Pelham Road Baptist Church | Greenville, SC

More things worth pondering from the lips of Jesus

At times I do not know to label these sayings wry humor or hyperbole. Tonight I am going with hyperbole.

The Roman Quintilian held a sympathetic view, of hyperbole one I have adopted as my own. Hyperbole is not a deceitful lie, he insisted, but rather “an elegant surpassing of the truth”:

Hyperbole lies, but not to intend to deceive by lying.  . . . It is in everyday use, as much among the unlearned as among the learned; because there is in all men a natural propensity to magnify or extenuate what comes before them. . . But such departure from the truth is pardoned, because we do not affirm what is false. In a word, the hyperbole is a beauty, when the thing itself, of which we have to speak, is in its nature extraordinary; for we are then allowed to say a little more (not less) than the truth. 

What gives hyperbole it’s power is that it more than the truth.

If you ask me are you hungry? So I reply “No.” Well, that is a lie. If I say “yes” that’s the truth. However, if I say, “I am so hungry I could eat a horse” this is the truth on steroids. Now as the listener you are not confused, you know I am not going to eat a horse, you do not think I am lying it is not remotely close to a lie. However, what I have conveyed is that I am hungry, so get out of my way.

Before we consider Jesus on this subject let’s make things clear with another example.

On April 29, 1962, John Kennedy hosted a White House dinner to honor 49 Nobel Prize winners. On this occasion, he said, “I think this is the most extraordinary collection of human talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered at the White House–with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.” No one believed for a second this to be the case, but knowing Jefferson’s intellect complimented both the guest and the former president. It was not a lie; it was more than the truth. “Lots of smart people have joined us for dinner tonight,” would not have been remembered or repeated.

In the hands or on the lips of Jesus hyperbole becomes a spiritual shock treatment. A way of rousing the spiritually dead. Here is an example to ponder

‘Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26)

I imagine it is readily evident to all those listening that Jesus is trying to raise the spiritual dead. What adds to its weight is how serious it sounds.

It is highly likely the hearers this evening were new to the words of Jesus.  Further, there were other words in the Jesus canon that they easily remembered

‘You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. (Matthew 5:43-44).

Then he said to them, ‘You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition! For Moses said, “Honor your father and your mother”; and, “Whoever speaks evil of father or mother must surely die.” But you say that if anyone tells father or mother, “Whatever support you might have had from me is Corban” (that is, an offering to God)— then you no longer permit doing anything for a father or mother, thus making void the word of God through your tradition that you have handed on. And you do many things like this.’ (Mark 7:9-13)

Since Jesus clearly does not believe hate is an acceptable option for our enemies it is unlikely he means to literally hate your family. Further, Jesus has not indicated that the commandment to honor our parents can now be dismissed. So these offensive words, ‘Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple,  only make sense as hyperbole or more than the truth.

Maybe the truth is to be my disciple you must put me and my kingdom first.

The lie is you can keep doing what you are doing and maintain a close relationship with God.

Hyperbole,  even your family, must line up behind the kingdom of God, my kingdom’s value must be first in your life. An eloquent surpassing of the truth.

Jesus means that life is made up of relationships and priorities. Some are important, others are vital. The key is to know the difference. In a Jewish home, family means everything (as it does it most cultures). The values of God’s work are more critical.

However, listen to the hyperbole here—

As they were going along the road, someone said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’ To another he said, ‘Follow me.’ But he said, ‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’ Another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.’ Jesus said to him, ‘No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’ (Luke 9:57-62).

Jesus uses words to unclog people’s spirit.

There are no dead undertakers, so the dead burying the dead is hyperbole, an unreasonable and impossible demand. It is not a lie, but he is putting the spotlight on the truth. The last sentence shines even more light on his truth.

I am the future; I am the now, the dead, family or not, are the past. You can remember the past but prepare for the future.

Jesus’ words provide concrete images, not abstract ideas. If you say, God’s kingdom should come first in your life. This is ill-defined and not compared with any real competitors. Who would not nod their head in agreement?  However, when you say—‘Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple.”

You got my attention, and I get the point, your kingdom, and it’s values are more important than any relationship in my life

More important than my job

More valuable than my political affiliation

More vital than money

More treasured than family.

My first priority of loyalty is to the Kingdom of God.

Scripture for 2/13/19

Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26)

‘You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. (Matthew 5:43-44).

Then he said to them, ‘You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition! For Moses said, “Honour your father and your mother”; and, “Whoever speaks evil of father or mother must surely die.” But you say that if anyone tells father or mother, “Whatever support you might have had from me is Corban” (that is, an offering to God)— then you no longer permit doing anything for a father or mother, thus making void the word of God through your tradition that you have handed on. And you do many things like this.’ (Mark 7:9-13)

‘Follow me.’ But he said, ‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father.’ 60But Jesus said to him, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’ 61Another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.’ 62Jesus said to him, ‘No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’ (Luke 9:57-62).