The other day, I had an appointment downtown and thought I saw a congregation member crossing a busy intersection. The scene made me think of Jesus looking at the crowds and having compassion on them “because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36)
This morning, I read from Luke 14 and Jesus jolts me. He turns to the multitudes accompanying him and says, “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.” (Luke 14:26) A little later he adds, “Whoever of you does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:33) And I wondered: Should I pass on such words?
I think anyone who reads the Gospels will sometimes feel afraid of Jesus. Such fear goes back to the first disciples: “And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them; and they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid.” (Mark 10:32)
Once again, Peter helps us. Less brilliant than Paul, less mystical than John, Peter stuck with Jesus even when many disciples departed saying, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” When Jesus asked the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?” Peter spoke for us all when he said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:60-71)
Here are some words of eternal life for you: When Peter did run away, Jesus came to him and gave him breakfast. Then Jesus asked three times: “Do you love me?” And finally Jesus commanded “Feed my sheep.” (John 21:15-17)
Do whatever it takes to love Jesus today; renounce whatever you need to in order to feed his sheep. Such love opens your life to Jesus’ eternal life. Such obedience flows from Jesus opening his arms on the cross to draw us all to himself. (John 12:32)