This I have noticed, not all of the “Hard Sayings” of Jesus are hard because they are difficult to understand what He means. Speaking for myself, I find many of them hard—not because they are hard to understand—they are hard because they are easy to understand. The difficulty is in what they demand if we are going to really going to be saved. Such is the case in today’s passage, Luke 9:57-62 (NIV)
57 As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58 Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
59 He said to another man, “Follow me.” But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” 60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
61 Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.” 62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
OK, let’s go ahead and apply the First 2 questions when dealing with the tough things Jesus said:
- Is It Possible?
- Is It Consistent With The Principles And Message Of The Kingdom?
We are dealing with 3 separate situations but there is a single answer for all 3 situations. It’s found in Matthew 16:24-25 (NIV)— Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” Jesus lived out this model of following God and He expected no less from anyone who followed Him. So, the answer to both questions is YES. This means it’s a Word we need to take literally because it has authority over us.
I am so very thankful that Salvation is Free. It’s pure Grace that delivers you and I from the penalty of sin. And it’s pure Grace that delivers us from the dominion of sin because God gives each one of us who trusts in the Cross of Jesus a new heart—literally a new life. This new life comes with the promised indwelling of the Holy Spirit who helps us resist Satan’s attempt to bring us back under the dominion of sin.
And it would be much easier if following Jesus was only about getting saved, then just wait for the trip to heaven. Don’t you agree? Just go to the local terminal, find your gate, have a seat and just wait for them to call you flight number and take you home. But it’s not; there is much more. Jesus came in a time when getting to heaven was all about keeping rules and rituals. The problem with keeping rules and rituals is that they do not fill the heart with what for which we are created—That Relationship and Partnership with God.
And many people who listened to Jesus realized this, because their hearts longed for more. This concept of being saved by The Gift of God, wonderful! No more worrying about the Rules and Rituals. So people came running towards Jesus, wanting this wonderful Gift. And in today’s passage, we find 3 typical people wanting this Gift but without the cost of authentically following Jesus.
Think about this: What good is wanting salvation without the cost of following Jesus? A word missing from church today is a big word like mahogany: DISCIPLESHIP. This is a word that invokes the response from the movie The Princess Bride where Montoya Inigo says to Vizzini who frequently says “Inconceivable”— “I do not think it means what you think it means.”
Here’s the definition of DISCIPLESHIP—“It Is The Process Of Learning, Applying, And Sharing With Others The Teachings Of Jesus.” Learning for yourself, Applying to yourself before Sharing with others is what marks the difference between those who are “Christian” in name only and those who are Christian in heart, mind and life. Salvation is free, but Discipleship is costly. Here is why it’s Costly:
1] It Costs Personal Comfort
As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” (Vs. 57-58)
Here’s a man like us. He wants to follow Jesus. Promising idea, right? And immediately Jesus challenges him where we all live: At the level of comfort. You work hard to be comfortable; if you have a family, you work hard for them to be comfortable. And many want to be comfortable following Jesus. But Jesus isn’t offering us Comfortable.
I’m thinking about David when God’s avenging Angel was about to destroy Jerusalem. David had ordered a census and the reason was David wanted to know how many men there were available to fight. After all, David is a Warrior, and a warrior needs to plan. But there’s a problem: David hasn’t consulted God about it. God gives David an option on his punishment and David chooses 3 days of an angel of devastation. As that angel gets close to Jerusalem, David wants to intercede for Jerusalem and offer God a sacrifice, in hopes of finding mercy and grace with God. The farmer Ornan offers David his plow for the fire and oxen for the sacrifice and all for free. But David responded, “No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” Unfortunately a lot of people who occupy the pews only want to sacrifice to God what costs them nothing.
You must give up personal comfort—to try even at the risk of failure. Jesus is demanding and following Him is even more demanding. Discipleship means we risk everything for Jesus. Right now, I’m thinking about our Mission Team Leader, Shelley Jones. Before she retired she was a computer programmer. Everything was about 0’s and 1’s–the binary code make it predictable. But as Mission Team Leader, she will tell you, she is way outside her comfort zone—but nonetheless, she’s engaged in Discipleship. You can’t follow Jesus in your comfort zones.
2] It Requires Immediate Commitment!
He said to another man, “Follow me.” But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” (Vs. 59-60)
The traditional view of this part is that his Dad wasn’t even dead yet. So, it’s just an excuse to postpone. “Jesus, as soon as my Dad dies, I’ll follow you.” This makes Jesus sound less harsh. But in the Talmud, their Bible and Book of Discipline (for you United Methodists) rolled into one stated: “He who is confronted by a dead relative is freed from reciting the Shema, from the eighteen benedictions, and from all the commandments stated in the Torah.” The Shema is like their pledge of allegiance and it comes from Deuteronomy 6:4-5
4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.
The 18 benedictions were their prayers at morning, midday and evening, so they were relieved of praying. And they were released from obeying all the commands in the Torah. In other words, according to the rules and traditions, nothing is more important than a funeral. But Jesus shocks this man and the whole crowd. Jesus says, “Nothing is more important right now than The Kingdom of God.” Jesus is saying that the old way of doing things is long gone.
John McNeill, a well-know preacher in Scotland during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s tells this story. He was scheduled to begin a series of meetings in England. His father died in Scotland on the day the services were to begin. He was told that it would be OK to cancel the services, everyone would understand. But hear John’s reply: “This same Jesus stood by me and seemed to say, ‘Now, look. I have you. You go and preach the Gospel to those people. Would you rather bury the dead or raise the dead?’ And I went to preach.” There are no excuses for postponing your discipleship—learning, applying and sharing the Good News!
3] It Involves Unlimited Commitment
Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.” Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” (Vs. 61-62)
Jesus wants you to make up your mind. There is a strong trend in our culture to want “Jesus Lite”. A cartoon showed a church building with a large billboard in front that proclaimed:
It’s not unique to our time; we clearly see it when Jesus walked His creation. People were always looking for an easier way to get into heaven. Following Jesus Lite can make you feel better about yourself, but it does not make you a Christian and it will not bring transformation to your culture.
Each of these men had an excuse—the last 2 were more direct. Did you catch the words that are the 3 Most Telling Words Of All?
First Let Me.
In trying to have a relationship with Jesus, do you have a First Let Me? What is your “First Let Me”? Your excuse?