Messages For Disciple Wannabes
1. It looks like three people, appearing in the short passage that I read today, have volunteered to become disciples of the Lord. In our text the words of Jesus as given to each one of the people are recorded, and each of Jesus' messages are quite surprising. I'm sure many will feel unsteady by it. But, reading the Bible means that we honestly face the words of Jesus even when they are like what we have here. We mustn't just skip over them. Instead, we must listen just as hard to the messages that come like this.
No Pillow For The Son Of Man To Use
2. For starters, please read beginning with verse fifty-seven. "As the group was moving along, there was a man who said to Jesus, 'Wherever you are, I will follow you no matter where.' Jesus said, 'Foxes have holes, birds of the air have nests. But, the son of man has no where to use for a pillow.'," (verses fifty-seven and fifty-eight).
3. Going by The Gospel According To Matthew, it looks like this person was a scribe of the law, (Matthew 8:19). It was not a small matter for a scribe to express publicly that he followed Jesus, who had eaten with sinners and tax collectors and had preached forgiveness of sin to a sinful woman. His resolve must have been genuine. Whatever may be the case, the words that he said of "I will follow you no matter where you go" are not words easily said.
4. To the man who was genuinely trying to turn to the Lord, Jesus was genuinely turning on him [with a challenge]. He did not speak to him with nice inviting words. The Lord said, "Foxes have holes, birds of the air have nests. But, the son of man has no where to use for a pillow." That is, the Lord's answer to him was "You say I will follow you wherever you go, but do you understand what those words mean?"
5. "A place to use for a pillow," that's home. The Lord had no place to use for a pillow, he was literally homeless. Home - that is a place of rest. Jesus was a place of rest for many people, but the Lord himself did not have a place of rest on this earth and neither could he.
6. [Luke's] Gospel tells us it had begun that way already since the time of his birth. When the Lord was born, he was made to sleep in a manger for animals. The reason, the text says, was that "There were no places at the inns for them to stay," (2:7).
7. So, Jesus' homelessness would go all the way to the end of his life on earth. The Gospel According To Luke reports the final words of Jesus on the cross as follows: "Jesus cried with a loud voice, 'Father, I turn my spirit over to your hands.'," (23:46). These final words from Jesus are seen in Psalm thirty-one. It was a typical bedtime prayer among the Jews and not anything particularly special among them. You might say it was like saying "Good night" to God. Ultimately, it was only on the cross that the Lord had made ready his resting place. It was that place where he was raised a few feet up from this earth. That is to say, in a true sense, he had no place to rest on this earth up to his very end.
8. The one and only place of rest for the Lord was not on this earth, but was only in God his Father to whom the Lord had entrusted his spirit. Jesus' rest was in the rule of God the Father, in the kingdom of God alone. To follow Jesus means to follow this homeless Jesus. So, one is asked, where do you seek your ultimate home to be? One is asked whether or not you see in God the Father alone, in the rule of God the Father, in the kingdom of God as your ultimate place of rest?
Let The Dead Be Buried By Those Who Are Dead
9. Next, please look at verse fifty-nine. "Then to another man, he said, 'Follow me,' but he said, 'Lord, first, let me go bury my father.' Jesus said, 'Let those who are dead bury their dead. As for you, go and spread the kingdom of God.'," (verses fifty-nine and sixty).
10. This man was invited by Jesus to "Follow me." Then, he made a resolution to follow Jesus, too. But, he asks, "First, let me go bury my father." Among the Jews, to respectfully perform a funeral service was a top priority religious duty. It has been said that even the Sabbath law was dismissible for that. It was the expected duty for a son to fulfill his responsibilities towards his father's funeral. We can understand his request easily enough.
11. It is Jesus' words, rather, that are hard to understand and find acceptable. He said, "Let those who are dead bury their dead." Of course, it's not possible for a literally dead person to bury someone dead. I think what Jesus is saying here is metaphorical in meaning. Because he told that man, "As for you, go and spread the kingdom of God," I think what he meant by "those who are dead" is "those who are dead" in the sense of faith, those whose eyes have not been opened up to the kingdom of God. He was saying, "Let them do the funeral."
12. Were they really unreasonable words? Yet when you think about them calmly here, to turn the funeral over to the other people was not something one "can absolutely never do." It was possible to entrust it to them.
13. In the one situation, Jesus told the man, "Follow me." So, making a response to the Lord's invitation as top priority and following [Jesus] was very possible for him. It wasn't possible for him to say any thing like, that he decided to respond to his invitation by his friends following for him. Neither his parents, nor his children, nor even his wife could take his place. In following Jesus, he must be the one to follow. The very words of Jesus were that he commanded him with the word "you," "As for you, [you] go..."
14. Some times, you follow the Lord and must get it done. Other times, other people can do it. Some times, only those who know the gospel of the kingdom of God can do it. Other times, even if they don't necessarily know the gospel of the kingdom of God, they can do it. Some times, Christians have to serve as Christians. But other times, we ought to entrust it over to others. In addition, depending on the times, we will be put in a tight spot where we have to make a choice of which one or the other. It may be somewhat of an extreme expression to say, "Let those who are dead bury the dead." But, it is possible to be put in a position of making such a choice, even though not having to do with funerals. So, following the Lord thus might be said to be to follow the Lord's voice yourself and entrust to others what seems very much imperative at the time.
Don't Look Back
15. Lastly, please look from verse sixty-one on. "And so, another person said, 'Lord, I will follow you. But, first, let me go say farewell to my family.' Jesus said to him, 'He who looks back after putting his hand to the plough is not fit for the kingdom of God.'," (verses sixty-one and sixty-two).
16. In First Kings chapter nineteen, the scene is described in which the prophet Elijah calls Elisha as his successor. Then, as the prophet Elijah throws his mantle to Elisha, Elisha pursues after Elijah and says, "My father, let me give my mother a kiss good-bye. After that I will follow you," (First Kings 19:20). At that point in time, Elijah said, "please do," and he granted him permission to do so. Then afterwards, Elisha slaughtered a head of cattle, cooked it, and gave it to the people for their enjoyment. But then, the Bible says, "after that, he arose, followed Elijah, and served him," (First Kings 19:21).
17. "First let me say farewell to my family." Jesus rejected his request, which could actually be considered legitimate. We tend to take what he said as severe. But, the real problem doesn't seem to be whether or not "may I please go bid my family farewell." [We know that] because in Elisha's case that he went to say farewell to his family did not become a hindrance with respect to his following Elijah. But, the reason the Lord rejected this man's request was that it would be a hindrance "for this man," [though] it hadn't been a hindrance for Elisha. The Lord was not pronouncing a general rule. Jesus spoke and looked directly at him. Saying farewell to his family would be "for him" [the same as] "looking back after putting his hand to the plough."
18. The problem was not bidding farewell to one's family or anything of the sort. For us, other situations may wind up being our "looking back after putting our hands to the plow." A plow, in this case, means a tool attached to a cow that tills the field. After the cow begins working if you look back, the row will end up curving. So, something like that happens even in the following of Christ.
19. Why's that? Even when we try to follow Christ, there might be something around that will pull us back and make us reluctant. Things related to family are but one example. Whatever the case may be, if you look back, there may be something there that makes it hard to follow Christ. After you go back, there may be something there that makes it difficult to follow Christ. Since that's so, we must not repeat it. We must not go back. Depending on the times, it may be that we have to cut some relationships off and not say "Good-bye." Indeed that would be the extreme case. But, either way, if we put our hand to the plow we must face straight ahead. We are to look dead ahead and put our eyes on the kingdom of God. Unless we keep focused on the kingdom of God, we are not fit for the kingdom of God. Following Jesus means to live with our eyes stuck tightly forward.
20. So, we've seen the words of Jesus and how he had spoken to three men who had resolved to follow the Lord. The Lord did not give each of the three men the same words. He gave different messages to each of the men. They heard the words of Jesus spoken to themselves each one individually where they were and not for somebody else. Likewise, what is important for us to do is that we hear the word of the Lord for us ourselves. To define our obedience to the Lord in general terms is not of great appreciable meaning. What did you hear from this passage of scripture? When it comes to you, yes, YOU, what does it really mean for you to follow the Lord?