As we noted in the last lesson, this is the turning point in the gospel of Luke. Jesus has made it his resolve to go to Jerusalem. This will be his final journey to Jerusalem. Once Jesus is there, he is going to be betrayed, arrested, and killed. Jesus has predicted this outcome, however his disciples have not understood these things. The section also begins with the rejection of Jesus from the Samaritans. Rejection is going to be another theme. As Jesus goes to Jerusalem, rejection will be the ultimate end. In our lesson today, the main point of the story is following. Three times the word “follow” appears in these six verses. There is an implicit question being asked by Luke as he tells of these who desires to follow Jesus. “Will you follow Jesus all the way?” Three people approach Jesus to be his disciple.
Follow Wherever Jesus Goes (9:57-58)
The first person says, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus’ response to this is startling to us. We are living in a time where such statements are enough. We just want people to love God and go to church. Here is a person who says that he will be a follower. We probably would have accepted this person. Jesus does not simply accept a person who says he wants to follow Jesus. Jesus wants you to know what is involved in following Jesus. Following Jesus is not just simply saying that you want to follow. We have to stop deceiving people with the idea that there is no commitment or sacrifice required to follow Jesus. Sometimes we are trying to lower the bar to try to get people to follow when Jesus raised the bar. We are not doing you any good to lie to you so that you think you are right with God and are a disciple of Jesus by suggesting that you coming here and doing nothing is all that is required of you.
This man says that he will follow Jesus everywhere. Jesus immediately challenges this man on that thought. Jesus does not know where he going to sleep tonight. If Jesus were to start walking south without any preparations or accommodations lined up for the night, would you follow him? Would you go with him not knowing where you are going to sleep? Would you sleep on the sidewalk to follow him? Would you sleep in the grass to follow him? Will you really go with him wherever he goes? True disciples will follow Jesus wherever he goes, regardless of the inconvenience or sacrifice. Jesus is warning this person that following Jesus is not easy. We put Jesus before our comforts. You are following a broke, homeless person who was betrayed and murdered. Do we understand who we are following? The path of discipleship is not an easy path. It is the best path for your life but it is not comfortable or convenient. Our comfort does not come before following Jesus.
Bury My Father (9:59-60)
The second person also wants to follow Jesus. But this person has one caveat. He has one other priority ahead of Jesus. Jesus will be his priority, but not his first priority. He has one other thing that he has to do and then he will follow Jesus. This is not a cult text teaching for people to cut off their family ties. Rather, we are to understand that even our best excuse is rejected by Jesus. Jesus shows us that all these other situations, duties, and demands in life cannot come into conflict with following Jesus. Nothing is to block the pursuit of discipleship and nothing is to postpone its start. Let other people take care of these other obligations. Your primary obligation is to Jesus. The old way of doing things is over and we have new priorities. I cannot understand how we think we can keep the same schedule and same priorities after coming to Jesus. The most important thing is following Jesus and proclaiming the kingdom of God.
When Jesus says to let the dead bury the dead, he is teaching a powerful principle about how we perceive our discipleship. Let school take care of your school obligations. Let the coach take care of your sports obligations. Let your boss deal with your work requirements. Let the house clean itself. The point is that these other obligations and duties we have in life are not more important that serving, worshiping, and following Jesus. We think we have these golden excuses for our Lord. I had to work. I had school. I had sports. I had family in town. I was tired. I got up early. I didn’t sleep well. I have to get up early. I have to stay out late. Jesus told this man to let the dead bury the dead. We let all of these other circumstances and obligations in life prevent us from following Jesus the way he demands us to follow him. Jesus does not accept even our best excuse. I know this sounds harsh but the reason it sounds harsh is because we do not understand the demands of discipleship. Jesus already taught that anyone who wants to follow him must deny him and take up the cross daily. We are dead to our old way of living. Now we are confirming that cost for discipleship. All the things in life that are so important and that occupy our time, whether sinful or not, are subjugated so that we will follow Jesus. School is not more important than serving God. Work is not more important than worshiping God. Sports is not more important than following him. Let other people take care of those obligations. Your obligation is to follow Jesus.
Say Farewell To Those At Home (9:61-62)
This third person also seems to have a reasonable request. To follow Jesus properly means that there is no looking back. Jesus is giving a warning. You have to cut off the old life to follow Jesus. Otherwise, we follow Jesus initially only to long for the old life later. How many times the scriptures warn us against going back and thinking back to the old life with affection! When the Israelites came out of Egypt, the first thing that do is start looking back to Egypt. They remember the food they had and think that they had it so good. They forgot that their labor was harsh, that they were slaves, and that their baby boys were being thrown into the Nile River. They forgot the deliverance God had given them and looked back longingly to Egypt. When God was going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah the Lord explicitly commanded Lot and his family not to look back to the city as they fled. Lot’s wife did look back and was turned into a pillar of salt. The point is that once we commit to Jesus, we must hold to that commitment without wavering. We are not to look back but press forward following Jesus. Following Jesus requires undivided loyalty. Discipleship is a life long commitment to follow him.
The image Jesus uses is very appropriate for the warning. What will happen if you are looking behind you while plowing? You will not plow a straight line and your work will be ruined. For a modern example, what will happen if you are looking behind you while driving? You are not going to drive straight and you will get into an accident. Our eyes are to be focused forward on Jesus. Jesus even says that we are not fit for the kingdom if we are looking back. Not that we are not in the kingdom, but we are not fit to belong with the Lord if we choose to look back.
Three people say they will follow Jesus. Jesus says that they cannot. Everything is second to following Jesus. We must go anywhere Jesus leads. Jesus must come before our comforts. Further, Jesus must come before our obligations and duties. It does not matter what we think we need to do in this world, let others take care of those obligations and you follow Jesus. Finally, our eyes must be focused forward on Jesus, never looking back to the life we have crucified with Christ.