Read: Luke 14:25-33
Meditation: “Thinning the Crowd”
When we live with a “more is better” philosophy of life, we may equate crowds with success. Jesus didn’t do so. When he saw the large crowds following him, he turned to them and engaged in some “quality review.” He looked beneath the numbers and tested the motives. He differentiated between size and substance.
His line of demarcation was love. He asked the people, “Do you love me? Do you love me most of all?” The rest of the lesson is about discovering ways to discern the depth of that love. When Jesus used the word “hate,” he did not mean a literal hatred. Jesus never told us to hate anyone. He is exaggerating to make a point; that is, do we love Jesus so much that all our other loves look like hatred in comparison? That’s what he wanted to know from the crowd. And that’s what he wants to know from us.
Jesus wanted no one to make him their “hero,” or to follow him because he was winning contests with the religious leaders and exposing their hypocrisy. Crowds always gather around “winners” and fawn over “celebrities.” But that is not the way of Jesus. He always challenges notions of “popular religion” (in whatever age or form), reminding his followers that there is a difference between following him for the right reasons, and following him in hopes of a “photo-op” with him.
When Time magazine chose Jesus as its “Man of the Year” in the early 1970’s, it was cool to be a “Jesus Freak.” But Jesus himself is not interested in producing freaks; he wants to make authentic persons who will follow him as devoted disciples. Disciples follow a master, not a celebrity. They follow out of love for the one they follow, not on the basis of what they may get out of the deal. Fans only follow when there is a “fan club”—a disciple follows if he/she is the only one following.
Jesus never stops asking, “Why are you following me?” When we answer, “Be cause we love you more than anyone else or anything else,” he says, “Great! Then, let’s get going.” Any other reason will not take us all the way to the end of the journey.