Insert text here.
We say, "Sometime, somehow--but please, Lord, not now!" And want Jesus to respond, "Ok; finish up and catch me later." But that's not what Jesus said.
As they journeyed on the road, someone said to Jesus, "Lord, I will follow You wherever You go." Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head."
Then Jesus said to another, "Follow Me." But he said, "Lord, let me first go and bury my father." Jesus said, "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God."
Another also said, "Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house." But Jesus said to him, "No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God."
Luke 9:57-62 NKJV, condensed
Eyes Straight Ahead
Like someone who has just received a bad medical prognosis, Jesus had no time to lose and so much to do. There was a new sense of urgency. He was on the road to Jerusalem now and his days were numbered.
This attitude was reflected in the way he spoke to potential recruits. The rules were changing. And it must have had a sobering effect on those who got in at the beginning and remembered the good old days by the Sea. In this text, three people in quick succession were willing to follow Jesus. But Jesus put them off. He showed a cold shoulder, dismissing them, as though of no use.
The first reported for service, saying he would gladly follow Jesus anywhere. Jesus' response implied, "Rethink it; I am a homeless sojourner and can offer you no accommodations." The second man requested time to take care of his responsibilities to family and tie up some loose ends. Jesus demanded he drop everything and start proclaiming the good news of God's kingdom at once. The third man asked permission to swing by his house and say goodbye. Jesus told him he can't be looking back if he wanted to be fit for service.
Wow! What are we to make of all this? Jesus sounded so unreasonable, abrupt, impersonal. He made his decisions without even giving his rejects a chance to explain themselves. Who would want to follow a leader like that anyway! It's a side of Jesus I do not like. I'd rather be back in Galilee.
This passage is instructive because it allows us to see the intensity of this trip. Jesus could see his life changing. He could no longer depend on the comfort and hospitality of old friends. He would not be around for his aging mother. He must not look back and be tempted by thoughts of home. Those delights were over and will never come again.
It reminds me of the young preacher, Francis Asbury, who in l771 set sail from England for "the new world." He never returned to his family or native country again, not even for the death of his tenderhearted mother. Instead he was a circuit-rider who traveled 270,000 miles on horseback and supervised the growth of Methodism from the smallest to the largest denomination in America. It's hard for us to relate to the physical and emotional hardships he endured and the feelings of isolation due to antiquated communications and infrastructure. Few of us have dared to follow such an extreme example of discipleship.
Which brings us to the point that we have to be careful how we apply these verses. We should never water them down and suggest Jesus did not mean what he said. But please keep these words in context. They are not an excuse for abandoning one's family, or for rudeness and carelessness within our homes.
Rather, they are an expression of urgency. It's time, now, for all of us to get serious about following the lead of Jesus in spreading the word of God's kingdom. We must seize the day and not put it off until tomorrow. Otherwise we're like the farmer who tries to plow while looking backward, or gets distracted by the vultures flying overhead, or a rabbit hopping toward the hedgerow, or daydreaming about sundown.
Plowing is a chore that requires concentration. Set your face straight ahead. Keep the plow lined up by fixing on some object out in the distance, just like Jesus did when he turned the corner and headed for Jerusalem. He was looking beyond the cross. His eyes were fixed on life, not death; on victory, not defeat.
Jesus has something better for us to do than digging graves. His standard is radical and uncompromising; he repeated it three times for effect. All three requirements reflect his own life experience on the road to Jerusalem. Yield!--personal comfort; lifeless traditions; thoughts of home. As we obey, we will discover what it means to believe and build our lives on the words of Jesus.
Use the following questions for small groups, journaling, further study or reflection.
Icebreaker: Describe an urgent trip which you participated in.
What is the difference between leisurely travel and an urgent trip? Discuss the attitudes and requirements of each. Is urgency a good thing? Why or why not?Food and lodging is generally the minimum offered to those who volunteer. Would you go on a mission trip with no guarantee of meals and shelter?
The image of discipleship in this text is that of following after Jesus wherever he went and doing whatever he commanded. Is that how you picture the life of a disciple? Can a person be a disciple and never leave their home? If so, how?
If someone said these words of Jesus are anti-family, how would you respond? Is there tension between putting God first and family responsibilities? How do you give the proper balance to both? Is serving the needs of family the same as serving God?
Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote that we learn to believe by following Jesus and staking everything on His word. He said faith becomes faith in the act of obedience. What do you think those words mean and how do you react to them? When has that message been true for you?
Give an example of what you would call radical discipleship. What makes your example radical? Would Jesus agree that it is extreme? Explain you answer.
Do you feel any heightened sense that you need to give immediate attention to spiritual matters? On a scale from #1 for apathy to #10 for urgency, what number are you? What number is your congregation?
A time to indulge, a time to abstain; a time to honor the dead, a time to proclaim God's kingdom; a time to embrace, a time to ignore loved ones; a time to live and a time to die and then live again. What time is it for you?
Plowing prepares soil for planting and eventually a harvest. It's a first step of faith. As you prepare the soil of your life, what do you focus on in the distance?