Luke 14:25-33

Commentary Excerpt by Tom Boomershine

This section of Jesus' teaching about the cost of discipleship is the most radical and probably the most original of the various forms of this tradition. It is important to recognize when you are telling this story that the audience is addressed as the crowds that are following Jesus on his journey up to Jerusalem. In contrast to what most commentaries assume, this teaching is not addressed to readers who are reading a text of Luke. It is addressed to people in Luke's audiences who are hearing the story of Jesus going to Jerusalem. Luke's listeners are being addressed as people who are in the crowds who were following him on that journey.

Jesus is addressing people who are interested in him, but who are not disciples. That was probably the historical identity of most of Luke's audiences. Thus, this series of sayings is about the conditions of real discipleship and what is required for following Jesus on his way. The phrase, "following him on the way," is not in this particular story, but it is part of the whole framework of the journey to Jerusalem in Luke. The experience of hearing Luke's story is then an experience of vicarious participation in Jesus' journey to Jerusalem.

These instructions are very confrontational. There are three conditions that Jesus identifies: the willingness to leave family ties, the willingness to face radical self-denial including martyrdom, and the willingness to give up one's material possessions. The context for Luke's audiences is the aftermath of the Jewish war. The expectations that Jesus identifies are not unlike the expectations, requirements, and conditions of being a soldier in an army. You have to leave your family, you have to be willing to die, and you basically give up your material possessions. Thus, what he describes is not unlike the conditions that were present for those who were recruited for the multitude of armies that were formed in the ancient world.

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