Summary: Jesus was on the road to the cross with all that came with it - rejection and suffering. His call to follow him is absolute and he calls us to 100% commitment. This short sermon challenges us to follow him in everything we do, all of the time.
Luke 9: 57-62
Have you ever been quoted out of context? Have you ever been misunderstood? Jesus was often misunderstood, and when we hear these shocking words from the life of Jesus we are reminded that following him requires us to always follow, and not to dip in and out of following him. If I say, “This week Jesus I have not got time to follow you or to be with you. Sorry Jesus. Next week will be different, but this week I’ve got the house to clean, the grass to cut, the shopping to buy, the neighbour to visit and all those letters to write …” – if I say that then I have missed the point about following Jesus, because following him takes in the whole of life.
Jesus was on his journey towards Jerusalem; it was his journey to the cross and the experience of rejection and hatred. A few verses earlier (9:51) we read this: “As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.”
So we must hear these shocking words of Jesus in the context of the extremities of being one of his disciples. We must hear these words for ourselves in our own various and different situations; but we must hear them from the mouth of a loving Lord Jesus who longs for us to follow him with 100% commitment.
On the journey a man sees Jesus and his band of followers. There must have been something attractive about this movement, something wonderfully attractive about Jesus himself. (9:57) “I will follow you wherever you go.” Now Jesus knows that he must face the cross and he replies by saying that “the son of man has nowhere to lay his head” (9:58). Jesus means that the comforts of this world are going to be denied to him, and a would-be follower must consider the potential cost of following Jesus. Most of the disciples were eventually murdered, martyred, some crucified because they refused to stop saying that Jesus had risen from the dead!
So Jesus wanted the first man to know that before starting to follow, he needs to know that the ride will not be easy. When we present the claims of Jesus to men and women today, we must not pretend that Christianity is an easy, sentimental crutch. It is not!
On the journey Jesus asks a man if they will follow him (9:59). Again, Jesus knows that his own life of discipleship is taking him to the cross, and he knows that he must live his last days in total obedience to God. The man replies, “Lord, first let me go and bury my Father.” We cannot but feel taken aback by Jesus’ reply: “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God” (9:60).
When I took my Granddad’s funeral at the start of this year it was an unspeakable privilege. However, conducting his funeral did not come before my walk with Jesus. It was my walk with Jesus, and I was able to proclaim the Kingdom of God to my relatives.
The question is whether the traumas of life will stop us from following Jesus on the road to the cross. It’s as if the man were saying, “I will follow you once I’ve got family life sorted out. I have other priorities right now.” My own experience has been that following Jesus is often tough, but family life is enriched and enhanced as a result of following him.
Another man offers to follow Jesus, but only after he has gone back to say good-bye to his family (9:61). Similar to the last reply, Jesus needs us to know that he asks for total commitment. We cannot say, “I haven’t got time to follow you this week. Once I’ve done all the chores at home, then I will follow you.”
Let’s not misunderstand Jesus. He is not saying that we abandon our family. No! However, he must come first always; and when he is first we will in reality be better husbands and wives and parents and grandparents. Are we following Jesus today?