Click here, Luke 14:25-33, for an easy to print or email Adobe PDF version.
This text begins and ends with an "all or nothing" injunction about following Jesus, with two practical illustrations in between.
Given that at this point in his ministry, Jesus is beginning to sense the "all" that lies ahead for him personally (betrayal and denial by his closest companions, followed by false arrest, torture, and brutal execution), perhaps it is no wonder that his response to the large crowds is to challenge any hopes they may have for an easy entry to the messianic age. The way ahead will be hard, not magical.
The word "hate" (as used in the NRSV) is clearly being used in an exaggerated sense and not literally. The Good News Bible's "love me more" is better, but doesn't capture the sense of total commitment that the underlying Greek is saying.
These are hard sayings for us who are also trying to honour commitments we have also made to spouses, children, parents and bankers. We are in no position to literally follow the itinerant Jesus, who, as far as we know, had no property of his own, no home, no wife, no children, no job.
This saying is also hard because we live in a culture and climate where we are bombarded with goods and promises for wonderful benefits with no mention of - much less any expectation of - paying a cost for them. We are spending and living as though there is no cost, no downside, no long-term consequences.
* Link to Amazon.com Bibliography for Bruce J. Malina and Richard Rohrbaugh, Social Science Commentary on ... The Synoptic Gospels; The Gospel of John; The Book of Acts; The Letters of Paul; The Book of Revelation; and others.
+ Link to Amazon.com Bibliography for Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Zvi Brettler, Jewish Annotated New Testament, The Bible With and Without Jesus, Short Stories by Jesus, Entering the Passion of Jesus, and others.