"And He began speaking a parable to the invited guests when he noticed how they had been picking out the places of honor at the table..." Luke 14:7 Why were the dinner guests picking out the seats of honor? I'm amazed that I have never asked this question before. I grew up in a family of twelve kids and we always ran to the table to make sure nobody sat in "my seat". Subconsciously, I think I have always assumed that something like that was going on. But I think this is a little bit of an under-sophisticated appraisal. Jesus was announcing the arrival of God's Kingdom and He had been celebrating this fact with feasts. Some of the guests included at Jesus' feasts had already caused controversy for being outside the category of a covenant member in good standing according to the estimation of the Pharisees. Here in Luke 14, some of the Pharisees were attending one of Jesus' celebratory meals and they were either assuming or asserting their perceived places of prominence and leadership in the coming new wave of God's government. But Jesus confronted their behavior head on because it was precisely not what His kingdom was and is about. The Kingdom of God that Jesus was announcing and inaugurating was not going to be governed by self-important people who fight and jockey their way to the top. Jesus’ Kingdom was going to be governed by servant-hearted people and He was going to lead the way as the servant King. Jesus said, "Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple." Luke 14:27 We have sung "Jesus Paid it All" in our churches for generations now. Reformed theology has taught us that we were dead and incapable of doing anything good in our flesh. We have been told that Jesus became our sin and we became Jesus' righteousness. We have been told that being made right with God is a matter of ”Jesus plus, nothing, nothing, nothing." We have been told that individuals are saved by grace alone through faith alone, and that faith is not really yours, faith is a gift given to you by God so that no one can boast. So how can it be that Jesus would say that unless we (emphasis) take up our (emphasis) cross, we cannot be His disciple? Is there a difference between being "saved" and being a "disciple"? I don't ask these questions because they are a struggle for me. I ask them because I wonder how they are not a struggle for many other people in the Reformed tradition. One of my main purposes for writing and teaching is to challenge people to look at the scriptures through a different lens. We have grown up thinking that the Bible is a book about how individuals get made right with God and find their way into heaven. I am trying to show that that narrative framework does not do justice to the text. So long as we bring to the text the notion that what it wants to tell us is how sinners get saved for heaven, we will never properly understand it. The Bible was written in response to a different set of questions and according to a different narrative. Namely, how will God set His creation project right as He has promised to do so in Abraham and his family? And the answer to that question, like all good Sunday School questions, is Jesus. But the way forward into God’s future for the world is through a cross, first for Jesus and then for His disciples. This isn't because the disciples were going to need to earn their way into heaven. This is because God had arrived on the scene to renew the creation project and particularly the image bearers, the human race. Once the image bearers we're made right, the rest of the world could begin to be put right through the renewed human race. (Romans 8) But the only way to renew the human race was to make a way for the human race to become the servant-hearted people that God intended them to be. This is who God is whose image we are intended to bear and this is who Jesus is, the true image of God. Unless we too become humble servants willing to lay down our lives, we cannot be Jesus’ disciples. Not because we didn't do enough good deeds to merit Jesus’ approval, but because being a servant is the definitive nature of a disciple. This is who Jesus is because it is who God is. Imagine what would happen if all our civic leaders became servants who gave their lives for the sake of the community? Imagine what would happen if father's sought to meet the needs of their families through self-sacrifice? Imagine what would happen if wives sought to serve their husbands with all their heart? How would that kind of behavior change the world? And this is just scratching the surface. Imagine what would happen if the same Spirit that lived in Jesus to help Him, not only serve but also heal, were to reside in thousands of Christ’s followers? The world would be a different and better place. That is what is actually presented before us. So what are we waiting for? Let us take up our cross and follow Jesus!