Reading: Luke 9:51-62
This will bring back some memories – the song “I will follow Him” from Sister Act:
Don’t you love that number? For once you are allowed to yell out “whoopee!”
“I will follow him.”
Will you really?
The training of Jesus’ first disciples in Luke 9 and 10 is a fascinating series of successes and blunders. In the gospels overall – it’s your typical training scenario. Ups and downs – moments of success and real stupidity.
You can’t really blame them for wanting to call down fire from heaven on those inhospitable Samaritans. They were the equivalent of various disliked groups for some people today – it seems legitimate to take them out.
I had coffee with an old student this week who joined the army reserve here in NZ and has an Arabic surname that begins with Al. You can imagine some of his army trainers and their attitudes – especially when he filled in a form and said his religion was Muslim/Presbyterian. They had some questions for him. It’s a great story.
We know the whole story of the New Testament which they didn’t have back then – we know that Good Samaritans actually exist. And we are not keen on ethnic cleansing.
So Jesus does have a little word with James and John – who are not called the sons of thunder for nothing.
He basically rebukes them.
That’s the first challenge today.
Perhaps we have attitudes that need rebuking. If you follow Jesus – you really have to tow the party line as it were.
John Wesley’s comment on this passage was this: “‘Ye know not what manner of spirit’ – The spirit of Christianity is. It is not a spirit of wrath and vengeance, but of peace, and gentleness, and love.”
The key word which unlocks the whole passage I suspect is found in verse 51:
Luke 9:51 As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.
Resolutely is the word. It also means to set your face firmly or steadfastly – it’s about a decision on Jesus’ part to go to the place where he will ultimately die. And it’s quite early on really in the narrative.
The followers of Jesus are expected to have the same steadiness of purpose. Single mindedness if you like.
So they move on to another village – and there are three encounters with would-be disciples. Remember that a disciple is essentially two things – a follower and a learner.
Either way it is a costly business – as these examples illustrate.
One he calls to follow him.
Like the Sister Act song – the first volunteer says exactly that: – “wherever you go.”
Luk 9:57 As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”
Jesus doesn’t reply in an English accent, “O how lovely” or like a kiwi with a : “Sweet as!”
Luk 9:58 Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
Warning bells should sound for the reader of the gospel – Jesus is resolutely going to Jerusalem where he will die.
Jesus’ response may seem blunt – but that’s the reality. There can be no expectation of payoff for being a disciple. Rather – you could end up homeless. Despised and rejected.
The second follower Jesus calls.
The man’s response seems reasonable. Let me bury my father first. The commandments made it clear that people were to honour their parents. And many of us do exactly that – we put our plans on hold to care for aging parents.
We don’t know whether the person’s father was ill or had in fact died.
Either way Jesus’ response is a tough one.
Luk 9:60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
Suddenly the lines are drawn. It’s not the church that is central here. In fact, Jesus says very little about the church.
He’s not bothered about the spaces between our chairs and rows here.
He’s interested in whether we buy into the Kingdom values and principles that we pray for in the Lord’s prayer – “thy Kingdom come, thy will be done” – the Kingdom that he spoke about when he said “no worries, be happy by seeking first the Kingdom of God”…
I’m not sure that he was insensitive to the bereaved or those who care for aging parents and put their lives on hold for a season.
I think what he means is that spiritual things are central – let the spiritually dead deal with the other things that are not lasting – that are not important in the bigger scheme of things.
We need to be at peace with what is gone – and embrace what lies before us as we embrace the kingdom.
Different principles, values, morals, ethics, and purpose for living. Passion!
- People who stand for light and truth in the midst of darkness and deception.
- Love and grace in the face of hatred and bitterness.
- Worship and gratitude in the face of grumbling and grabbing – that grasping entitlement of this generation and indeed this nation.
Our third potential customer in this passage is another volunteer. Listen again:
Luk 9:61 Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family.” Luk 9:62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
Here’s the thing. Even Elisha was allowed to go back to his family to say goodbye before he took up his prophetic mantle (1 Kings 19:19-21).
Being a disciple of Christ is a stronger calling, Not everyone endures to the end. People fall by the wayside. They look back. (Lot’s wife comes to mind).
Jesus does us a favour to warn us that we should not start something and give up half way.
If we start ploughing and look back with regret – we’re not fit for service.
Failed WOF basically. We get yellow-stickered – taken off the road.
You have to look ahead – otherwise the field ends up in a mess with a track behind us that is all over the place.
We too have to set our faces towards Jerusalem – the heavenly city. Towards a loftier goal of a new Kingdom and life in Christ.
And on the road we too have to confront all that which contradicts the truths of the kingdom – just as Jesus did – he had to speak out prophetically to the religious establishment more than anything else – he confronts them and eventually turns over their tables – with a desire to reform and rescue them.
So should we. In fact its one of my jobs – to challenge people in their stuckness.
Two out of three of these people in the passage today were volunteers. It seemed good at the time. One Jesus called – and he too was a dubious starter.
How are you doing? How’s your single-mindedness? Not for your pet theory, but for Jesus? “All for Jesus” is the song we sang.
How’s your passion? Passion is caught, not taught. We need some infectious passion for Jesus and His Kingdom.