Luke 14:25-35 Study (Cherishing the Old Rugged Cross)

Luke 14:25-35 contains several key lessons upholding Christ’s Lordship (or authority) as necessary to be under for one to have an interest in Him.  It emphasizes that the way to eternal life in Him is indeed narrow.  It speaks emphatically of what a bloody and costly fight is required in order to endure on that way until the end and finish victorious in the Christian race of faith in order to inherit salvation in Christ.  

We’ll start by reading the preceding verses, going back to verse 15, since there is obviously a direct connection between these verses and the verses which are primarily being analyzed in this study.

Luke 14:15-24: “And when one of them that sat at meat with him heard these things, he said unto him, Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God.  Then said he unto him, A certain man made a great supper, and bade many: And sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready.  And they all with one consent began to make excuse.  The first said unto him, I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it: I pray thee have me excused.  And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them: I pray thee have me excused.  And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.  So that servant came, and shewed his lord these things. Then the master of the house being angry said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind.  And the servant said, Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room.  And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.  For I say unto you, That none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper.” 

Jesus says what He says here in response to one who was apparently excited about entering the kingdom of God and eating bread there.  In the verses leading up to these, Jesus had been speaking about the reward of the righteous at the resurrection of the just.  Whoever said “blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God” may have been like multitudes who are excited about heaven yet have watered down and overall misguided expectations of what it will take to actually enter there.  So Jesus then speaks about the true grace of God and the offer of His salvation which is made to all men, an offer which is obviously both free and accompanied by strict terms and conditions.  

The cheap grace deceivers overlook that something being freely offered does not mean that it is offered unconditionally.  A college scholarship can pay for everything the one who receives the scholarship will need for the cost of the school and the related expenses involved in getting through school, yet there are still many terms which must be complied with, and much work which needs to be done, in order to actually complete the school and graduate to obtain the benefits of the scholarship so that the scholarship was not in vain in relation to the one whom it was offered to.  

And there are terms and conditions and labor involved in believing Christ’s Gospel unto salvation (obviously faith must work according to God’s commandments and ways- James chapter 2, etc).  And we see in the offer regarding this supper how there were those who were invited and wanted to come, but they did not want to comply with the terms and conditions of coming.  They were not required to pay a price to earn their attendance at the supper, but they had to come at the bidding of the man who made the offer, on his timing and on his terms.  And Jesus gives this illustration obviously in the context of God and salvation in Himself.  One valued the interest related to his property more, another the interest of his business more, and another valued his wife more.  These correspond to the obstacles to the salvation of man’s soul which Jesus spoke about in Luke 8:14, the “cares and riches and pleasures of this life.”  The refusal of these men showed that they devalued the man who gave the supper and the work that he had done to prepare it.  When you think of heeding Jesus’ instruction and obeying everything He says, when that is really done in line with Scripture, it is receiving His grace properly.  Not doing so is despising His grace.

Hebrews 12:14-17: “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled; Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright.  For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.”

See especially also Titus 2:11-14 (which we constantly look at in these studies- for very good reason).  

And along with this, here is a good summary of the book of 1 Peter, a book which is all about the true grace of God (as is proven by 1 Peter 5:12, which we’ll look at shortly).

1 Peter 1:11-16: “Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.  Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into.  Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.”

And then look at 1 Peter 5:12 right near the very end of the book: “By Silvanus, a faithful brother unto you, as I suppose, I have written briefly, exhorting, and testifying that this is the true grace of God wherein ye stand.”

So on then to the often neglected and avoided, and also often not thoroughly dealt with even when it is touched upon, Luke 14:25-35, which Luke puts immediately after the story of the great supper which we’ve read about.  

Reading from Luke 14:25-27: “And there went great multitudes with him: and he turned, and said unto them, If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.  And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.”  

The need to hate your family and your own life here obviously means to love them less than Jesus (love them less than Jesus as the holy, righteous authority figure whom He truly is).  Hating your own life obviously would also include your own business interests and the pleasure related to life, both things which we’ve seen that people refused the invitation to the supper over.  Jesus said the same thing in other words in Matthew 10:37-39, proving that to hate in the context of our passage means to love less than Him.  “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.  And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.  He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.”

Obviously to turn to Jesus and obtain His grace we must forsake everything which is inherently sinful and ungodly in God’s eyes.  Yet human relations, business, pleasure, and other activities which are not inherently sinful need to be put in their proper place and kept in their proper place- otherwise, they are idolatry.  Jesus spoke much of how loving money and the overall pursuit of mammon will surely rival service to God and that it is impossible to pursue both as masters (see our message a few messages back called “Two Rival Pursuits” for more on that). 

Immediately before the verses which we recently looked at regarding the need to love Jesus more than human relations and our own lives, Jesus said in Matthew 10:32-36: “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.  But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.  Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.  For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.  And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.”

Obviously the decisions of those whom we are naturally close to and circumstances will determine whether, and to what extent, this variance may need to occur in relation to us as individuals.  Yet the possibility of such variance is real; and Jesus warns to be ready for natural relations to be adversely affected as a consequence of faithfulness to His Word.  And He basically warns to not even try to be His disciple and think we have an interest in Him until we hate our family, as well as our lives overall, in the context in which He spoke of the need to hate these things.  Otherwise, failure is guaranteed.  He continues in Luke chapter 14 by illustrating this truth.

Continuing then in Luke 14:28-30: “For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?  Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish.”  

If we’re not willing to lose anything and everything in order to be under His authority and be faithful to Him until the end, we won’t be able to finish our course faithfully and our Christian testimony will be invalidated (at least before God and the angels).  Such loss could perhaps occur in ways which we would have never have imagined until we’re actually confronted in a particular way through circumstances or more light of understanding from God’s Word.  Such confrontation could bring to our attention responsibilities towards God which we weren’t aware of before or which have been added to us due to new circumstances, yet to be Christ’s faithful disciple we need to incur loss and suffering to fulfill these added responsibilities and walk according to the further light from God’s Word which have been brought before us.   

Jesus continues then with a similar illustration to drive the point He is making home in Luke 14:31-32: “Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand?  Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace.”

Christianity is inherently a spiritual war against the devil and his forces.  Faithful Christians are outnumbered in the world, and even more so, the course of the world and its way makes a righteous Christian walk of faith before God a swim upstream against the tide.  There is no victory which will come without much suffering and loss (and especially great risk of suffering and loss).  Even the thief on the cross had to lose face before the crowd and become an object of scorn much more than already was by siding with Jesus like he did.  That was hard!  It is hard to overcome the devil, even with the grace of God through Christ factored in.  And surely no one will overcome the devil at all apart from partaking of the grace of God in Christ.

1 John 5:3-5 says: “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous (i.e. not impossible to fulfill since those who have chosen to love God supremely aren’t at enmity with His law; and His grace through Christ empowers these to overcome the power of sin).  For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.  Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?”

Generals with strong armies who outnumbered their opponents have been known to hold back certain soldiers from fighting in the battle unless perhaps they turned out to actually be needed.  Jesus compares the Christian fight against the devil though to be like ten thousand going to war against 20,000.  It will be extremely hard to win!  You’re going to have to put everything on the line, not holding back anything from Christ in order to be victorious in this spiritual war.  Otherwise, you will surely concede to the devil and yield to his temptation.  

Revelation 12:11: “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.”

There is a basketball team called the Washington Generals.  Their job is basically to play half-hearted basketball games against the Harlem Globetrotters so the Globetrotters can entertain the crowd with things like outrageous plays, flamboyant moves, and trick shots which would never happen in a fully competitive basketball game.  And those who don’t make it their unquestioned principal intention to be faithful to Christ’s Word and hold onto Him no matter what earthly loss and suffering this brings upon them will basically be to Satan what the Washington Generals are to the Harlem Globetrotters (only worse actually, because the Generals have actually beat the Globetrotters a few times over something like 19,000 games).  Jesus is basically saying that if you don’t hate your earthly life and its various attachments and affections compared to Him (who is both Lord and Savior; Prophet, Priest, and King) then you don’t have any chance at all at of overcoming Satan and eating bread in the kingdom of God.  

Revelation 21:6-8: “And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.  He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.  But the fearful (i.e. cowardly in regards to truth and righteousness), and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.”

And yet many people oppose a message like this, even and especially many in evangelical churches, saying that such a message opposes or misrepresents the grace of Christ.  Yet many, probably most of these (in an pathetically ironic way) actually frequently sing the hymn “The Old Rugged Cross” in their meetings.  And yet this hymn actually obviously states this message in a concise way in its chorus.  Often though, people sing songs over and over without applying the words practically to their own doctrine and their own lives.

“So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross, till my trophies at last I lay down; I will cling to the old rugged cross, and exchange it some day for a crown.”

Jesus then concludes this aspect of His discourse in Luke 14:33-35: “So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.  Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his savor, wherewith shall it be seasoned?  It is neither fit for the land, nor yet for the dunghill; but men cast it out.  He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.”

No resolve or commitment to be a true Christian who hears and keeps Christ’s Word faithfully will stand unless the issue of Christ’s value above all else is positively decided as He spoke about and warned of in this passage.  Many try to be Christians without such resolve- and of course they fail at being faithful.  Let these especially know, and may we all take deeper to heart that the gate is strait (i.e. constricted), and the way narrow (i.e. tribulated), which leads to life through Jesus Christ.

Reach brother Aaron at: [email protected]