Luke 9:57-62 is one of those Bible passages you may wish you’d never read. Doctor Luke records three powerful statements of Jesus that may sorely challenge our view of what it means to commit to follow Jesus!
If you have heard enough people call others to follow Jesus, you may have heard something of a “sales pitch” – like “Jesus loves you and wants to make your life amazing!” So we expect following Jesus to be easy. Some speak of “inviting Jesus into your life” – like he is happy to fit into our lives.
So we give him a slot on Sundays… and maybe stretch to a mid-week gathering of sorts… and maybe even add a quick daily devotional slot where we can. But Luke’s account of three conversations with would-be followers is the very opposite of a “sales pitch”:
Along the way someone said to Jesus, “I’ll go anywhere with you!” Jesus said, “Foxes have dens, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man doesn’t have a place to call his own.”
Jesus told someone else to come with him. But the man said, “Lord, let me wait until I bury my father.” Jesus answered, “Let the dead take care of the dead, while you go and tell about God’s kingdom.”
Then someone said to Jesus, “I want to go with you, Lord, but first let me go back and take care of things at home.” Jesus answered, “Anyone who starts ploughing and keeps looking back isn’t worth a thing to God’s kingdom!”
If we were Jesus’ public relations consultants, we would probably have asked him to retract, or at least re-phrase those statements! This is surely not the way to gain followers!!
But evidently Jesus has a different view – he wants followers who are “all in“. He does not want to follow us, he wants us to follow him. He does not seek an invitation from us to fit into our lives, he invites us to fit into his!
This is not to say following Jesus is all pain and gloom – it is glorious! He made it clear that he came to bring full, abundant life to his followers! But the blessed life comes in the context of an all-in commitment to follow him.
You see, sooner or later, following Jesus will be difficult in some way. He will head in a direction we don’t like – or that those around us don’t like. He will confront us with things we need to surrender. And “who’s really the boss” will be revealed!
In these conversations, Jesus challenges us in three arenas:
1. ON A NAIVE COMMITMENT THAT SEES NO PERSONAL COST
The first person came to Jesus “all-in” – but Jesus recognised a naivety in their faith. So he highlighted the cost: Yes, you can come with me wherever I go, but we don’t have hotel bookings for the journey – be ready to “rough it”. There will be times you feel homeless, unwanted, that you don’t belong.
There will be personal prices to pay when we follow Jesus; the question is are we prepared to pay them?
2. ON A COMMITMENT THAT ASSUMES OUR CULTURAL FRAMEWORK
The second person had a “yes, but..” response to his call to follow. Culturally, it was a perfectly reasonable ask, possibly even a “given” – surely Jesus understands that? But Jesus was moving on RIGHT THEN.
This challenge is a tough one: do we expect Jesus to wait for us or “flex with us” as we do what others expect of us before we follow him? The brutal challenge is this: is it more important to us to please the people around us or to please Jesus? Jesus calls us to “adjust our clocks to his”, to flex with him, and to be willing to disappoint others where obedience to him makes this necessary.
3. ON THINKING MORE OF OURSELVES THAT WE OUGHT
The third person seemed to believe that their personal responsibilities were important enough to delay following Jesus. The question behind it is is “What would happen to _______ (insert your list) if I’m not there?” At best, its an over-extended sense of responsibility; at worst, it is a sense of indispensability (they can’t do without me). In between, it can be that our identity is caught up in what we do, so that leaving roles and responsibilities behind feels wrong.
Jesus will sometimes call us to leave behind things we feel are our responsibility and are possibly very dear to us; it is a step of faith to trust him to take care of such things and follow him.
Having read this article, you may wonder if this is not “chasing people away from Jesus”. I don’t believe it is. I believe it will help you make your decision to follow Jesus such that you will follow him all of your days… though times of discomfort… through times when you feel an outsider… through times when you are misunderstood… through times when you have to leave dear ones or dear things behind. Following Jesus does have its personal challenges – but the rewards far outweigh them all!
My prayer is that you will follow Jesus – as an “all-in” follower – as one who enjoys the most privileged lifestyle possible: to live a life that is “full of God”!
There can be no greater life!