Someone has said that as a present-day salesman Jesus would no doubt be a failure; many modern minds would find his offers not only unattractive but repelling.

Some might consider certain things he said to be repressive of Christian discipleship. We might have expected his wholehearted endorsement of the would-be disciple who said fervently, “I will follow you wherever you go”; the Master at least might have answered, “Come along, and we’ll see how you do.” Instead the man seems to be stopped at the starting gate: “Foxes have their holes, the birds their roosts; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”

Another would-be follower wanted to bury his father but was told that announcing the Kingdom was far more important than conducting family funerals. The Lord’s response must have been a hard blow also to another candidate, who asked only for the chance to bid his family farewell: “No man who sets his hand to the plough and then keeps looking back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Most men who asked to be Jesus’ disciples lived in an unsympathetic world. They were targets of political brutality. Food and shelter came to them through agonizing toil. Life was a constant pressure; despair nagged their spirits. Yet to the down-beaten men, men who doubtless looked for encouragement and for some sign of social “lift,” Jesus issued the grim command: “Take up your cross!”

Jesus fed men by a miracle, and they offered him a crown; he fled them by night to Capernaum. When they followed him there he said darkly, “I know you have come looking for me because your hunger was satisfied with the loaves you ate.” He delivered a sermon so utterly strange to them that some cried, “This is more than we can stomach! Why listen to such words?” ...

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