The Twelve Apostles were sent out in their first missionary capacity prior to Jesus being crucified. Jesus prepared them for the mission with a speech including instructions, precautions, and reminders, and we are nearing the end of that speech in our studies. Recently we observed how Jesus' message would not bring peace, but rather division, even among family members, which was odd for the so-called Prince of Peace.
Forsake All but One
disciples. Disciple was a title open to all, and sometimes used in this general sense in the Gospels. Disciple means student, or pupil; and in the Biblical context usually means a follower of Jesus. That is not just someone who walks behind Jesus, going where He goes, but rather a person who has learned from Scripture and from Jesus, and put that learning into practice. These Christ-following disciples would today be known as Christians. Really, really good Christians. Or would they?
In Matthew 10:37, Jesus tells us that anyone who loves their parents or their children more than they love Jesus is not worthy of Jesus. Basically, if someone held Jesus and your mom hostage and gave you the choice to kill one in exchange for the other one's freedom, you have to opt to save Jesus, despite the fact that Jesus has supposedly conquered death.
OK, so maybe that is not exactly what it means, but the point is that Jesus should take priority in you heart over anything and anyone. Those who cannot do that are not worthy of Jesus, according to the Man Himself.
Jesus goes on to say in Matthew 10:38 that anyone who will not take up his cross (metaphorically the heavy burden of following Jesus' teaching) is not worthy of Jesus. In Matthew 10:39 Jesus concludes His thought by saying anyone who “finds his life” (that is, finds a type of fulfillment in this world in this life, like The Purpose Driven Life) will loose that life, but people who loose their life for Jesus will find eternal life as a reward. In summary, Jesus is saying that you had better be ready to suffer and die for your faith to be considered worthy of Salvation, but simply being prepared is not the full meaning here...
This passage in Matthew has its parallel Luke 14:25-27, which speaks in an even stronger tone:
Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them He said: "If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be My disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow Me cannot be My disciple. NIVFirst you will note that contrary to the Matthew 10:37-39 passage where Jesus is addressing the Twelve Apostles, here Jesus is speaking to the large crowd following Him, but the message is essentially the same. So this is not some special instruction given for the Twelve Apostles only, but rather a global message to anyone who would follow the ways of Jesus; to anyone who would like to be worthy of Salvation.
As mentioned, Luke's version is in stronger language, for sure. Now, instead of simply preferring Jesus over your own immediate family, you are required to hate your own family members, and your own life. Biblical scholars spin this as not so much “hate” of others (especially in light of the Sermon of the Mount where Jesus equated hate with murder), but instead see it as rather a very, very strong priority and preference for the ways of Jesus over all else.
Adding this up provides a clear meaning: Forsake all of the world and follow Jesus. This is not a message about becoming securely and comfortably couched in your belief that Jesus is the Savior while maintaining all other things constant. This is a message about complete submission, and leaving everything about the life you knew before you knew Jesus; everything from your job to your family.
To drive this point home, Luke's parallel continues on with a couple of parables. In Luke 14:28-33, you will find Jesus saying that deciding to be a Christ-follower is not something you do halfheartedly. Instead, you need to do some reckoning and make sure you are fully prepared to follow His ways, with the kind of serious deliberation that you would use when planning to build a tower or wage a war. Jesus closes the parables with this thought in Luke 14:33:
“In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be My disciple.” NIVGive up everything to follow Jesus. Only then will you be worthy of Salvation. Leave your garden. Leave your job. Leave your wife. Leave your kids. Obey God and spread the Word. Is such a person really a good Christian, or would you rather expect a Christian to fulfill his responsibilities and stand by his obligations?
This kind of all or nothing philosophy is only practical if the Kingdom of Heaven truly is near; if very soon after Jesus' resurrection there would be His glorious return. After all, what good could come from propagating broken homes and unemployment for 2000 years?
Thankfully, this is one teaching from which the church has deviated.