favorite, we cannot love our relatives properly.

He must mean more than our daily work, however much time we give to it. He must mean more than our pleasures, however much we enjoy them. He must mean more to us than our families, however much we love them.

And He must mean more to us than life itself, however dearly we hold it.

Not only must his earthly family be demoted in priority, but even more difficult, the disciple must dethrone himself.

“yes, and his own life also”

We must be careful not to misunderstand this to mean “hate yourself.” 

This is not a call to self-loathing. We are not meant to regard ourselves as worthless or to toss ourselves onto the trash heap of the world.

Jesus does not want anyone to hate themselves.

Elsewhere, Christ has spoken of loving ourselves.

Matt 22:39 And the second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Our default affection is to love and indulge ourselves. We do not have to be taught this. We must be instructed to deny ourselves.

John 12:25 He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

illus: A Mighty Fortress Is Our God by Martin Luther contains the following lyric inspired by this text of Scripture: “Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also, the body they may kill, God’s truth abideth still, His kingdom is forever.”

R.J. Harris – Discipleship is not periodic volunteer work on one’s own terms at one’s convenience.

What is demanded of disciples is that in the network of many loyalties in which all of us live, the claim of Christ and the gospel not only takes precedence but, in fact, redefines the others.

Matt 12:48 But He answered and said to the one who told Him, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?”
Matt 12:49 And He stretched out His hand toward His disciples and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers!
Matt 12:50 For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.”


This first condition of discipleship is one of redirected loyalties.

Jesus claims all our natural affections in life: the people we want to please – the ones whose rejection we fear the most.

“I must be more valuable to you than even them, than even yourself.”

illus: Following the success of the 1997 Mars Pathfinder Lander, NASA planned a scientific mission to the planet Mars. Intending to launch at least one new mission every two years, their motto was “Faster. Better. Cheaper.” Things did not go quite the way that NASA planned, however. In December 1999 the Mars Polar Lander failed to slow on its descent and slammed into the surface of the Red Planet, smashing into thousands of pieces. Later it was determined that a design flaw in the $165 million spacecraft had caused the braking system to shut off too soon. According to the engineers, this was flaw could have been detected and prevented if only they had run the right simulation on their computers. Why, then, did they fail to run the right simulation? Because NASA was trying to cut costs and decided not to purchase the necessary software. They may have done it cheaper, but they did not do it better. The Mars Lander crashed because the administration failed to count the cost for completing the mission. This is a mistake Jesus wants to be sure that all of His disciples are careful to avoid. Therefore, He tells us in advance how much it will cost us to follow Him to the very end. Even before we come to faith in Christ, He calls us to count the true cost of Christian discipleship, which demands us to love Him more than anything else in the world and to carry the cross of our own sacrificial love. 

Luke 14:27 And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.

When a first-century Jews saw someone carrying a horizontal cross beam, they knew that person would not return. They would never be seen again. They were fodder for Roman execution.

Cross-bearing is the essence of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.

But what if a symbol meant to repulse and subdue and humiliate us has become too beautiful? 

The cross makes for lovely jewelry and artwork now. What if that has softened its punch? It may be more effective in our culture to speak of “extending the arm for the lethal injection” or “standing before the firing squad.”
illus: We have a modern figure of speech, using this very language of cross-bearing, that is not helpful. It is not uncommon to hear someone say, “Well, I guess that is just my cross to bear.” The idea that these words of Jesus about “bearing the cross” refer to passively submitting to life’s difficulties, afflictions, pains and disappointments is totally wrong. Our most painful inconveniences and troubles are not “our crosses to bear.” Cancer and heart disease are not conditions we choose. The cross is something we must decide to bear. Physical pain may well be a thorn in the flesh, but it is not a cross. Let us not diminish the sacrifice of Jesus by saying so.

Christ implies that the government may execute you in the cruelest and most shameful way if you dare to follow Me, and you must be ready for that.


Rather than living for ourselves, we lay down our lives for others, giving them our time, our assistance, our sympathy and our generosity. 

Jesus has given His life for us; now we give our lives to Him by serving in sacrificial love.

Are you sure you wish to follow Me? Is the price more than you are willing to pay?

Jesus uses two different circumstances to illustrate His basic point: following Him requires a realistic estimate of the ultimate personal cost. It is all or nothing.

Luke 14:28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it —   
Luke 14:29 lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him,
Luke 14:30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’

Christ makes it clear that He does not want followers who do not realize what they are getting themselves into.

Counting the cost is important. A man who decides to build a tower must first think.

To get no further than the foundation is to invite ridicule. He and his half-built tower might become the punchline of public jokes.

The man must first “sit down” – the matter is not to be decided in a hurry – and figure the cost. Only then can he expect success.

Luke 14:31 Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand?
Luke 14:32 Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace.

A second illustration comes from kings at war. It is not easy with 10,000 soldiers to defeat one who attacks with 20,000.

A king in such a position thinks hard. 

According to esteemed Asian military strategist Sun Tzu, “a foolish general begins a battle hoping for a victory, whereas a wise general begins a battle already having secured it.”

When enemy forces are overwhelming, a wise general will not fight at all but instead negotiate the terms of peace while the enemy is still “a great way off.” 

This king may receive honor yet. 

What if his negotiating skills along with his advance planning prove to be viable?

He can recuperate his reputation. He can save the lives of thousands on both sides. Perhaps he can even achieve whatever goal going to war prompted in the first place.

To rush without thought into following Jesus is like the person who begins to build a tower without the resources needed to complete it: he looks ridiculous.

Or He’s like the king who rushes into battle severely outnumbered: he will fail.

A.M. Hunter – In the first parable Jesus says, “Sit down and reckon whether you can afford to follow Me.” In the second He says, “Sit down and reckon whether you can afford to refuse My demands.”

Can we afford to follow Jesus? the first parable asks. The second parable wonders: Can we afford not to? 


Luke 14:33 So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple. 

This is clearly a crucial verse. But does it mean that it is not possible to keep any possessions at all if you want to be a true disciple of Christ?  

The lesson is plain. Jesus does not want followers who rush into discipleship without thinking of what is involved. 

And our Lord is clear about the price. Anyone who comes to Him must forsake all he has. 

“You cannot even get close enough to Me to be saved without giving up everything you love/value most. The special people, the treasured possessions, even your own personal identity must be subordinated to Me.”

At the end of the book of Joshua, the children of Israel gathered to renew their covenant commitment to God. Joshua was the captain of the armed forces and the heir apparent to Moses. 

He had just led them across the Jordan River and into the promised land. And now all eyes were on him as he addressed the whole nation. Instead of encouraging the people, instead of giving all the troops a pep talk, Joshua became an anti-evangelist.

He began to tell them that they were not able to serve the Lord. Did they even realize what it meant to have a holy and jealous God?

Joshua 24:19 But Joshua said to the people, “You cannot serve the Lord, for He is a holy God. He is a jealous God; He will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins.
Joshua 24:20 If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then He will turn and do you harm and consume you, after He has done you good.” 

Have they thought about their own tendencies toward being unfaithful? Have they considered what will happen to them when He consumes them?

Joshua does not want them to back out of their commitment to God. He wants them to think it through and make it deeper and even stronger.

When Christ says, “With Me, it’s all or nothing.” He is not trying to keep people in unbelief. He wants them to trust Him with everything.

Jesus is not trying to send us packing but to get us thinking.

What does the word “forsake” mean? 

When it is used of persons, it means to “take leave” or “say good-bye” to someone. When it is used of things, it means to “give up” or “to renounce.”

Luke 14:33 So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not bid farewell to all you have. (Green translation)

To truly join Jesus on the journey, we must “bid farewell” to all we have.
Joel B. Green – The distinctive property of disciples is the abandonment with which they put aside all competing securities in order that they might refashion their lives and identity according to the norms of the kingdom of God.

All competing securities:

(a)    family

Psalm 27:10 When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take care of me. 

(b)    self

John 15:5 I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.

(c)    possessions

Luke 12:15 And He said to them, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.”

For example, “my things do not have me, I have them.” And, “my things are really His things.” 

The disciple of Jesus may be given the use of things in trust, as a stewardship, but they are no longer his own.

“That is Jesus’ house and Jesus’ car and Jesus’ retirement account. He can do whatever He wishes with those things, and by His grace I will learn not to object or obsess.”

For the third time we have the solemn refrain from Jesus, “he cannot be my disciple” (26, 27, 33).

Christ is not, of course, discouraging people from following Him. 

He is not saying, “I don’t want many disciples.” He is saying, “I don’t want any would-be-disciples who have not considered what it will cost. I want everyone to count the cost and decide that I am indeed worth it all.”


illus: In the late 1960s and into the 1970s there was a religious revival now known as the “Jesus Movement.” The Spirit of God began to move on the hippies on the west coast. The result was that many young adults began to make their way into the local churches because they were being saved. Their outward appearances were such at the time that no one would mistake them for “church people.” The old school, conservative church members had their own ideas about what was appropriate attire and physical appearance for church. In many congregations, when these new Jesus people were presenting themselves for membership, the question was asked, “Do you know what you are doing? Do you realize what this means? A period of instruction followed, not solely on matters of doctrine but also the costs of discipleship, after which the persons, having counted the costs, were given the opportunity to say yes or no. The procedure recognized the difficulty of being a Christian in a godless culture that devalues accountability of any kind.
Luke 14:34 “Salt is good; but if the salt has lost its flavor, how shall it be seasoned?
Luke 14:35 It is neither fit for the land nor for the dunghill, but men throw it out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”

Jesus adds a little parable about salt. Like discipleship, salt is a good thing. 

If other foods lose their taste, you can always add some salt, but if salt were to lose its taste, this would be an irretrievable disaster!

It could not even be put to those secondary uses of salt, as fertilizer for certain vegetables, or to regulate the rate of decay in the manure pile. It would be useless. 

But no more useless than the one who tries to be a disciple without coming to terms with the necessary conditions of discipleship.
The one should not be called salt. The other should not be called a disciple.

Jesus’ parting words underscore the gravity of His teaching – “He who has hears to hear, let him hear!”

Just as salt can lose its savor, so can an early commitment to Christ fade over time, no matter how sincere.

Even feeding our spirits with prayer, fellowship, and Scripture, commitments will be severely tested once Jerusalem is no longer a distant goal but a very present and painful reality. 

Enthusiasm that placed Jesus before all other commitments suddenly cools before the question, “Are you one of His disciples?” And suddenly those other commitments to job and status and family beg again to come first.

Matt 26:71 And when he had gone out to the gateway, another girl saw him and said to those who were there, “This fellow also was with Jesus of Nazareth.” 
Matt 26:72 But again he denied with an oath, “I do not know the Man!”

Fred B. Craddock – Under pressure both open and subtle, pressures all of us know, salt does not decide to become pepper; it just gradually loses its savor. The process can be so gradual, in fact, that no one really notices. Well, almost no one.


To summarize, Christ’s word here is, “Think about what you are doing and decide if you are willing to stay with Me all the way.”

We must remember: not to be a disciple of Jesus means to be a disciple of the powers of darkness. And to be a servant of the world and of sin costs immeasurably more than what it costs to follow Christ – the price of it is the loss of the highest joy/happiness in this life and the next plus darkness and suffering of soul throughout eternity in judgment.