As we have seen, Luke’s account of Christ’s life focuses on his role as a Deliverer, not just for the Jews but for all peoples (see 13:29-30).
But not for all people. As he teaches and heals, he makes it clear that it costs something to follow him, and deliverance is for those who pay the price. This involves a radical reordering of our priorities. And of our heart.
And the thing that must be first is Jesus himself and our obedience to him.
Consider this rather remarkable and even unsettling demand: “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 (14:26).
The idea here is not that we should hate them, but that it will seem that way compared to our love for him. We might make sacrifices to serve our families, but they will seem like nothing compared to sacrifices we are willing to make for him: “whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple (14:27).
All relationships change in this light: “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it (8:20),” he says. Even our own birth is as nothing—even the womb that bore him or the breasts that fed him are not as blessed as “those who hear the word of God and keep it (11:28).”
This level of dedication is not only divisive, separating households (12:49-53), but it is also disruptive, challenging the order of everyday life, as in the parable where the master gives a feast and some guests don’t come because they have bought a field or oxen.
The master then invites “the poor and the cripple and blind and lame (14:21)” instead, for, he says “”none of those men who were invited shall taste of my banquet (14:24).” We have to set aside the ordinary to celebrate the extraordinary, as Mary did while her sister Martha puttered around the house “distracted with much serving.” Mary, who simply sat as his feet “has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her (10:42).
Compared to him, ordinary things are, well, ordinary. But “when the kingdom of heaven has come near to you (10:9, 11)” the “one who rejects me (Jesus) rejects him who sent me (10:1). Clearly, we have to reject many things that seem important to us to accept the One who is most important.
Perhaps the most surprising of these things is wealth.
After Jesus tells a rich man to “sell all that you have and give it to the poor (18:22), he tells his disciples “it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God (18:25),” they seemed shocked.
“Who then can be saved?” they ask, assuming as do many today that material wealth is a sure sign of God’s favor. But Jesus is clearly teaching that it is not.
And his answer is simple but revealing: “What is impossible with man is possible with God (18:27).” Our relationships, our responsibilities and our resources are not sufficient. “The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed (17:20).”
It is instead counter-intuitive, for those who come like little children (18:17): “The one who humbles himself will be exalted (18:14.) It is for “unworthy servants,” who serve the master before they serve themselves (17:7-10).
This is his most radical demand, the one we least understand and are least willing to accept. The kingdom of heaven is for those who persist (18:1-8), who repent (13:5), who forgive (17:4), and who believe (17:5). None of these depend on us. They all depend on him—the righteous judge, the compassionate healer, the better example, the gracious Saviour.
“It is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom (12:32),” the Deliverer says, freeing us to accept this gift with humility and gratitude, not anxiety or pride.
In doing this, he delivers us from ourselves.