Interpretive challenge: Luke 14:26

“If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.” (NASB)

At some point in many small group Bible study leaders life, they will run into this verse. Or maybe someone in your group will ask you about it when they read it in their personal reading of the Bible.

How do you respond?

Recall the key to interpretation is context. In this case there are two types of context that helps guides our thinking: (1) the literary context and (2) the textual context.

By literary context, we mean that Jesus as a master teacher employs various methods of teaching. He gave pithy sayings, used similes/metaphors/analogies, engaged in question-answer, shared parables, spoke in hyperbole, etc.

In this case, Jesus utilized hyperbole to make a point.

And what was the point?

Looking at the textual context in and around this “hard saying,” we find out Jesus is talking about the cost of discipleship.

If the context of his teaching was honoring your father and mother, this statement in Luke 14:26 would be contradictory. One would suspect Jesus would explicate honor your parents in a completely different way using different words and teaching devices.

However, in the context of teaching about the cost of discipleship and taking into account the literary device of hyperbole, we catch Jesus meaning: God first – “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.” (NASB) Luke 14:27


Larry Shapiro and John Lennox in conversation “Is there truth beyond science?”

What do you think?

An interesting discussion between atheist philosophy professor Larry Shapiro and Christian mathematician John Lennox at a Veritas Forum event at University of Wisconsin.

More on preaching

Who in the church leadership and how does the decision get made about how much emphasis (in terms of tangible percentage of minutes) to place of the ministry of the word in communal Sunday gatherings?

Perhaps, some of those decisions are decided within the denomination?

Within some denominations there could be strong traditions about the role of preaching. Or perhaps, in the history of a particular congregation, there are certain expectations regarding preaching.

How does one select the content for a Sunday message?

Some teaching pastors like to plan ahead and will opt for a short/medium/long term commitment to preach through a particular book in the Bible. A series through the books of 1 & 2 Corinthians would pencil in many months of the preaching schedule.

What are the “pros” and “cons” of this approach?

In some churches, the pastor will preach topical series. For example, eight weeks on family life or six weeks on the meaning of prayer or four weeks on how to serve in church.

Some of the more liturgical churches will follow the lectionary.  The Revised Common Lectionary has a cycle of selected readings from both OT and NT set over a three-year period. Supporters of this approach say that this allows the congregation to be exposed to a good percentage of the Scriptures over time. Additionally, this approach avoids the “problem” of the pastor selecting from a narrow set of favorite passages to preach from.

In some cases, the pastor prays for a message and preaches to the need of the moment. Thus, it could be a text exposition or a topic exploration for the Sunday sermon. As such the text or topic will be different and unrelated from week to week.

What are the “pros” and “cons” about that approach?

In one sense Paul and the apostles wrote their letters to deal with a problem (a real need) in the churches they wrote to. They were guided by the Holy Spirit’s inspiration to write.

On the other hand, the “preach to the need” approach could result in a narrower preaching repertoire because of the strengths, interests, and experience of the pastor. A marriage and family type of pastor may lean toward sermons emphasizing relationships and less on doctrinal message. A pastor with a stronger Greek/Hebrew language orientation may gravitate to topics and passages where the peculiarities of those languages are highlighted. Or if the pastoral team all graduated from a particular seminary, they may tend to preach on subjects that seminary tends to emphasize. Thus, whatever background a pastor has, will the preaching wind up leaning toward their interests, training, and personality to the neglect of other matters. How does one resist that understandable inclination?

All of this to say, if you are a preaching pastor and you happen on this blog post, how do you approach your preaching? What do you think are the strengths and weaknesses of the approach you take?

May God bless the feet and words of those who tend the sheep and feed the lambs of God’s churches across the world!


How does your pastor(s) approach preaching?

How many minutes of the Sunday gathering is committed to the proclamation and exposition of the Bible?

How often is the preaching “topical” drawing upon multiple Bible passages to support the various points of the sermon?

How often is the preaching “exposition” of a specific Bible passage?

One pastor I spoke with viewed preaching as “contextual and thus pneumatological.”

What I think he meant is that preachers have to be sensitive to the community they serve and thus must rely on the guidance of the Holy Spirit to make those “practical” decisions about what preaching looks like for their specific flock.

What principles guide you or your pastoral team in regards to the ministry of the Word?

Prof. Ben Witherington and The Historical Jesus

In a wide ranging talk, Prof. Ben Witherington discusses the portrait of Jesus that the Bible paints. He does so with an eye toward our Christian faith but also in light of the methods of historical inquiry. Thus, he spends part of the time dismantling the confusion about Jesus caused by the best selling novel The DaVinci Code.

Nashville Statement

You may have seen the Nashville Statement on the news.

Not surprisingly, outside of the Christian faith community, it was not received well but even within there has been some debate.

If you are interested in hearing some varied perspectives, here are a few podcasts you may want to check out.

Here is a Mere Fidelity podcast specifically about the Nashville Statement where the group (four theologians) discussed their reactions to it and how they decided to sign or not sign onto the statement.

Dr. Preston Sprinkle described his reactions and feelings to the Nashville Statement in his podcast, Theology in the Raw.

Though not specifically about the Nashville Statement, here is a lecture by Dr. Alastair Roberts that addresses some of the issues in a broader discussion about Genesis 1-3.

All the presenters in the three above referenced podcasts are supporters of the traditional Biblical definition of marriage. However, they have differing opinions on the usefulness of the Nashville Statement.

Judas Thaddaeus

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In the New Testament, there are four places where the disciples were named in list form: Matthew 10:2-4, Mark 3:16-19, Luke 6:13-16, and Acts 1:13. You may notice that the names tend to fall into blocks of 4 + 4 + 4 with the exception of Acts 1:13 where Judas Iscariot is dropped off the list leaving 11 names.

If you look at the last grouping of four you find the following:
In Matthew: James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
In Mark: James son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
In Luke: James son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called the Zealot, Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.
In Acts: James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James.

As you can see the thinking is that Judas, son of James and Thaddaeus are the same person. One complication, if you happen to be reading in the King James Version (KJV), is that in Matthew 10:3 of the KJV Lebbaeus and Thaddaeus are listed as the name of this disciple. This is because the set of Greek New Testament manuscripts available to translate from were much more limited at the time of the KJV (17th Century). Since then older copies of the GNT (not available at the time of the KJV) were found to only include the name Thaddaeus. If you explore the Greek for Thaddaeus (Strong Greek 2280) and Lebbaeus (Strong Greek 3002) you will notice the Greek letters for the two names are somewhat similar. Thus, Lebbaeus might have been a transcribing error that got into some later families of the Greek NT. Also with regards to information about the meaning of the names, only Thaddaeus has data further supporting the idea that Thaddaeus is the pertinent name to consider.

It is quite possible that with the betrayal by Judas Iscariot, the name Judas fell from favor. Thus, Thaddaeus, perhaps another name Judas son of James went by, eventually became his primary name subsequent to the betrayal.

A hint of this is seen in the one other place Judas (Thaddaeus), son of James shows up in John 14:22, Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, “Lord, what then has happened that You are going to disclose Yourself to us and not to the world?”

As so let us learn to be like Judas Thaddaeus and bring our questions to Jesus!

It is likely that even though Jesus had been hinting and outright telling them he was going to suffer and die and be raised, the disciples didn’t really grasp this at this time. They probably still anticipated and wanted Jesus to be a highly public Messianic King figure. Thus, Judas wants to know why Jesus isn’t going to disclose himself to the whole world, why just them?

And so Jesus patiently re-interates God’s plans in v. 23, Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.

Jesus and the Father will disclose (come to him, make abode with him) to just the disciples who love Jesus and keep his word.

Thus, at the moment, we, frail human beings, partner with God in disclosing Jesus to the world by first responding to God’s disclosure to us, John 16:20-21, “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.

Next up, we will explore a disciple from the middle group of four.