Blog / Book of the Month / "The Family of Jesus" Sermon / Luke 14:25-35 / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday September 8th 2019 / Season Of Pentecost / Mount Olive Lutheran Church

"The Family of Jesus" Sermon / Luke 14:25-35 / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday September 8th 2019 / Season Of Pentecost / Mount Olive Lutheran Church

"The Family of Jesus" Sermon / Luke 14:25-35 / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday September 8th 2019 / Season Of Pentecost / Mount Olive Lutheran Church

Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday September 8th 2019: Season of Pentecost / Luke 14:25–35 "The Family of Jesus"

Now great crowds accompanied [Jesus], and He turned and said to them, “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. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be My disciple.

“Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in Your sight O Lord. Amen.

Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” There was this kid named Joe, he was one of the youngest sons of a family that had a lot of civic responsibility and employed a lot of people. The family had been in business for a long time, for generations, and while he wasn’t likely to end up running things one of his brothers surely would. But when his father died Joe’s grandmother took over and quickly had all of Joe’s brothers murdered. Joe narrowly escaped, hidden at first in the laundry room as the murders were taking place and then whisked away by an aunt, a local pastor’s wife who then hid Joe away in the church because it was the one safe place for him to be hidden from his grandma as Joe’s grandma wouldn’t set foot in a church. Thinking she had removed Joe and all of his brothers she started running things in earnest. For years Joe never left the church and everyone kept his ‘being alive’ a secret from his grandmother. I think it’s safe to say that it wouldn’t be safe for Joe to love his grandmother, not in the conventional way we think of when it comes to grandmas and grandkids because she didn’t have his best intentions in mind. A trip to grandma’s house wouldn’t be cinnamon rolls and cookies and games of Gin Rummy or Cribbage, in fact a trip to grandma’s house would likely mean Joe’s death if she knew that he was alive. It was way safer for Joe to stay in the church where he was protected and safe.

Now pastor that’s a horrible story, you must have made that up? What kind of grandma would do such things? Well it’s not a made up story in fact if you look at 2nd Kings Chapter 11 in the Old Testament you’ll find it there. Joe is little Joash the son of king Ahaziah who had died in Jerusalem around 800 or so years before Jesus was born. Joash’s grandmother Athaliah was the queen mom and with her son and all the male heirs out of the way she took control of the southern kingdom of Judah;[1] she also happened to be on do the daughters of Jezebel from the northern kingdom of Israel so Joash’s great grandma wasn’t that friendly either. Joash’s grandmother Athaliah and great grandmother Jezebel didn’t believe in the God that Joash and you and I worship, they followed Ba’al a fertility god complete with temple prostitutes and human sacrifices which is likely why grandmother Athaliah didn’t mind having her grandchildren murdered to seize power over the southern kingdom of Judah in fact she might have simply looked at their deaths as a pleasing sacrifice to Ba’al. It’s also the reason why Joash could be hidden by his aunt in the Temple in Jerusalem because as a worshiper of Ba’al grandmother Athaliah would not step foot in the Temple that king Solomon, King David’s son had built, because it was the Temple of the God she despised. I’m giving you this as an example from Scripture of real and dangerous conflict within a family where they are divided over which God to worship; an example where you would have had to have been very careful around even family members because they believed different than you and therefore wouldn’t have your best interests at heart when it came to your faith life and religious and spiritual beliefs. Now today, in your life, you may not need to be as careful as Joash was with his grandmother Athaliah but you may still need to be careful about how you love and deal with family who are set against you and your faith in Christ Jesus.

Jesus sets this forward in our Gospel reading today in a very blunt fashion when He says, “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.”[2] In the Gospel of Matthew you get a little softer version of this same saying of Jesus when Saint Matthew records Jesus saying, “Whoever loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.”[3] Jesus is talking here about the cost of discipleship, if someone like Joash, one of the descendants of King David who is in the family tree of Jesus, had blindly put his love for His grandmother before his personal safety, vocational responsibilities and his faith in God Joash would have suffered grave consequences and in his case would not have survived.  

Jesus himself had to put His trust in His heavenly Father over and above His own family very early on in His public ministry when after Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River and His 40 days in the wilderness being tempted by Satan, after Jesus had called His 12 disciples, Jesus and His disciples went back to Jesus’ home town of Nazareth in Galilee. And while they were there a large crowd gathered around Him and that’s when Jesus’ family tried to take custody of Jesus and bring Him away from the crowd back to the family home because they feared that the people would end up thinking that Jesus had gone mentally ill. The Gospel of John tells us that early on in His public ministry “not even [Jesus’] brothers believed in Him.”[4] Did Jesus blindly follow His family and leave the crowd that He was teaching to come home? No, Jesus refused their attempt and remained on track with His public ministry.

Later members of Jesus’ family would come to Jesus once again as Jesus was teaching yet another crowd of people when in the Gospel of Saint Luke it’s recorded how “[Jesus’] mother and His brothers came to Him, but they could not reach Him because of the crowd. And [when Jesus] was told, “Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, desiring to see You.” [Jesus] answered them, “My mother and My brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.”[5] So here too we have Jesus putting faith in His heavenly Father first before His earthly family. This really boils down to the first commandment “You shall have no other gods. What does this mean? We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.” All things here would include family.

Now I know this is a very unpopular thing to talk about today in North America, and some Christian denominations have taken this in very painful directions with public shunning completely cutting family members out of their lives entirely. So what then is the best way to approach this challenging topic? Looking to Jesus is always a good idea when trying to understand a challenging topic found in Scripture. There are a couple things concerning all of this to take note of in relation to Jesus’ life:

1) Jesus didn’t cave in to His earthly family when there was a conflict between the 4th and 1st commandments, “honouring your mother and father” doesn’t trump “You shall have no other gods.” The reverse for us is likewise true parents and grandparents don’t put your children or grandchildren above God. This goes for siblings also. In our modern day there is a kind of cult of the family that says, “Family first above all things” this attitude however breaks the 1st commandment.

2) Listen carefully, Jesus isn’t saying “family last,” if you look at Jesus’ life you’ll find that while He was certainly firm with His family at times, He was also patient with them because some of Jesus’ extended family did eventually come around and believe in Him, and as you will remember Jesus’ mother Mary was faithful to Him and was with Him at His crucifixion on Good Friday, she like Jesus’ half brother James the Just[6] became prominent in the early Christian church after Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit. James the Just is one that St. Paul says Jesus revealed Himself to after Jesus’ Easter resurrection before His ascension.[7] This same James becomes a central a key figure in the book of Acts in Jerusalem providing guidance for Gentiles, non Jews, as they moved from Greco-Roman Pagan lifestyles into the Christian faith where they would spend more and more time together with Jewish people who were also becoming Christians.[8]

In your own family if things are not in a good place when it comes to being on the same page spiritually, or religiously speaking, be patient you may need to be long-suffering in your approach, Jesus was patient. Look to Jesus as an example. There may be improvements over time for you in your family as there were for Jesus in His family. All of this will be harder if you begin by compromising and caving in, by allowing others in your family to take top billing from God and call the shots. Now there are certainly religious differences between Christians of different denominations which can also be challenging; in such cases be patient with them too and as Saint Peter says live your life with them as you do with others, “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,”[9] this approach will honour Christ Jesus. If things become impacted and heated, dangerous even, take Saint Paul’s advice, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all,”[10] if this is not possible Saint Paul says to put it all into God’s hands, basically back off.

Salman Barbari was born in Iran to a strict Muslim family from Afghanistan. But in 2018 he got baptized into Christ Jesus and became a Christian at Trinity Lutheran Church in Berlin Germany, in the process creating dire potential consequences for his future and safety. That's because under Islamic law, Barbari could be sent to jail in Iran for converting to Christianity. In Afghanistan, he could be put to death.[11] For Barbari this is the cost of discipleship, his following Jesus has put enmity between his Muslim family and himself and if he was to put them first before Jesus he would be in danger. When Pastor Gottfried Martens started out at Trinity Lutheran Church in Berlin there were fewer than 200 members attending but now there are over 1,400 additional people like Barbari, men women and children – sometimes whole families who have left their Muslim culture and past and been baptised into Christ Jesus. As they embrace Jesus they begin to bear a cross. For them faith in Jesus often requires them to love Jesus more than their biological father or mother, in some cases even to love Jesus more than their own son or daughter. This can be a painful and hard cross to bear, something that must be endured and so it becomes part of the cost of discipleship. Jesus Himself experienced this challenge and met it along the way carefully keeping the first commandment at every turn. At the cross Jesus even entrusted His faithful mother, the Virgin Mary, to His disciple John because Jesus had no brothers or cousins there to which He could safely entrust her and her care. Had someone like Jesus’ brother James the Just been present there with Jesus and Mary at the cross and had James the Just come to faith in Jesus before Jesus’ crucifixion then Jesus could have asked a member of His own family to watch after His mother Mary. At that time in His family Jesus and His mother the Virgin Mary were Christians the rest of the family were not. 

As Christian then remember we are together as family in Jesus, if you lack a regular relationship with a your biological father then in the Body of Christ you may find a father, if your grandma is like Joash’s Grandmother Athaliah then you may find a loving and caring grandma within the Body of Christ, like Salman Barbari and his fellow Muslims who have left Islam for Christianity you like they in Jesus now have brothers and sister, you have a Heavenly Father, as baptised heirs of the kingdom of God Jesus Himself is your older and most excellent brother. Continue therefore to be patient with those who would get between you and God, be smart, be safe, you may lose things along the way, even close relationships as a result of your faith in Christ Jesus this shouldn’t surprise us. People lose friendships and family relationships over less important things like politics, sexual preferences and gender identities, fights over money or land or even soured business dealings, Jesus is more important than any of those things. This is why Jesus says, “any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be My disciple.” This is a renunciation of things that would stand in the way between you and Jesus, between you and God.  

Jesus for His part perfectly renounced the World and everything that attempted to get in the way between Him and His heavenly Father and He did this without fault, when you struggle in this way turn to Christ Jesus and ask for forgiveness from the one who did not fail: He has forgiveness for you and this forgiveness is yours because Jesus has paid the ultimate cost for discipleship. Jesus counted the cost and paid it with His Blood. You then are now free to follow Him without fear. Jesus had life and good, death and evil set before Him[12] and Jesus chose life and good in the form of obedience and faithfulness to His heavenly Father. Jesus held fast to His heavenly Father at the Cross when heaven and earth were called to witness against Him, when the World laid upon Him there all of its evil and death and al your sin . He died to provide salvation for the whole world and all people. Jesus bore His cross so that you and I and king Joash, and men like Salman Barbari, all those who “those who hear the word of God and do it,” all those who follow Christ would not be lost, would not be alone but would be children of God, brothers and sister in Christ, heirs of the kingdom of God and part of the family of God in Him, in Christ Jesus. “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Amen.

Let us pray:

Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.

[1] 2 King 11
[2] Luke 14:26–33
[3] Matthew 10:37
[4] John 7:5
[5] Luke 8:19–21
[6] Some think James the Just and others who are called brothers may have been cousins of Jesus.
[7] 1 Corinthians 15:7
[8] Acts 15
[9] 1 Peter 3:15
[10] Romans 12:18
[11] Salman Barbari
[12] Deuteronomy 30:15–20