by John Sainsbury
27 January 2023« Previous Day | Next Day »
Whilst on holiday recently my wife and I attended a local church service and were completely blessed to hear one of the best messages I’d heard in a long time. At the heart of the message was a challenge based on Luke 9 to make Jesus absolutely central to every aspect of our lives. Here, Luke seems to contrast Jesus, who resolutely set out for Jerusalem (Luke 9:51), despite knowing what a dreadful ordeal awaited him there, and three other men whose resolution to follow Jesus was far more questionable (Luke 9:57-62).
The first man said to Jesus: “I will follow you wherever you go” (Luke 9:57). Sometimes, these things are easy to say, but Jesus challenged this assertion by reminding the man that being a disciple of Jesus may incur a high price. Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head” (Luke 9:58). In other words, Jesus was saying to the man: “Are you sure you want to follow me; the price may be high? Will you truly put Me first?”
Jesus then called another man to follow Him (verse 59). But this man replied: “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” We don’t know the situation of the man, and elsewhere Jesus certainly taught that it is right to honour our parents. But the key element in question here seems to be what, or perhaps better who, the man wants to put ‘first’. Jesus replied to the man: “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God” (verse 60). In other words, Jesus is asking the man to consider what he truly wants to put first in his life.
Then we read of the third man: ‘Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family”’ (verse 61). To this Jesus replied: “No one who puts his hand to the plough and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God” (verse 62). In an agricultural setting the hearers of this would know that if you are ploughing and keep looking behind you rather than in front, your ploughing won’t be straight and effective. Once again, something that might sound initially a bit harsh on Jesus’ behalf, is really a question of what (who) the man is really willing to put first in his life.
Each of these examples is totally consistent with what Jesus had been saying in Luke 9:23 onwards: “If anyone would come after me, he/she must deny him/herself and take up his/her cross daily and follow me.” If we are serious about being followers of Jesus, then there can only be one thing that we put first: that is Jesus Himself. This is no easy road, no half-hearted calling; this is an all or nothing choice that Jesus invites us to make. But He doesn’t force Himself on anyone. Each potential disciple needs to count the cost; and there will be a cost. But there is also a promise: “Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it” (Luke 9:24).
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