Luke

14:25-35

The teachings of Messiah, 9:51-19:44

4. Who enters the kingdom? 13:22-16:13

iv] Salty discipleship

Synopsis

In the context of travelling through village after village on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus addresses the crowd of people traveling with him; he confronts them with the cost of discipleship.

 
Teaching

Christian discipleship requires a loyalty, above all human loyalties, to a rejected messiah. Such loyalty comes with its troubles and limitations, and for this reason rests primarily on divine grace.

 
Issues

i] Context: See 13:22-30. Salty discipleship, 14:25-35, is the fourth episode in a series of six which deal with the question, who will enter the kingdom? 13:22-16:13. What we learn is that there are not many who enter the kingdom, 13:22-30, for Jerusalem is rejected, 13:31-35, the invited guests (religious Israel) are rejected, 14:1-24, and even halfhearted disciples are rejected, v24-35. In the next episode concerning the repentant sinner, 15:1-32, we learn that although many are rejected, entry into the kingdom of God is not beyond anyone - "there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent."

 

ii] Structure: This passage, Salty discipleship, presents as follows:

Setting, v25;

Sayings on discipleship, v26-27:

"if anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, ......"

"whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciples."

Teaching parables / illustrations, v28-32:

The tower builder, v28-30;

The king going to war, v31-32:

Saying on discipleship, v33:

"those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples."

Teaching parable / illustration, v34-35:

"salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness ........."

 

iii] Interpretation:

In the previous episodes Jesus has been interacting with religious Israel, but now he turns his attention to those who would claim / want to follow him. He tells those who "were travelling with him" that there are costs to discipleship, v26-27. The need to assess these costs is illustrated in two teaching parables: building a tower, 28-30; going to war, v31-32. Finally, the full cost of discipleship is outlined, with regard worldly possessions, v33, and the consequences of failure, v34-35.

 

This passage is notoriously difficult to interpret, particularly with regard Jesus' utopian discipleship demands. Interpretations tend to focus on either a warning against half-hearted discipleship, or a prompt to the potential convert that they should first consider the cost of discipleship before making any decisions. Both lines of interpretation have much to commend them. The majority of commentators opt for the first view, namely that Jesus at this point describes "conditions of discipleship" for the purpose of addressing half-hearted disciples, so Ellis, Stein, Fitzmyer, Tinsley, Johnson, Bock, Plummer. "Half hearted discipleship can expect only judgment", Marshall; we may accept the invitation, but "renunciation" is also a necessary requirement for salvation, Creed; the cost of following Jesus is "everything", Black, "otherwise they will be disciples in name but not in reality", Nolland. The second option, namely that Jesus is warning potential believers to "count the cost", is supported by Danker, Leaney, Caird and Gooding.

The context, identified by v25, leans toward the view that this episode calls on the seeker to consider the cost of discipleship - "to warn ... that becoming a disciple was the most important enterprise a man could undertake and deserved at least as much consideration as he would give to business or politics", Caird. The cost involved in this decision may be understood as follows:

• The cost of discipleship as a future possibility - "The disciple must be continually ready to give up all that he has got in order to follow Jesus", Marshall. This approach looks very much like reductionism - Jesus didn't actually mean everything we have, but that we be willing to give up everything we have. I alway remember the old Anglican joke which suggested that the reason why the priest holds up the offertory plate during the offertory prayer was so that God could take anything he wanted from it before the Parish Council got their hands on it!!!

• The cost of discipleship as a matter of property rights. "A disciple must renounce all rights to his property. That does not mean that that he must give everything away to other people. As far as other people are concerned ( and that includes the church), his right of private property remains (see Acts 5:4). 'All that a man has' includes not just money and goods, time and energy, talent and body and soul, but wife and children as well. Obviously, a disciple is not called upon to give his wife and children away to other people. But them, and all else, he must surrender to Christ, and be prepared unquestioningly to accept Christ's authority over everything", I guess all is well as long as the Lord doesn't exercise his rights over our property!!!!

• The cost of discipleship as a theological metaphor. As with Jesus' statement "whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me", Luke 9:23, Jesus may well be addressing the setting-aside of self-reliance (denial of self - see toiV ... uJparcousin, v33) for the gaining of right-standing in the sight of God. Instead of self-reliance, a disciple must rely on a messiah whose credentials are anything but convincing. A daily faith-reliance on a crucified messiah (v27) comes with a cost, eg. family disruption (see misei, "hate", v26). A seeker needs to consider this cost before taking up the day-by-dayway of faith.

• The cost of discipleship as a literal ideal - entry into the kingdom of heaven is free, but the annual membership will cost us all that we have. It is possible that Jesus is using the same tactic he employs with his rewriting of the Mosaic Law. Jesus' utopian ethic removes the security of self-righteousness, so forcing a recognition of sin and the need for a dependance on divine grace. Similarly, with those who would follow as disciples, Jesus' discipleship demands are beyond the doing, so forcing the seeker to recognize that they are unable, in their own power, to gain and maintain the status of a disciple. So, Jesus' words may serve not so much to impose a new law on believers, nor weed out the genuine seeker by painting discipleship as a hard road to follow, nor to warn against half-hearted discipleship, but rather to expose our total inability to comply with the messiah's demands. The ideal of dedicated service to God exposes our inability to offer such service. By this means Jesus forces a disciple to abandon self-reliance for a dependent reliance on / faith in their master.

Of the four options above, the third and fourth seem the best, with the fourth the strongest, or possibly even a combination of both. Jesus states that a total dedication to God is required of those who would stand with the messiah and enter the kingdom alongside him; they must be willing to "give up everything." The disciple who under-performs will be dumped like saltless salt. So, the potential disciples (in fact, all disciples!) needs to consider whether they have it in them or not. Of course, none of us have such dedication in us, even for a moment. And thus we are reminded that we can bring nothing of worth to Jesus other than our dependent reliance on him. Inevitably, the repentant sinner stands approved before God, today, tomorrow and forever, on the basis of Christ's dedication, under his cross, which grace we appropriate through faith. So, it's not about carrying our cross, but carrying his, "for my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

So, considering for a moment Jesus' parable on salt, v34-35: Matthew, in his use of the saying, 10:37-38, focuses on salt's potassium content as a fertilizer, while Luke has in mind its savouring quality. The saying may have originally focused on both, a salt now "useless either as a condiment, or as manure." The image of "flat", degraded, polluted salt, is used to warn Jesus' disciples of the end awaiting those who cannot make the grade in the cross-bearing discipleship department - it's the garbage tip / judgment! Jesus then concludes with his riddle formula - "let him who has ears to hear, hear", Barclay. Like the kingdom parables, the mystery of the gospel is hidden in Jesus' words and only the seeker can find its meaning. Read on and the secret is revealed: "I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance", 15:7. Repentance and faith is the way of discipleship, rather than dedicated service, for who is there that can "renounce all that they have"? We are best to rest on the one who has renounced everything on our behalf.

It is worth noting that Luke places this passage, and passages like it, in the context of gospel episodes that focus on God's unmerited grace. Thus, if the message of this passage is "none are righteous, no not one", it certainly slots in nicely with God's free invitation to the heavenly banquet, 14:15-24, and the good news that repentance is what prompts God's joyous mercy, 15:1-32.

 

iv] Synoptics:

Much of this passage is unique to Luke. Luke 14:26-27 is similar to Matthew 10:37-38, and Luke 14:34-35 is similar to Mark 9:49-50 and little like Matthew 5:13.

 

v] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

 
Text - 14:25

The cost of discipleship: v25-35: i] Setting, v25; "While Jesus was travelling toward Jerusalem, people flocked to him."

de "-" - but, and. Serving to introduce a new literary unit.

autw/ dat. pro. "[were traveling with] Jesus" - Dative of direct object after the sun prefix verb "traveling with."

strafeiV (strefw) aor. part. "turning" - having turned. Attendant circumstance participle, expressing action accompanying the main verb "said"; "He turned and spoke to them", NJB.

 
v26

ii] Sayings on discipleship, v26-27: a) A disciple's hate of their family, v26. A person who follows Jesus may find their family fractured. This cost should be considered before setting out on the way. So, this saying serves to remind the potential disciple / disciples that there is a cost associated with discipleship. "Hate" is used in the sense of subordinating our natural affections, even our own being, in commitment to Jesus. A person who decides for Jesus may well find their family opposed to their new faith. In such a circumstance, loyalty to Jesus takes precedence over loyalty to family.

ei + ind. "if" - Introducing a conditional clause, 1st class, where the condition is assumed to be true, "if, as is the case, .... then ...."

ou misei (misew) pres. "does not hate" - The present tense expresses duration; "continues to hate." A command to "hate" one's parents seems unduly harsh. As noted above, the statement may serve as an idealistic demand for total allegiance to Christ, expunging all other allegiances, even family and wife, so as to force a recognition that discipleship is but by the grace of God. If this is the case, "hate" is taking the Hebrew sense of "abandon" - reject totally filial ties. On the other hand, it may just be a matter of semantics. "Hate" may be a Semitic hyperbole which simply expresses that one is more important than the other, "love less", Stein; "if anyone comes to me and does not love his father and mother less than me."

eJautou gen. pro. "-" - his [father .....]. The genitive is adjectival, relational, while the use of the reflective pronoun here is emphatic, intensifying "his"; "his own father .....", ESV.

eti te kai "yes, even [his own life]" - and in addition. Just in case we hadn't understood the level of dedication demanded.

thn yuchn eJautou "his own life" - the life of himself. In the sense of his own being, "yes, and himself too", Barclay.

ou dunatai (dunamai) pres. pas. ind. "he cannot" - he is not able. Introducing the apodosis of the conditional sentence, not classical Gk., but standard NT. practice.

einai pres. inf. "be [my disciple]" - to be. The infinitive of the verb to-be is complementary, completing the sense of the main verb "not able."

 
v27

b) Cross bearing discipleship, v27. The demand that a person "carry their cross", is a call for complete commitment for salvation to Jesus the humiliated messiah.

o{stiV pro. "and anyone who" - whosoever. Serving to introduce an indefinite relative clause.

ou bastazei (bastazw) pres. "does not carry [his cross]" - does not bear as a burden. Present tense again expressing durative action, "whoever is not bearing and coming after me", Bock. Note, Matthew refers to taking up the cross rather than carrying. The image is of discipleship in terms of cross-bearing, as of a prisoner carrying his cross for execution, so possibly a willingness to suffer persecution, although more likely with a metaphorical sense, eg., let the person who wants to follow Christ take up the position of someone who has an "attitude of self denial which regards his life in this world as already finished", Marshall. Better in terms of reliance on a crucified messiah; see Luke 9:23

ercetai opisw mou "follow me" - comes after me. In the sense of commit to Christ.

ei\nai (eimi) pres. inf. "[cannot] be" - [is not able] to be. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the negated verb "is not able."

mou gen. pro. "my [disciple]" - The genitive is adjectival, relational.

 
v28

iii] Teaching parables, v28-32: The two short illustrative parables support the contention that there is no point following Jesus without first recognizing the cost demanded of a disciple. If we are not willing to pay the full price, then there is no point starting out on the journey. These parables are teaching illustrations and are not allegories - they do not teach that God, unlike mere humans, will realize his kingdom, cf. Hunzinger.

a) On building a tower, v28-30. Who would be so foolish to start a building project without considering whether they have the funds to complete it? Well, actually too many of us!!!! So, the cost of following Jesus entails renouncing all that we have, v33. There is no way I can do that, and neither can you, so we are both going to have to find another way to gain discipleship status and so share eternity with Jesus. The other way, of course, is by grace through repentance and faith, ie., rest on Jesus' renunciation of his divine gift of life on our behalf.

gar "suppose" - for. Causal; "because". A potential disciple must be willing to accept the cost (v27); "for which of you ......", Moffatt.

tiV "one" - which. An interrogative pronoun. This question-form expects a negative answer, "which of you here ....?", NJB; negation = none of us would be so silly as to not first sit down and calculate if we can complete the building project.

ex (ek) + gen. "one [of you]" - Here serving as a partitive genitive.

qelwn pres. part. "wants" - wanting. The participle is best treated as adjectival, attributive, limiting "you", "one of you who wants to build a tower."

oikodomhsai (oikodomew) aor. inf. "to build" - The infinitive is complementary, completing the verbal sense of the participle "wanting".

purgon (oV) "a tower" - Probably a watch tower, but possibly any farm building.

kaqisaV (kaqizw) aor. part. "sit down [and estimate]" - having sat down [figure out]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb nhfiqei, "figure out."

ei + ind. "if" - Here best classified as introducing an interrogative noun clause, indirect question; lit. "having first sat down [and] calculated the expense (then asks himself the question) will he not have [the wherewithal] for completion?"

eiV "to [complete it]" - for [completion]. Here expressing purpose / goal.

 
v29

iJna mhpote + subj. "for if" - lest. Introducing a negated purpose clause. The person plans this project in order that everyone does not begin to ridicule him. Marshall argues that mhpote (mh + pou) is used instead of mh for emphasis. Zerwick holds that the iJna is redundant. "In case", Barclay.

qentoV (tiqhmi) aor. part. gen. "he lays" - having laid. Genitive absolute participle, best treated as forming a temporal clause; "in case, when he has laid the foundations", Barclay.

mh iscuontoV (iscuw) pres. part. gen. "is not able" - not being able. Genitive absolute participle, probably forming a causal clause; "then is unable to finish the building", Moffatt.

ektelesai (ektelew) aor. inf. "to finish" - to bring to completion. Complementary infinitive, completing the sense of the negated verb "is not able."

oJi qewrounteV (qewrew) pres. part. "[everyone] who sees it" - [all] the ones seeing. The participle can be taken as a substantive modified by "all", or "all" can be taken as a substantival adjective modified by the participle which as an attributive adjective.

arxwntai (arcw) aor. subj. "will" - may begin. The subjunctive in the iJna / purpose clause.

empaizein (empaizw) pres. inf. "ridicule" - [may begin] to ridicule, mock, make fun of, taunt [on/with him]. The infinitive is complementary, complementing the sense of the verb "may begin". "Everyone who sees it will begin to jeer at him", Phillips.

 
v30

legonteV (legw) pres. part. "saying" - The participle is adverbial, modal, expressing the manner of the "ridicule", as NIV, or possibly instrumental, expressing means - ridiculed "by saying."

oJti "-" - Here introducing a dependant statement of direct speech.

ou|toV oJ anqrwpoV "this fellow" - this man. This construction usually expresses derision.

oikodomein (oikodomew) pres. inf. "[began] to build" - The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "began".

ektelesai (ektelew) aor. inf. "[was not able] to finish" - The infinitive is again complementary. "'this man' they will say 'began to build and couldn't finish the job'", Barclay.

 
v31

b) On going to war, v31-32. Who would be so foolish as to undertake a war, without first gauging whether success is possible? Under normal circumstances no sensible person would. Consider the cost - if it is not possible to win the war, then accept the reality and sue for peace. As the old saying goes; don't start what you can't finish.

h] tiV + part "or suppose [a king]" - or what [king]. Introducing a rhetorical question expecting a negative answer; "or again, what king ....?, NJB; obviously no king would be so stupid as to go to war without first making sure he can win.

poreuomenoV (poreuomai) pres. part. "is about to go [to war]" - going [to engage with]. The participle is adverbial, possibly conditional, serving as the indicative finite verb in the protasis of a conditional clause modified by an infinitive of means which serves to clarify the action of the participle; "or what king, if he goes out to encounter another king in war, then does not sit down first ....?" On the other hand it may just be temporal, "when going out", or modal, expressing manner, "contemplating going", Barclay. "Or what king sets out to fight against another king ...?", Moffatt.

sumbalein (sumballw) aor. inf. "against" - to engage with, throw together [into battle, war]. The infinitive expresses purpose, "in order to engage in battle." Probably in coming together with other combatants for the purpose of engaging in war, so "to wage war", TNT.

basilei (euV ewV) dat. "[another] king" - Dative of direct object after a sun prefix verb, here as an infinitive - sumbalein = sun + ballw, "to meet with."

ouci kaqisaV (kaqizw) aor. part. "will he not [first] sit down [and consider]" - not having sat down. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the main verb "will consider / confer / deliberate / decide"; "will not sit down first and deliberate", ESV.

ei + ind. "whether" - Here introducing an interrogative noun clause, indirect question, which also happens to serve as a dependent statement of perception expressing what is being considered.

uJpanthsai (uJpantaw) aor. inf. "[he is able] ..... to oppose" - to meet, oppose, confront in battle. The infinitive is epexegetic, clarifying the substantive "able / strong / possible."

tw/ ... ercomenw/ (ercomai) pres. part. "the one coming" - The participle serves as a substantive, dative of direct object after the verb uJantaw, "meet with", here as an infinitive.

epi + acc. "against [him]" - Spacial, here expressing opposition, as NIV.

meta + gen. "with [twenty thousand]" - Association / accompaniment; "in company with."

 
v32

ei de mh ge "if he is not able" - and if indeed not. Serving to introduce the protasis of a conditional sentence, 1st class, with the verb + missing, ie. an ellipsis; "and if indeed [he determines he is] not [able to defeat the one coming against him with twenty thousand] then he will send a delegation ....." "If he cannot", TNT.

aposteilaV (apostellw) aor. part. "he will send [a delegation]" - having sent [an ambassador]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "he asks"; "he sends a delegation and asks." We should note though that "having sent" is aorist while "asks" is present. It is usually accepted that the aspect of both should be the same, but here we have a perfective aorist (punctiliar) and an imperfective present (durative). For this reason Culy opts for adverbial, instrumental, expressing means; "By sending a representative he requests terms for peace", Culy.

ontoV (eimi) pres. part. gen. "while" - being. Historic present. The genitive absolute participle of the verb to-be forms a temporal clause; "when the other is still at a distance", Moffatt; "while the other king is still a long way off", CEV.

ta "[terms of peace]" - the [to peace]. Here the neuter plural article serves as a nominalizer turning the prepositional phrase proV eirhnhn into a noun clause, object of the verb "asks"; "asks the terms for peace." The preposition proV here expressing purpose / aim / objective.

 
v33

iv] Saying - of the giving of all to discipleship, v33. Luke's placement of this independent saying again reflects his willingness to use Jesus' idealistic ethic of complete renunciation as a requirement of discipleship, cf. 5:11, 6:20, 11:41, 12:33, 18:22. The words apply to paV ex uJmwn, "every one of you", and involves apotassetai pasin toiV eJautou uJparcousin, "a saying goodby to all he has." In its context here the saying's message is consider the cost. For the actual cost, the "all he has", see the notes above.

ouJtwV oun "in the same way" - so in like manner. Together the words express a contrast and result flowing from v32. In like manner, those who would be a disciple need to assess whether they can "give up everything." "So in the same way", NJB. Yet, they may just draw a logical conclusion, ie. inferential; "So therefore", ESV.

ex (ek) + gen. "of [you]" - Here used as a partitive genitive.

ouk apatassetai (apotassw) pres. "does not give up" - does not renounce, forsake, set aside. The present tense is best taken to express "a characteristic feature", Green; a disciple will "relinquish everything", Stein, "says goodbye to all his possessions", Phillips. It is possible to argue that the present tense here is durative: "the disciple must be continually ready to give up all that he has got in order to follow Jesus", Marshall. Schweizer takes the same line: "all are called to be prepared for it (the giving up of materialistic attachments to the world) although it will not be a reality for all." This take, touched on in the notes above, nicely sidesteps the problem, but that's all.

toiV ... uJparcousin (uJparcw) pres. part. "[everything you] have" - [all] the existing, being / having, belonging [of his]. The participle is obviously serving as a substantive, dative of direct object after the verb apotassetai, "say goodby to"; usually translated "everything one has." Nolland, as with most commentators, argues for "the good's one has at one's disposal", ie. worldly wealth. John is an old mate from way back, but I will have to take issue with him on this. If discipleship entails renouncing all worldly wealth then none of us can rightly claim the status of disciple. The idea that free grace gets us in, and renunciation keeps us in, is sanctification by works and is the very problem addressed by Paul in Romans and Galatians. All is of grace through faith, apart from works of the law. It is in Christ's faithfulness, his total dedication, renunciation, .... his perfection by which we stand perfect before God. As noted above, Jesus' words may simply express complete renunciation, but given their strength they probably serve to force renunciation, to prompt a dependence on grace through faith apart from law/effor. Note Luke's use of this word: 8:3; 11:21; 12:15, 33, 44; 16:1; 19:8.

ei\nai (eimi) pres. inf. "[cannot] be" - [is not able] to be. The infinitive is complementary, completing the negative verb "is not able."

mou gen. pro. "my [disciple]" - [a disciple] of me. The genitive is adjectival, relational.

 
v34

v] Parabolic saying - worthless salt, v34-35. The disciple, whose commitment to Jesus is paltry (halfhearted, lukewarm, limited, faulty.....), will find themselves rejected and cast out like polluted (diluted) salt. Leeched salt is worthless salt, leaving a useless white powder, good for nothing. This crowd is considering the way, but needs to be reminded that the way is demanding. Are they of the right stuff to complete the journey? Well, guess what! None of us are of the right stuff. Lord have mercy!

oun "-" - Probably here serving a linkage role only, and therefore left untranslated, so NIV.

ean + subj. "if" - Introducing a conditional clause, 3rd class, where the condition has a possibility of being realized; "if, as maybe the case, ... then ..." Formed as a rhetorical question.

mwranqh/ (mwrainw) aor. subj. pas. "loses its saltiness" - should become tasteless. Lit. "make foolish", so "becomes insipid", Nolland; "tasteless", Marshall; "lose strength", TH.

en + dat. "[how can]" - in [what]. Instrumental, expressing means + the interrogative pronoun tini, "what", giving the sense "by what means ....?"

artuqhsetai (artuw) fut. "be made salty again" - [with what] will it be seasoned, equipped, made ready. "If salt loses its flavor, what can restore it?" Phillips.

 
v35

euqeton adj. "[it is] fit" - Predicate adjective.

oute .... oute "neither .... nor ..." - Forming a negated comparative construction.

eiV + acc. "for" - to. Here expressing goal / purpose, as NIV.

kopian (a) "the manure pile" - rubbish tip, manure pile. "Manure-heap", Barclay; "dung-hill", Moffatt; possibly "no good as manure", Phillips; "it is neither directly, nor indirectly, useful as manure", Grundman/TH.

oJ ecwn (ecw) "he who has" - the one having. The participle functions as a substantive.

akouein (akouw) pres. inf. "to hear" - The infinitive is verbal, probably final, expressing purpose, "he who has ears in order to hear.

 

Luke Introduction

Exposition

 

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