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Putting Jesus in a box

Luke 14:25-33 The cost of being a disciple 25 Large crowds were travelling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: 26 ‘If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters – yes, even their own life – such a person cannot be my disciple. 27 And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. 28 ‘Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? 29 For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, 30 saying, “This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.” 31 ‘Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32 If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. 33 In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.


Do you have Jesus in a box? Every so often we think that we have Jesus all summed up. This wonderful image of a happily smiling, loving, let the children come to me type of welcoming, forgiving, loving saviour, who is an easy friend to walk beside.

We put him in a box. We know where the boundaries are. His is the warm, welcoming, shepherd’s voice. We know what to expect of him. We bring him out when we need him. He is convenient to have around. And then all of a sudden he goes and makes things a lot more difficult. Jesus seems to have this way of confronting us, of reshaping our ideas about life with him.

Instead of offering eternal life, which we are used to, he starts to call into question what it will cost us in this life, and asks us to weigh up whether we are equal to it.

You must hate your Father or mother, your brothers and sisters or your wife and children. I’m sorry, I can’t say that. But this isn’t as bad as it sounds. It was a way of talking at the time.

Jesus also once said that no-one can have two masters, God and money, because they will love one and hate the other. It is the same thing. It is not hate, but it is about priorities.

Compared to the love you have for the one, you would hate to lose it for the other.

It is the same with these hard words of Jesus. They say that if we had a choice between him and home, family and everything else, we should hate the thought of losing him to gain all those other things. He is to come first in our lives. Because we came first in his.

His disciples at the time thought that they were ready for anything. They did not know what was to come, and neither do we. So it is hard to sum things up realistically and know whether we have the strength to follow Jesus, no matter what is thrown at us. It is hard to count the cost beforehand, because we only know the cost afterwards.

Peter told Jesus that he would follow him anywhere, and within three years he was playing the old game: “I didn’t do it, no-one saw me do it, you can’t prove anything”, when Jesus was arrested.

He didn’t know that he would go on to be crucified upside down.

Andrew would die on a cross Bartholomew would be skinned alive James (son of Zebedee) would be beheaded The other James (son of Alphaeus) would be beaten to death Thomas would be run through with a lance Matthias would be stoned and then beheaded Matthew would be slain by the sword Thaddeus would be shot to death with arrows and Philip would be hanged.

Almost always, under persecution, at the point of torture and death, people are given a chance to recant, to take back the things they had been saying, and save their lives.

Don’t you think that these men would have taken back what they were saying if they loved their lives more than they loved Jesus, or if they didn’t think he was really risen again? If you didn’t believe in something, or if it wasn’t absolutely important to you, don’t you think that you would admit that it was an April fool’s day prank and be set free? Why die for it?

Simon Peter is the greatest of examples. He, when Jesus was captured on Maundy Thursday, was not ready to give up everything, including his life, for Jesus. He messed up, and he said three times that he did not know Jesus. Does this mean that he was not worthy to be Jesus disciple? Does this mean that he could not follow him any more? No.

He was forgiven, and he was reinstated by Jesus, and he was a great leader of the church.

In that is our comfort, that even after three years of spending every minute with Jesus, Peter was not ready. He failed and denied that he knew him to save his own weather-beaten skin. But he experienced the forgiveness and love that come from a life with the Lord.

Sure, Jesus makes demands on us, but they are not for nothing. They are far less than those that he made on himself, and it is not like he does not offer anything in return. How does eternal life sound? Heaven? What an offer! What a gift!

What we learn from Simon Peter is that each one of us is a work in progress.

The Old Testament lesson showed it with a beautiful image of a potter at the wheel. What he was making was not turning out right. Like a life of ours, full of sin and not going in the right direction. Sometimes it takes some pretty rough treatment to set it straight, but God is the potter, and he can remould us into what he wants us to be. He can smash what we are trying to build, and belt us back into shape.

Early on, Simon was not ready, but after a life of living under Jesus’ forgiveness, and being moulded into what God wanted him to be, he was ready for anything. He had experienced the touch of the master’s hand.

He experienced a life and a forgiveness that are way outside the box, that don’t fit into our ideas of what we expect. Like an old car pulled off the scrap pile for a rebuild, first Peter was saved, and then he was rebuilt.

The same thing is happening to you. First God pulled your life of the scrap-pile that we end up on, then he sets about rebuilding you. Changing your heart. You are a work in progress. Don’t expect perfection from yourself, you will be disappointed. You will get there one day, where everything is perfect in heaven. But for now, let God mould you. Ask him what he wants you to be. Because he has plans for all of us.

Let’s pray using the words of a song:

Change my Heart, O God,

Make it ever true.

Change my heart, O God,

May I be like you.

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