Discipleship 1 — Is Jesus Too Demanding?
Updated: May 11, 2020
Chan Gin Kai
Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “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. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:25-27)
“In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.” (Luke 14:33)
One may read the above passages and immediately feel a heavy burden. Indeed, even the passage heading given in the NIV version of the Bible sounds like an intimidating obligation, “The Cost of Being a Disciple”.
But there are two ways to look at these expectations. We can see them as onerous demands put on us as disciples. Or we can view them as the most beautiful love story ever… Allow me to explain.
A Heavy Burden?
What Jesus said to the crowd back then applies to everyone who desires to follow him. And Jesus didn’t mince his expectations.
Jesus said that we’ll have to hate our family and even our own lives. We know Jesus doesn’t literally mean ‘hate’; he used a simile to emphasise that we have to love him more than everyone else. But putting Jesus as number one in our lives is still a heavy ask.
Then Jesus said that we’ll have to “carry the cross”, which we know means being ready to do anything, even to the extent of dying for him. And as if that’s not enough, Jesus added that we have to give up everything for him. Try telling anyone that these are not heavy obligations.
Love Jesus more than everyone else. Be willing to do anything (and even die) for him. Be ready to give up everything for him. If these are not weighty commitments, then what is?
Jesus made no attempts to water down the requirements, though many in Christendom have tried to. They can’t reconcile a God of abundant grace with such onerous expectations. How can a God who loves us unconditionally set conditions for our relationship with Him?
And how do these expectations match what Jesus said in Matthew 11:28-30?
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Or A Response To Love?
What is the most beautiful part of a wedding? There’s so much that’s charming in a wedding; the delightful decorations, the gorgeous gown, the bounteous buffet and the sincere smiles on everyone’s faces. But for me, the most beautiful part of a wedding is the time when the couple makes their vows.
That’s when some take out tissues and dab their eyes. That’s when many smile and sigh an audible “Awww” at the sweet promises. That’s when everyone holds their breath in anticipation before finally erupting in applause when the couple seal their covenant with a kiss.
We don’t listen to their vows of faithfulness and wonder why the couple choose to burden themselves with such obligations. We don’t find their pledge to stay with each other through thick and thin onerous. In fact, we won’t want to see them get married if they’re not willing to commit themselves fully to each other.
Why is that so? It’s a marriage, duh! It’s the most important relationship in the world. Of course we have high expectations. So what about the most important relationship in the universe?
If we expect mutual collaboration with our colleagues, mutual closeness with our friends and mutual commitment with our spouse, how much more should we expect in our relationship with God?
The Bible has described God’s relationship with us as a marriage (2 Corinthians 11:2, Ephesians 5:25-27, Revelations 21:1-2). That’s because a marriage is the strongest relationship we know. The fact is, our relationship with God is greater than even that. It is a love stronger than what mortals are capable of, and it lasts beyond death, through all eternity.
Yes, Jesus has laid out expectations of the highest order. But let’s not forget that he has already done it all for us.
Jesus loves us more than everything else in the universe. Jesus was not just willing to die for us, he already did. And he gave up everything for us. Now he asks that we be willing to do the same for him. He has offered us a relationship that’s far more beautiful than even marriage.
Now do you see what Jesus asked for as an onerous burden, or a response to the greatest love ever?
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Chan Gin Kai
Gin Kai is a film producer who believes in the power of media to inspire positive changes. He has spearheaded disaster relief and capacity building projects in impoverished communities across Asia. He serves actively in the Central Christian Church and describes himself as “just a sinner who wants to get right with God”.