Own or Owned
"Own it" is an expression meaning to make something your own in the sense of mastering it, dominating it. Many think they "own it" when it comes to being a disciple, a follower of Jesus. Look at the text; large crowds were traveling with Jesus. Following Jesus was a piece of cake. It was easy. They owned it. You might think that way too, and you'd be wrong along with the crowds in the text.
Jesus sees the crowds and what does He do? Welcomes them with open arms? Is delighted by His success? Plans to build a big church? Nope. Jesus does precisely what church growth people say don't do. Instead of removing road blocks, Jesus throws down huge ones. He demands they stop their following right there and calculate the cost.
When's the last time you calculated the cost? Do you have what it takes to build a Christian life? A structure reaching to heaven? Do you have what it takes to defeat sin, death, and the Devil that are coming against you? Do you think you can be a disciple of Jesus, and not build a Christian life? Do you think you can be a disciple of Jesus without defeating sin, death, and the Devil? Think again.
Drop the metaphors, and start calculating. Jesus says, "If anyone come 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." Have you ever chosen family over Jesus? You know some of the martyrs were literally given that choice. Deny Jesus or your family dies. We haven't faced anything that serious, but who among us hasn't thought more of our family than of Jesus. We take their word over His Word. We sacrifice more for them than Him. We care more for our relationship with them than with Him.
Matthew explains what Jesus means by "hate" in his parallel account. Jesus says there, "Whoever loves family more." But in a perverse way, I have managed to hate my family at times in the wrong way, but I've never ever been able to do that to my own life. No, I believe the psychological gospel that self-esteem is the most important thing. I can manage to hate everyone around me, but never me.
Using this standard to calculate, I'm not a disciple. Neither am I one if I look at the next standard. Jesus says, "Anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be My disciple." You can't own discipleship if you don't own your cross. I can carry lots of burdens. I can go through lots of hardships, but I can't carry the cross that leads to the death of me. I can't carry the cross that means I'm not in control anymore. Me, myself, or I will do lots of things with Jesus even for Jesus, but it won't die.
Jesus gives one more standard to meet before a person can say they own being a disciple. "Any of you who do not give up everything He has cannot be My disciple." This is not the noun for possessions, but the verb for "that which he has." It's better translated, "All the things belonging to self." I can give up things for Lent, for Jesus, for the Church, but not this. As you can see, although Jesus lists 3 standards, there's really only one. If you're going to own discipleship, you must hate self, crucify self, and give up the things of self. You've got to be able to say of self what Peter said of Jesus, "I know not the man."
And does anyone here really think they have a chance of doing that? You're going to hate self, kill self, and give up everything precious to self to follow Jesus when you won't do any of that to be an obedient child, a faithful employee, a loving spouse? To own discipleship, you're going to give up everything about you: the thoughts, the ways, the opinions, the desires that you most certainly do own now?
I can't speak for you, but after calculating according to Jesus' standard, I find myself with a half completed tower. I thought I could build it to reach all the way to heaven, but I've got nothing except intentions. My barely begun tower mocks me. And as for the conflict with sin, death, and the devil, I'm no match for any of them. Because that's so what does Jesus say I will do? I will ask for terms of peace. Friend, do you know what it means to sue for peace with sin, death, or the devil? It means to be owned by them.
When Jesus preaches the Law, He doesn't do it so you will say, "I'll try harder," or, "I'll do better." He preaches the Law to drive you to your knees and then to His open arms. The Law shows you that far from you owning discipleship, you are owned by sin, death and the devil. The only salvation from this slavery is to be owned by Jesus.
Jesus came down from heaven to own the Law, both its requirements and its punishments. As the Second Person of the Trinity He was not under the Law or its punishments. So, He became a man; He was born under the Law. All of its obligations became His. All of its punishments became His.
Jesus did what none of us can do. He loved His heavenly Father more than His earthly family. When only 12, Jesus told His Mother and stepfather that He must be about His heavenly Father's business. At the wedding of Cana, when His mother inserted herself into His ministry, Jesus told her that it had nothing to do with her. Later on when His family came to rescue Him from His ministry, Jesus declared His family were those who heard the Word of God.
Don't think this was easy for Jesus because He is God in the flesh. No, He didn't use any of His divine powers to fulfill God's Law for us. If He had, it couldn't have been in our place. We see how hard it was for Jesus in Gethsemane. There He asks, begs with tears, for His Father to take His cross from Him. But the Father didn't, and so Jesus went forth bearing His cross eventually being nailed to it.
Jesus owned discipleship. He was the perfect disciple. He really did give up everything that belonged to Him. He renounced the use of His heavenly glory, power, and privilege. And He did that just so He could suffer and die in place of you. Although Jesus was the perfect disciple, He owned not only the requirements of the Law but its punishments. In order to suffer and die in your place, He had to renounce His divine powers and privileges. If He hadn't the very nails would have bent as the soldiers tried to pound them in. 12 legions of angels would have descended on Gethsemane and rescued Him. Tears and bloody sweat wouldn't have been pressed out of Him in agony but out of us.
What did we chant in the Introit? The Lord "is their stronghold in time of trouble." Or as another Psalm has it, "The name of the Lord is a strong tower the righteous run into it and our safe." Your discipleship is not good enough to go to heaven. Jesus' is. Jesus' holy life and innocent suffering and death have built a tower that reaches all the way to heaven. Own Him as your Rock, your Tower, your Fortress. Own Him more than you own your sins and sinfulness. Own what He says about your sins more than what you think about them.
Jesus is not only a tower, but He is the One strong enough to meet the sin, death, and the Devil coming against you. Yes, under the Law you had to make peace with them and be owned by them. The Law that you break gives them that power. You were no match for them, but Jesus is. He kept the Law in your place. He suffered the Law's punishments in your place. What say then does the Law have over you life? By what Law can sin, death and the Devil claim any part of you? What Law could they cite that Jesus didn't fulfill? What punishment can the Law demand you get that Jesus didn't already suffer in your place?
Stop being owned by the Law: feeling guilty for sins that Jesus forgave you for; stop letting the Law measure your standing before God or others. You're owned by Jesus; what Jesus says about your sins, your death and the power the devil has over you is what counts. Does Jesus teach you to use the Law to find your place with Him or others?
I'll tell you the problem. You think this text is about who can be a disciple even though Jesus says the opposite. 3 times Jesus says the identical thing "cannot be My disciple." This text is about who can't be His disciple not about who can be. You can't be His disciple based on your keeping of the Law, based on your discipleship, based on you building a Christian life or defeating sin, death and the devil. But you can be His disciple based on His keeping of the Law, based on His discipleship, based on Him building a tower and defeating sin, death and the devil. You can't be a disciple based on your owning discipleship, but you can be based on Jesus owning you.
It all comes down to being owned by Jesus. Like we do, Jesus puts His name on those He owns. Has Jesus put His name on you? He has if you've been baptized. There's His name written large across your forehead and heart as a sign that you've been redeemed by Christ the crucified. When we own something, we take care of it. Are you taken care of by Jesus? Does He forgive your sins, blot out your transgressions, send your guilt away from you in Absolution? Then you are cared for by Him, and so you must be owned by Him. His Absolution proves it. When we own plants and pets we feed them, don't we? Are you fed by Jesus? He gives His Body for Bread and His Blood for Wine to His disciples, to those He owns. And those He owns take eat, take drink and so follow Him.
Discipleship comes down to ownership. It comes down to being owned by Jesus not you owning Him. What you and I do is always uncertain, unsure, up in the air; therefore, so is what we own. What Jesus does is done, finished, complete; therefore, so is His ownership. It's true; you cannot be a disciple based on what you do, bear, or give up. You can only be one based on what Jesus has done and still does. Own that. Amen.
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
Pentecost XVI (20070916); Luke 14: 25-33