"Don’t ever let anyone tell you you can’t do something.  You want something?  Go get it.  Period.”  Words of a father to his son in the movie “The Pursuit of Happyness.”  Words to live by?  Don’t ever let anyone tell you “You can’t.”?

            I don’t know about you, but when people tell me that I can’t--that is something I just can’t take.  It’s unacceptable.  You tell me I can’t?  I am going to show you I can, or die trying!

            And yet three times in our gospel reading Jesus tells the crowds of people who are following him--“You can’t.”  You cannot be my disciple.  So what are you going to do?  How will you respond?  Will You Follow Him?

            Large crowds of people were following Jesus. And why not?  Maybe they will get to see a miracle!  Maybe they will get a free lunch!  He turned to them and said “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.  Did he say hate?  He must have meant something else because Jesus wants us to love everyone, right?  No--Jesus meant what he said and said what he meant.  A disciple of Jesus will hate anything and everything, even loved ones, if they get in the way of following him.  Jesus wants those following him to look in their hearts and ask the question--Who comes first?  My family or following Jesus?  My spouse or my Jesus?  My life or Jesus?  Who comes first?  It has to be Jesus--otherwise he says, “You can’t.  You can’t be my disciple.”

            So?  Will you follow him?  Before you answer, think about this question.  What do you hate?  Maybe you don’t like the word “hate” but Jesus uses it.  And he means it. And there is nothing wrong with using the word hate for something that is sinful. Jesus hates sin.  And so do his disciples.

            But come on now.  Admit it. Some of you hate being late.  And don’t you hate it when someone fails to use their turn signals when they are driving in front of you?!  Don’t you hate it when they get your order wrong at the drive through and you already drove away?  There are some things we do hate.

            But what do you “hate” as a disciple of Jesus?  Don’t you hate it when you don’t get a chance to sit down for 15-20 minutes and read the Word?  Don’t you hate it when you are deep in prayer and meditation and someone disturbs you?  Don’t you hate it when you miss church on Sunday because you overslept?  Don’t you hate it when the sermon is less than 20 minutes?  Don’t you hate it when someone else volunteers before you do?  Maybe we don’t hate some things as much as we should.

            It’s tough to be a disciple of Jesus, isn’t it?  This is hard!  This is not for wimps!  And it gets even tougher.  Verse 27: Whoever does not carry his own cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. A disciple of Jesus is not only one who will get rid of anything that comes between him and Jesus.  A disciple of Jesus is also someone who is willing to carry his own cross--all that comes with being a disciple of Jesus--suffering, ridicule, rejection.  And the most difficult of all?  Saying “no” to self.  Denying self.  Saying “no” to your will and your ways, taking up your heavy, full of slivers cross and follow him.  Will you follow him?

            But before you answer, there’s more. For which of you, if he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, everyone who sees it will begin to ridicule him, 30 saying, ‘This fellow began to build, but was not able to finish.’ Point? Before you commit, consider the cost.  Will you have enough to complete what you’ve started?

            Or what king, as he goes out to confront another king in war, will not first sit down and consider if he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 And if he is not able, he sends out a delegation and asks for terms of peace while his opponent is still far away.   Point?  Will you have enough strength to fight the good fight? No room for quitters.  Jesus wants those in it for the long haul.

            Will you follow him?  Maybe now you don’t know if you can follow him.  Maybe right now you’re thinking, “Jesus I want to follow you but I don’t think I can!  I don’t think I can carry this cross!  In fact, I have quit and put it down, many times taking the easy path.  I don’t know if I can finish the work of my faith!  I don’t know if I have the strength to fight against sin and Satan until the end!  I don’t think I can do it!”

            You know what?  You’re right!  We don’t have what it takes!  We can’t carry the cross!  We can’t finish the tower!  And we cannot win the war!  And that’s the point!  We can’t do any of these things...on our own.  And here is the most beautiful thing your ears will hear–Jesus still wants you!  You are exactly the kind of disciple Jesus wants!  Jesus wants disciples who can’t finish what they started!  He wants disciples who can’t oppose sin and Satan on their own!  Jesus wants disciples who cannot carry their crosses by themselves!  Do you get it?!  JESUS WANTS DISCIPLES WHO WANT JESUS!  JESUS WANTS DISCIPLES WHO NEED JESUS!  Jesus wants disciples who look at themselves and realize–“I am a poor sinner!  I am weak! I can’t do this by myself!  I don’t have the strength to fight sin and Satan and this sinful world all by myself!  I need help!  Oh, how I do need Jesus!”  And there he is!  He is right by your side as you struggle to carry your cross!  He doesn’t ask you to carry your cross alone!  That’s why he tells you to take up your cross and follow him!  He is right there with you, helping you to carry your cross!  And look at his hands!  Look down at his feet!  See the nail marks from when he died on his cross for you and all your sins!  Those hands are alive and well.  You see, he died for you but now he also lives for you to help you carry any and every cross that comes your way!

            On our own we can’t make our marriage better.  On our own we can’t improve our relationships with others.  We can’t live a pure and holy lives.  We can’t be humble, selfless, generous disciples that Jesus wants us to be!  We don’t have what it takes to be a disciple of Jesus.  But that is why Jesus tells each of us, “Listen, you want to be my disciple?  Give up everything you have!  Give up everything, deny yourself, deny comfort for the cross, despise pleasure for pain.  Will you follow me?” Jesus asks.  You know what he wants?  He has only one demand–faith.  “Trust in me who carried your sins to a cross and the one who will help you carry your own!  Trust in me as the one who can and will supply all that you need to finish whatever you want to accomplish as my disciple.

            So trust him!  Put Jesus first!  Love Jesus first and not only will you be the disciple that Jesus wants you to be, YOU CAN be the disciple that you want to be and others need you to be.  You know that Jesus doesn’t WANT you to hate your father and mother, your spouse, your children, etc.  He wants you to love them.  And you will!  We love because he first loved us! Remember this!  You don’t have to make yourself a loveable disciple to make Jesus love you.  Why does he love you?  He just does!  And it’s his love that made you a disciple and its his love that enables you to be his disciple.  You will be just like him, love like him, forgive like him, give like him, and serve like him!

            Put Jesus first and you will hate the things that he hates, anyone or anything that comes between you and your Jesus, His Word, His House, His Supper--as Paul says, you will be willing to lose everything and consider it garbage because you’d rather have Christ.

            When Jesus says “You can’t!” he is not playing some kind of mind game or trying some reverse psychology on you.  When he says, “You can’t” he is telling you the truth.  When Jesus says “You can’t” he is challenging, but not so that you try harder.  He is challenging you to forget about yourself, your power, your strength, your smarts.  He says “You can’t” so that you respond in humble faith, “I can’t--but you can Jesus.  And you did.  You made me a disciple.  And you are why I can be your disciple.”

            So will you follow him?  Trust in him.  Believe in him and not yourself!  Trust him and you will follow.  Amen.

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