Hyperbole is a literary device defined as being an extravagant exaggeration used as a figure of speech.
Luke’s narrative features Jesus using some of the strongest Semitic hyperbole to be found in the gospels.
So strong, in fact, that Matthew in his reference to this scene chooses to leave out the hyperbolic usage of the word “hate” and quotes Jesus as simply saying: “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me.”
Indeed that is the essence of the message but Luke preferred to use what he believed to the most authentic version and expected his readers to appreciate the hyperbole for what it is. Serious emphasis.
Jesus is talking about the cost of becoming his disciple. It is a most serious matter and is not to be taken lightly
Anyone who stands in the way of your freely chosen thorough commitment to Jesus, no matter how close they are to you must not, under any circumstances be permitted to interfere with your response.
We should not forget that in the early years becoming a follower of Christ often meant a tearing apart of families, businesses and social relationships of every kind. Not to mention the ultimate price of martyrdom, the following of Jesus to cross and to death.
Jesus, true to his style, went on to place his teaching within the context of a story or two. He reiterates the fact that his invitation to discipleship demands some very serious and well informed decision making.
Just as in the case of a builder who, if worth his salt, would never begin a project without first estimating its cost and his ability to complete the work required. (Something Jesus in his carpenter days probably learned from Joseph!) So too, only a fool would go charging off to war without first giving careful consideration to the odds.
Building a house, declaring war and choosing to follow the path of Christian discipleship all call for careful, thoughtful preparation.
Jesus loved these people. Men and women of all ages, hanging on his every word ...awed by his ability to cure the sick of every description and his reputed power over the elements of nature.
He knew the cost of discipleship in this life but he also knew the reward of discipleship in the life to come ...especially for those whose primary motivation was not future reward but present loving service.
Many of them would walk away, and do so, I believe, with his blessing, but others would not and of them would be the some who would surrender their dreams, their possessions ...even their lives. For them, it would seem the only thing to do ...having understood from the start that renunciation is the key to discipleship and that a true disciple does not hold back. Everything is on the table. Some would say that it was and is a big gamble ...but others knew and know that it is a sure thing!