Intro – Last week we saw Lu 9:51 is a dividing point in the book. “When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.” Prior to this Luke tells about Jesus’ coming from heaven and the question is, “Who is Jesus?” Answer: He is God. From here on it is about His going back to heaven. Key Question, “Why did Jesus come?” Answer: “To seek and to save those who were lost.” To accomplish that, He goes back to heaven by way of Jerusalem where He dies to pay the penalty for sin.
At this division, we also move from a theme of acceptance to one of rejection. We see it immediately. Jesus comes to Samaria but v. 53, “But the people did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem.” Because He was a Jew going to Passover, they reject Him, and thus they miss the One who was actually on His way to die for their sins. Bad theology kept them from Christ.
Now Luke introduces 3 vignettes of people ready to follow Christ, but each encounters a hurdle. They demo 3 anchors that keep people from saving faith. Many have misinterpreted this passage by saying that these 3 are believers, debating whether to serve Christ. They teach we can receive Jesus as Savior now and as Lord later. Become a Christian now, a disciple later. This is a grave mistake not taught by the Bible. Several reasons mitigate against it.
Person of Christ – To split Jesus’ Saviorhood from His Lordship is like saying, “I accept Pres Obama as a basketball player, but not as pres.” (I know some would like to do that, but it’s not possible, is it?) You can’t say, “I’ll play basketball with him, but I don’t accept any of his presidential decisions.” It just doesn’t work that way. You have to accept someone for all they are, not just part. The same is true with Jesus. You can’t carve Him up into Savior and Lord and decide to take part now, and maybe part later. You don’t become a Xn now and disciple later. It’s all or nothing. (Rom 10:9)
Meaning of “Follow” – “Follow” also indicates salvation is the issue. It always speaks of saving faith. You can’t be a follower of Christ without being saved, and you can’t be saved without being a follower of Jesus. There is no such thing as a believer who is still on the fence about following Jesus. Jesus says in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Those who follow Jesus walk in light; those who don’t are in darkness. Those who follow have life; those who do not follow have not life.
When Jesus says, “Follow me,” it’s an invitation to salvation, not to greater service. “Follow me” is a present imperative which implies a lifelong commitment. It’s a one-time decision that leads to a lifetime change. There will be failure – sometimes dramatic. But to live in permanent apathy is to show that one was never genuine in the first place.
Context – One final reason to say this is talking about a salvation commitment is v. 59 where Jesus says, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” To not follow is to not be “fit for the kingdom.” To be a Xn and a disciple are one and the same thing. You can’t be one without the other. Francis Chan in Crazy Love summarizes the issue clearly, “Some people claim that we can be Christians without necessarily becoming disciples. I wonder, then, why the last thing Jesus told us was to go to the world, making disciples of all nations, teaching them to obey all that he commanded? You'll notice that he didn't add, "But hey, if that's too much to ask, tell them to just become Christians – you know, the people who get to go to heaven without having to commit to anything." Dietrich Bonhoeffer called that “cheap grace” because it doesn’t exist in the Bible. Paul says, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord”, not just Savior, but Lord – you will be saved. So 3 reasons people reject Jesus.
I. Personal Comfort
V. 57: As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Mt 8:19 tells us this was a scribe – an elite OT scholar. Most were Pharisees and in opposition to Jesus. To have him as a follower would have been a coup. We’d have said, “You want to follow Jesus? Well, then pray this prayer, sign this card and you’re in.” Another notch on our spiritual gun. But Jesus is looking for genuine, not numbers.
When He looked into this man’s heart He saw a “comfort”. V. 58, “And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” It’s almost like Jesus is trying to scare him off. Strange way to do evangelism? To us this looks counterproductive, naïve, even a bit stupid. We’d be saying, “Strike while the iron is hot. Don’t scare him away. Tell him about all that the hard stuff later, if at all!” That’s what we’d say, isn’t it? Promise anything – just get him in. That’s why so many start well, but drop out at the first sign of trouble. They’ve been duped. They’ve been told, “Come to Jesus and everything will be great.” They’re committing to happy endings, not Jesus!
This man said the right things, but Jesus knew deep in his heart he was seeing the crowds, the miracles, the enthusiasm, the excitement. That’s what he was signing up for. Who wouldn’t want that? He understood nothing of true discipleship – of self-denial, sacrifice, service and suffering. He was in for the glory, not for the guts.
He was an early adopter of the prosperity gospel. I heard one televangelist brag to another not long ago (names you would recognize) that he is not just a millionaire, but a multi-millionaire. He said, “If He is my comforter, I live in comfort. That’s not only spiritually – that’s physically too. Because when you’ve got some stuff it brings comfort.” Those who think otherwise “know nothing about the Bible.” I think that shoe’s on the other foot. Jesus’ said nothing about making this man a millionaire or giving him comfort through “stuff.” Just the opposite, He challenged Him with this truth: “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Follow me and that’s where it leads.
Some preachers claim that Jesus was rich – had a treasurer, had a home in Capernaum, had designer clothes that the soldiers gambled for at the cross. But that’s a crock, Beloved. Jesus’ own testimony was that He had little of this world’s goods. And He challenge us in Lu 14:27, “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?” This man had not counted the cost. He wanted Jesus, but He wanted His comfort first – and Jesus won’t be 2nd to anything. So if Jesus asked you, would you give up your comfortable house and car and job and air conditioning and TV? Is Jesus more important than those? Can you be moved out of your easy chair to prepare a lesson for kids, or bring help to the poor? We may think we’re a follower of Jesus; but is it real? Our mouth is saying, “I’m a follower” – but our actions are saying we don’t know the first thing about following Jesus.
David Platt in Radical tells of guest preaching on missions only to have the pastor close the service by saying, “Brother David, we are so excited about all that God is doing in New Orleans and in all the nations, and we are excited about you serving there. And, brother, we promise that we will continue to send you a check so we don’t have to go ourselves.” Wow – but he wasn’t done. He went on, “I remember a time when a missionary from Japan came to speak. I told the church if they didn’t give financial support to him, I was going to pray that God would send their kids to Japan to serve with the missionary.” Clever – missions as a threat! Beloved, that man may have been a pastor, but he was no follower of Jesus. He liked his comfort better than Jesus. He’s like the CW soldiers who signed up in droves in a fury of patriotic zeal when they saw the soldiers on parade, the fine uniforms and the glitter and the glory at the beginning of the war – only to run for cover when the shooting started. Folks, if our focus is on comfort over Jesus, we may not be a true follower at all. Actions show where the heart really is.
II. Personal Obligations
V. 59, “To another he said, ‘Follow me.’But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 60 And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” So what is the problem here? Is Jesus against burying parents? Of course not! Jesus approves burying parents. The problem was, this man’s father was not dead yet. Had he been, this guy would have been making arrangements, not in this crowd. The Jews did not embalm; so burial often happened the same day. In John 11 Jesus is called because His friend Lazarus is very sick. He arrives 4 days later and John 11: 17 tells us, “Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days.” That means Lazarus died the same day Jesus was summoned and was buried that same day in typical fashion.
In commenting on this verse, G. Campbell Morgan tells how a friend, Sir George Adam Smith, was traveling in Palestine in early 20th century. Needing a guide, he was referred to a young Arab sheik who knew the area well, but he steadfastly refused to go saying to Sir George, “Sir, suffer me first to go and bury my father." Meanwhile, there sat his father in the tent opening, elderly, but hail and hearty – certainly not dead. The man was saying he would not go while his father lived. That is precisely the situation Jesus encountered.
This man is not asking a few hours; He is asking for an indeterminate amount of time to wait for his father’s death so he can bury him – and most probably gather his inheritance. He wants to sort his life out, bury his father, assure his financial future – then he is ready to follow Jesus. Jesus is a distant second place on his list of priorities. And Jesus won’t take second place to anything.
That’s why He answers in v. 60, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Obviously physically dead people can’t bury anyone. What Jesus is saying is, “Let the spiritually dead bury their own. Your excuse does not fly. You must choose between Me and your obligations.” His own father needed to know Jesus was more important to his son than he was. But this man wanted to wait.
You can see the man’s basic problem. V. 59, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” He calls Jesus, “Lord.” But he puts his will first! That’s not a saving confession! “Lord” and “me first” can’t go together. “Me first” could be a lot of things – the lust for money, a career, a hobby that consumes us. Anything that comes before God. Francis Chan in The Forgotten God tells of a couple in his church –Thomas and Jen. Jen worked in the church office; Thomas was chef and co-owner of a fine steak restaurant in Simi Valley, just north of LA. They gave a gift certificate to Chan to enjoy a meal and while they were there, Thomas shared that the restaurant was doing great – far exceeding expectations. In 3 more years he would receive back his investment with a huge bonus on top of that. The only problem was God was calling him away from the restaurant right then, not in 3 years. Shortly afterward Thomas surprised his partners by giving up the money to pursue the ministry God called him to. He took a position at a local rescue mission, cooking for the homeless and others seeking to rebuild their lives. He teaches the homeless how to cook and finds them jobs at local restaurants. That’s a disciple, Beloved. Not entangled. Not waiting to bury Dad or collect the money. He’s part of God’s kingdom and knows that “Lord” and “me first” simply don’t mix. C. S. Lewis said it as well as it can be said, "Put first things first and we get the second things thrown in: Put second things first then we lose both first and second things."
III. Personal Relationships
V. 61: “Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Anything wrong with saying Farewell? Of course not. Elijah allowed Elisha to do that very thing when he called him while Elisha was out plowing the family field. But look in I Kings 19:20, “And he [Elisha] returned from following him [Elijah] and took the yoke of oxen and sacrificed them and boiled their flesh with the yokes of the oxen and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he arose and went after Elijah and assisted him.” Elisha told Mom and Dad good-by, but he did more than that. He sacrificed the oxen he’d been using to plow indicating that he was making a clean break. The old life was over; he was committed to the new. He never looked back. The farewell was permanent. That is a kingdom mentality.
Jesus did not see that in this third man in Luke 9. That’s why He answers as he does in v. 62: “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” You’re not committed to plow a straight line if you are looking backward, right? In this heart, Jesus saw family ties that meant more to him than Jesus. His feet would be going in one direction but his heart would be pointed in another. He’d be like Lot’s wife who was warned in Gen 19 not to look back as the family escaped the destruction of Sodom. But Gen 19:26 “But Lot’s wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.” The point is, you can’t be saying to Jesus, “I’ll take you, but I must have this thing or this someone as well.” People reject Christ for fear of losing relationships. That’s why Jesus says in Lu 14:26, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” Jesus doesn’t hate families – but relative to knowing Christ, all else must be left aside. Otherwise, please note, “he cannot be my disciple.” We downplay Jesus the seriousness of this level of commitment, but Jesus is dead serious about what saving faith is all about.
Conc – Here’s the deal. Jesus is attacking the “easy believism” that dominates our Christian culture. Thousands of people believe they are followers of Jesus because they affirm that Jesus died and rose again. But Jesus never defines discipleship in those terms. True faith shows in actions. He goes out of His way to tell people how hard it will be. It’s easy to commit to Christ, just like it’s easy to join the army. But after you join there is a price to be paid, and if you are not paying that price, chances are you never actually joined. You just responded to an emotional plea by saying, “Lord, me first” instead of “Lord, whatever you say.”
There is an old Chinese story about a king who was fond of music, especially the Yu – a wind instrument. So he convened an orchestra of 300 players who played for him every day at teatime. One of the players, Nan Guo, actually knew nothing about the Yu, but life in the orchestra was good, and he made a good pretense. All went well until the king died, and the prince became king. Unfortunately, the new king did not like the orchestra – he preferred solo performances. So he called for each musician to play alone for him. Nan Guo was soon found out. He had nowhere to hide.
Beloved, it’s easy to hide in our society – even in church. But soon the question will come from the King himself – What did you put first – Me or your personal comfort, obligations or relationships? How will your life answer that question? We can’t hide that day. On that day it will be clear – was it “Lord” – or was it “me first?” What joy there is in making sure it’s “Lord!” Let’s pray.