Jesus said some very challenging things. The idea of Jesus ‘meek and mild’ is really only possible for those who haven’t actually read what Jesus says. Jesus’ words contain grace, mercy and compassion certainly; but they also contain challenge, confrontation and decision.
I was reminded of one of these ‘hard sayings’ of Jesus recently from Luke chapter 14. Jesus is speaking to those who want to follow him, and declares the following:
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26)
“In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:33)
Surely Jesus is making it too hard for someone to be his disciple? Here are people crowding around him and wanting to follow him. Why discourage them? If we were running some kind of church event and people were clamouring to come, I don’t imagine we would try and put barriers in their way. We would welcome and encourage them, leaving the challenge until later, right?
Jesus, however, is up front about the challenge of being his disciple. He is welcoming and open to all, but also clear about what it means to walk with him. He is going the way of the cross and anyone who follows him will need to go the same way too.
Jesus is not interested in half-hearted discipleship. It’s not possible to follow him a little; to walk with him part of the way to the cross; to commit to Christ for part of our life. Jesus demands our all. And he is worth our all.
While I’m not encouraging gambling, an analogy from poker comes to mind. A poker player will be bet a certain amount of money or chips on each hand, depending on how strong it seems compared to other players. Most of the time it’s a gamble (literally). You have to assess what other people might have compared to the strength of your hand, and bet cautiously so that you don’t lose everything.
But occasionally you might be given a hand so strong, so good, that it’s impossible to lose. At that point, you would go ‘all in’, putting all your chips, all your investment, into the game, holding nothing back. What you have in your hand is so good you have no problem sacrificing everything else for it.
That is what Jesus calls us to. He calls us as disciples to be ‘all in’. We are to hold nothing back. We are not to be half-hearted or part-committed. We are to push everything we have and everything we are into the game.
But we can do so because of the strength of what we have been given. Jesus is so good, so powerful, so gracious, so awesome, we can commit our all with confidence. Anything we give cannot compare with the riches we gain in Christ. In Jesus we lose nothing by risking everything.
So will we hear the challenge of Jesus and go ‘all in’? Will we give him our all today, tomorrow and throughout our lives? Will we hold nothing back but throw ourselves into the arms of Jesus the comforter and challenger?