Become homeless.

Let someone else bury your dad.

Don't even say good-bye to your family.

Is it surprising that, from all we can tell in Luke 9, Jesus was successful in persuading these men not to follow him?

The first time I heard this text preached, it was from the lips of Dr. Jim Shaddix. He was my preaching professor, and I had moved to NewOrleans specifically to study under him. Soon after I got there, Dr. Shaddix invited me to travel with him to an event where he was speaking. I sat in the front row in a crowd of hundreds of people, and I listened to his sermon begin.

"Tonight my goal is to talk you out of following Jesus."

My eyebrows shot up in amazement and confusion. What was he thinking?What was I thinking? I had just moved my life to New Orleans to study under a guy who persuades people not to follow Jesus.

Dr. Shaddix preached the sermon exactly as Luke 9 describes, giving potential disciples warnings about what is involved in following Jesus. In the end he invited people who wanted to follow Christ to come down to the front. To my surprise many in the crowd got up from their seats and came down. I sat there dumbfounded and began to think, So this is just a preaching tactic, kind of a sanctified reverse psychology. And it works. Tell them you're going to talk them out of following Jesus, and they will respond in droves.

I decided I was going to try it.

The next week I was preaching at a youth event. Taking my cue from Dr. Shaddix, I proudly stood before the students assembled that night and announced, "My goal tonight is to talk you out of following Jesus." I could see the leaders of the event raise their eyebrows in concern, but I knew what I was doing. After all, I'd been in seminary a few weeks, and I'd seen this done before. So I preached the message and then invited students who wanted to follow Christ to come forward.

Apparently I was more successful in preaching that message than Dr. Shaddix had been. Let's just say I stood at the front alone for a while until finally the leader who organized the event decided it was time for me to call it a night. For some reason I was never invited back.

Contrary to what I may have thought about Luke 9, Jesus was not using a gimmick to get more followers. He was simply and boldly making it clear from the start that if you follow him, you abandon everything—your needs, your desires, even your family.

Radical Abandonment

The events of Luke 9 were not isolated incidents in the life of Jesus, either. On another occasion, when surrounded by a crowd of eager followers, Jesus turned to themand remarked, "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."6 Imagine hearing those words from an obscure Jewish teacher in the first century.He just lost most of us at hello.

But then he continued: "Anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple."7 Now this is taking it to another level. Pick up an instrument of torture and follow me. This is getting plain weird… and kind of creepy. Imagine a leader coming on the scene today and inviting all who would come after him to pick up an electric chair and become his disciple. Any takers?

As if this were not enough, Jesus finished his seeker-sensitive plea with a pull-at-your-heartstrings conclusion. "Any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple."8 Give up everything you have, carry a cross, and hate your family. This sounds a lot different than "Admit, believe, confess, and pray a prayer after me."

And that's still not all. Consider Mark 10, another time a potential follower showed up. Here was a guy who was young, rich, intelligent, and influential. He was a prime prospect, to say the least. Not only that, but he was eager and ready to go. He came running up to Jesus, bowed at his feet, and said, "What must I do to inherit eternal life?"9