Often we can read Jesus’ parables as nice Sunday school stories, letting their challenge to our lives pass us by. This is certainly the case with the Good Samaritan, or the Feeding of the 5000. After all, a story of helping someone in need is rather uplifting; and feeding 5000 people, well that’s just what Jesus did- nothing too unusual there.
At arms-length these stories have a rose-tinted hue but bring them up close to our own lives and we start to feel a little uncomfortable. We realise that the love shown the dying man by the Good Samaritan was risky and completely sacrificial; the faith Jesus called for his disciples to have in the feeding of the 5000 was huge.
Or take Jesus’ treatment of the Pharisees- he had no qualms about rebuking them sternly for their ‘yeast’ of ‘hypocrisy’. Making all the right moves in terms of law-keeping but ‘neglecting justice’ was something that Jesus made clear he was not ok with. He took their sin seriously. And yet we bristle as we start to think of our own lives and the implications Jesus’ teachings has for them, the change that Jesus wants to bring about in us.
It is at this point that we must remember his own death which he predicts even as he teaches, throughout Luke. The love shown on the cross for us certainly wasn’t comfortable; it required costly sacrifice. Yet it was life-giving, heart- transforming and world- changing.
So when Jesus tells us that his true followers will deny themselves and take up their cross, do not read it simply as a nicely crafted metaphor for those who follow the God-man that died on a cross. Take him at his word. Jesus’ love was costly for him to give and should be costly for us to extend to others. And yet as we come across the whole host of sacrifices that were required to cleanse people from their sin in Leviticus, we are reminded that Jesus became those sacrifices for us, and that kind of love cost him everything. That is why he is worth following and obeying.
Some questions to ponder:
Which of Jesus’ teachings make you feel a little uncomfortable? Why?
What areas of your heart are you trying to hold onto rather than completely surrendering to Jesus?
How do you think your life would look differently if you took Jesus’s words seriously and asked the Holy Spirit to be at work in your heart?
Will you do it?