SCRIPTURES – Ps. 119:27-32; Deut. 30:15-20; Philemon 1-21; Luke 14:25-35
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”
Oh, what a joy to preach on such inspiring words! How fitting it is to hear them on this day when we bring a baby to God to receive and bless and make His own child in holy Baptism. What wonderful, comforting words of Jesus! What wonderful hymns they have inspired, with memorable words like:
Hate my parents, yes, I know; my Lord Jesus tells me so!
Brothers, sisters, and my wife; I can’t even stand my life!
(tune, Jesus loves me, this I know)
There is no such hymn, of course. For, these are these words of Jesus are very harsh. They are so contrary to what we would expect to hear from a loving Savior who reached out to prostitutes and despised tax collectors and the worst of sinners with kindness and forgiveness. What are we to make of this uncompromising demand of our Lord?
As I was pondering this the other day something struck me. Why did the Son of God became man? Well, to save us from being condemned by God to hell forever for our sins, of course. Ok: how did Christ save us? He took our sins upon Himself and by His sufferings and death upon the cross He endured their penalty for us. Yes, thanks be to God, He did. But, this is not all that He did for us. He also obeyed God fully and completely and gladly, doing what we are supposed to do but are unable to truly do. His perfect, His beautiful life of obedience He now gives to us. It is credited to us who love and believe in Him.
- It’s like a wealthy man who marries a penniless woman who lives on the street. He not only brings her to his fabulous home; he also shares his riches with her, so that she is no longer poor and dirty and dressed in rags but is made up and perfumed and adorned with gold and precious gems. She is beautiful! (Like Katherine Hepburn in My Fair Lady.)
Do you realize what this means? Jesus lived your life. He would not, then, demand anything of you that He did not gladly do Himself. He does not ask you to bear a cross that He Himself has not borne. He does not expect you to hate what He did not hate.
Yes, hate. It’s a harsh word. It’s also a Godly word. It is what God expects, for it is what God – our Lord Jesus Christ – has done. You must “hate your own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even your own life, to be my disciple” Jesus says. It is what He did as God’s disciple.
Jesus hated His family? He hated His mother, Mary? I guess He did. But, as we look at His life and His relationship with His mother, we also see that His hate is not the same as our hate. For us, hatred involves feelings of intense dislike and disgust. We would be happy if what we hated were gone.
What do we see in Jesus? Does He dislike His mother, so much so that He is disgusted with her and wants nothing to do with her? Of course not. Even in the midst of His sufferings on the cross His heart goes out to Mary, and from the cross He tells His disciple John to take care of her. As a child He loves her and obeys her. Of course, there was that time when Jesus was 12 and His parents took Him to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. When His parents left for home He stayed behind, unbeknownst to them, because He wanted to be in the temple to teach and discuss God’s Word with the rabbis. When they found Him three days later, His frantic mother scolded Him, saying, “Son, why have you done this to us? We have been looking for you anxiously!” Jesus replied, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” He set His parents straight by reminding them that God was His true Father. And so, we see in Jesus what it means to hate one’s parents. It does not mean to dislike them so intensely that you want nothing to do with them. It means seeing God as your true Father, and so honoring and following Him above all. Anyone – father; mother; brothers or sisters; even yourself and your own desires – that would keep you from honoring and obeying God must be ignored. “We must fear, love, and trust in God above all things” the 1st commandment teaches us. We ultimately lose everything if we lose Him. But, having our heavenly Father, we have everything!
I suppose we would say that we know this. “Take my life and let it be consecrated, Lord, to Thee,” we happily sing (hymn #783, verse 1). But, do we live this belief?
On this day when Jase is baptized, consider what parents want for their child. They want him/her to be healthy; to enjoy school and be a good student; to have good friends and be a good friend; to be a good person who wants to do what is right and is sorry for wrongs done; and many other things. So, these things will just happen naturally, right? They won’t take any effort, will they? Of course they will! Good parents:
- Feed good food to their children, and don’t leave what they eat up to them;
- Have rules for their children, and then punish – and forgive! – them when they do wrong;
- Teach their children with chores;
- Don’t allow them to sit in front of the TV or PlayStation all day.
To be good and do good, good must first enter in. As Scripture says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Prov. 22:6)
God wants every one of us to be His good and blessed children. He gave you His good – His very name and presence and holiness and every blessing – in your baptism! To remain good, continue taking His good in. He offers you His good Son and His life, all the blessings of Christ’s forgiveness of your sins and holiness of life, and also His Holy Spirit with His joy and power, in His holy Word. Hear it; read it; ponder it and take it to heart! Do what you said in today’s Introit, Ps. 119:27-32:
Make me understand the way of your precepts, and I will meditate on your wondrous works… strengthen me according to your word! Put false ways far from me and graciously teach me your law! I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I set your just decrees before me. I cling to your testimonies, O Lord; let me not be put to shame! I will run in the way of your commandments when you enlarge my heart!
In the Bible is life and good – your God and Savior! – and not death and evil. Choose life: the life it gives, and the life of loving obedience to which it calls you. God will enlarge your heart and fill you with Christ’s love. He will “take your moments and your days [and] make them flow in ceaseless praise!” (hymn #783, verse 1).