What do we do with the words of Jesus? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
In all frankness right at the start, the title of this comes from Peter Kreeft. I can just think of no better way to describe this than he did, though he was taking a different approach. I started thinking about this one recently when talking with some skeptics on Facebook. Usually, we see the same verses pop up that we already know are being misunderstood.
Let’s consider Luke 14:26.
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.”
Such a statement is Jewish hyperbole and leave it to so many today to read it literalistically. The problem for those of us in the apologetics field is that we can be so easy responding to the misinterpretation that we miss the real interpretation. No. Jesus does not want us to literally hate our parents or ourselves, but He is calling us to literally do something.
So guys. If you’re married, how many of you men out there love your wives? How many women love your husbands? How much are you to love Jesus? You are to love Jesus so much that by comparison, your love for those people would seem like hatred. They can’t even be remotely in the same league as Jesus. Jesus doesn’t tell you to give up your family, but you would need to be willing to if need be.
Really. He said that.
Note that not only did He say this, but He made it about Himself. It’s not just that you need to do this to be a servant in the Kingdom of God. Perhaps that could be more understandable. No. Jesus made it about Himself. You need to be willing to eliminate these from your life if you are going to be a disciple of Jesus. Other great rabbis would speak about God. Jesus spoke about Himself.
What does that tell you about how He saw Himself?
Consider also another favorite one that is used. Jesus says that a man should not go and bury his father first. He needs to let the dead bury their own dead. Now the reality is the man’s father was likely still very much alive. The man was just saying he needed to fulfill his familial obligations first and then he could fulfill his obligation to Jesus.
Jesus won’t have it.
Yes. He actually says this.
Really. Let it sink in.
Are you ready to make that kind of commitment to Jesus?
Do you make this commitment to Him?
The problem for so many of us is that we have heard these kinds of sayings so much that we just tend to gloss over them. They no longer really surprise us. I have heard that when king Clovis II was told first about the crucifixion of Jesus, he immediately reached for his sword and said, “They wouldn’t have done that if I had been there.” We know that it was necessary that He be crucified, but we need to let the surprise of it sink in. This really happened. He really did this for us. Odds are if we had been there, we would have also been crying out to God to not let this happen.
Kind of like we do with much of our own suffering.
And God did let it happen.
Much like He lets our suffering happen.
And Jesus’s suffering ended in far greater good.
Usually, many of my fellow apologists agree that Jesus Mythicism, the idea that Jesus never existed, is thoroughly stupid. This is another reason for it. If Jesus never existed, I don’t think we would be capable of creating a figure like Him. I realize that’s not the same kind of argument that you can normally put forward in historical studies, but it is one. We could point to characters later on like Aslan, but that’s after we have the model of Jesus to look to.
For those of us in apologetics, let’s make sure we don’t spend so much time on misinterpretation that we ignore real interpretation. Jesus said the things He said and as has been said, they were the most incredible things ever said by human lips. We need to really take them seriously.
If it leaves you nervous, you’re not the only one. If it doesn’t, then really check yourself. It should. Jesus is calling for a radical commitment. Would you be willing to forsake all others for Jesus?
Note of course that I am not telling you to not love your family. You should. However, if Jesus asked you to give them up for Him, would you be willing to do that? We can look in amazement at the story of Abraham, but Jesus is asking us for similar here. No. We aren’t being told to literally offer them up as a sacrifice, but we are told to perform an Abrahamic sacrifice in that we are willing to give them up for Jesus.
This is also looking at just two passages. There are many many more. Jesus calls us to not even hate our neighbor in our hearts because that is the first step to murdering them. That’s a hard one.
How about lust? Look at the way our society is today with sex selling everything and we are told to not look at that woman with the idea of wanting to use her for sex or else we are on the way to adultery. We have already had the willingness to do so in our hearts after all.
Do you like that commandment? I don’t. It’s a difficult one to follow. I can’t help but think about what Mark Twain is alleged to have said at this point. It’s not the statements in the Bible I don’t understand that bother me. It’s the ones that I do understand.
Jesus was the most radical figure who ever lived. We need to let ourselves be shocked by Him. Let’s not be so busy defending His words that we ignore them ourselves. Honestly to skeptics out there, I would encourage you to also really think about this figure. Mythicism is just ridiculous, but once you accept He lived, what do you do with Him? If you think someone made this all up, who was that amazing person or group of persons? Color me skeptical that such a thing could be done. If it wasn’t done, then we have to ask the question he asked.
“Who do you say that I am?”
(And I affirm the virgin birth)