In Luke chapter 9, Jesus speaks about the cost of following Him. Verses 57 through 61 seem quite easy at first, with verse 62 carrying a significant sting. Let’s read the passage together before we unpack the passage briefly.
Lk 9:57 As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”
58 Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
59 He said to another man, “Follow me.” But the man 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 good-by to my family.”
62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
Up to verse 51, Jesus’ ministry of preaching and performing miracles had been in Galilee. Now we find a turning point in Luke’s Gospel.
Lk 9:51 As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.
There was still much for Him to do, including the training up of disciples for ministry. Verse 57 finds Jesus en route to Jerusalem. On the way, he meets up with three would-be followers. The events surrounding these three fellows are intriguing. In each case you notice the word “follow” (v57, 59 and 61).
The first account shows us clearly that following Jesus might require us giving up everything, even the comforts of a home. The man is intentionally eager to follow Jesus … the man says, “I will follow you wherever you go.” He had no questions about going wherever Jesus went … and it was walking. He had no questions about the demands of discipleship … it was harsh.
Yet … this man had not calculated the cost of being Jesus’ disciple. It seems as if there was a little too much self-confidence in this man … “I will follow you wherever you go.” Did he know where Jesus was going (Calvary)? Did he know the hardships that lay ahead (even after Jesus’s Ascension)?
Look how Jesus responds … He presents the hardships of ministry to the man … “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” Jesus did not own a house or have the financial resources to put disciples up in hotels, providing luxury!
As we apply this teaching personally, we need to understand that in us giving up everything to follow Jesus, it does not mean we can’t own a house, vehicle, furniture, etc. What is means is that we must never allow earthly things to get in the way of our discipleship! Where He might permit us to have luxuries, discipleship is a life of suffering in service! Remember He is on His way to the Cross. For us, this might mean putting aside earthy ambitions or creature comforts in order to invest greatly in His Cause. He might never call for this, but He might. Will you, will I be ready and willing to make the sacrifice?
The second account shows us clearly that following Jesus might require us giving up certain family commitments. Jesus says to him, “Follow Me”, and the man responds, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” Notice the little word “first” … this word show where his priorities lie! He wants to negotiate the conditions of his discipleship because he wants to honour a prior family commitment before he followed Jesus.
In his culture, he would not have been talking with Jesus if his father had just died because within 24 hours a burial would have taken place. He would have been mourning at home. What this man wanted was to care for his dad through his older years until death, then bury him and then go and follow Jesus! He uses his family (father) as an excuse not to follow Jesus immediately.
Are you shocked by Jesus’ response? “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Unbelievers could easily do certain tasks for us. The spiritually dead could care for aging parents in that culture. They could take care of the home and family … but only the spiritually alive can preach the Kingdom!
Does Jesus want you in full time Christian ministry? Do you need to study towards being a pastor, children’s worker, teen worker, missionary, ladies worker or evangelist? Will you allow the “family” to override what our Lord wants you to do? You might think your situation is impossible … yet from personal experience, with no resources except a bonded house, a wife and two sons, God took us to Bible School, provided the way and even gave us a daughter! Is He calling you to full time ministry?
The third account shows us clearly that following Jesus might require immediate action. This man is “ready” to go, but he wants to go home and bid goodbye to the family. “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family.” This in itself would require an extended period of time, arranging for a huge family gathering where a feast would be held … and once the feast started, it could last for days. He has the right idea to follow. He understands the requirements … but he wants to delay “following”.
Look at Jesus’ response … “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” I was part of ploughing a field where I took my eyes off the beacon and steered the tractor off course and the plough zig-zagged. Look what Elisha did after being rebuked by Elijah when he tried delaying tactics:
1Ki 19:21 So Elisha left him and went back. He took his yoke of oxen and slaughtered them. He burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his attendant.
He got “rid” of his assets, shared it with the people and followed Elijah! Whatever God is calling you to do, when He says “follow”, do it immediately. He never delayed your salvation. He won’t delay you going to heaven. Please don’t delay serving Him. Follow … follow … and follow intentionally!
Dear God, the comfort and joy of salvation brings me to humble myself in worship, praise and thanksgiving. Here I am Lord, wholly available for Your service wherever and whenever and however You require. Precious Lord, Help me to be ready, willing and prepared to do as You bid. For Jesus’ sake and Your glory, Amen.