Summary: This message is the fifth in a series that deals with some of the difficult sayings of Jesus. This message looks at Jesus' warning in regard to looking back.
At first glance Jesus sounds very harsh as He addresses someone that sincerely wanted to follow Him. What’s wrong with wanting to tell His family goodbye? In 1978 the Little River Band wrote a song that describes a great tendency that many of us have. Listen to these few lines from this song. “Each time we hear our favorite song, the memories come along. Older times we're missing, spending the hours reminiscing.” We all like to look back and reflect fondly on those days gone by. Perhaps that’s why we call them the good old days. If the truth be known, the good old days always seem to be better than today. Our past experiences and upbringing has shaped us into the people we are today. There is one huge problem. Our reminiscing always seems to make those good old days seem better than they really were. There is nothing wrong with looking back fondly on the past and reflecting on those great memories. Isn’t that what reminiscing is all about? However, I want to issue a great word of caution. There is always the risk of becoming stuck in the past when we begin to believe that those good old days are better than today. When this happens looking back keeps us from looking forward. Could this be the reason behind Jesus’ answer? Today, let’s examine Jesus’ words and look at them in their proper context. By doing this we will be able to discover exactly what point Jesus is trying to make.
I. Jesus’ answer on the surface sounds very harsh.
A. The passage makes it clear that Jesus is extending an invitation to follow Him.
1. In the text a man comes forward and volunteers to follow Jesus.
2. The man makes a very simple and seemingly reasonable request. “Let me go back and say goodbye to my family first.”
3. When you think about this it isn’t really an unreasonable request.
4. This is exactly the reason that Jesus’ request catches us by surprise.
5. This guy is volunteering to follow Him, so you would think that Jesus would bend over backward to accommodate this guy. Volunteers don’t exactly grow on trees.
6. In the church we know this all too well. In our world volunteers are in short supply, so we tend to do nothing that would discourage those who are willing to volunteer.
B. This request has many parallels to Elijah’s call of Elisha in 1 Kings.
1. When Elijah called Elisha a similar request was made by Elisha.
2. Elisha wanted some time to go back and say goodbye to His family.
3. Elisha who is working in the field immediately drops everything and organizes a party to allow him to exchange goodbyes with his family.
4. If Elijah would allow Elisha to do this during one of Israel’s darkest periods, then what’s the deal with Jesus?
C. When you understand the cultural context there are some things that are not noticed on the surface.
1. More than likely this would have involved more than simply saying goodbye and putting his affairs in order.
2. There could have been parties that would have gone on for several weeks.
3. There would have been family members that were begging him to reconsider His decision.
4. The bottom line is that a lot could happen during this time of partying that would cause this man to ultimately back out.
II. Jesus is making an important point in regard to the Kingdom.
A. Jesus stressed that the call to discipleship was an urgent matter and requires one’s undivided attention.
1. There is absolutely no room for anything to be put ahead of Jesus.
2. True discipleship requires immediate action; following Jesus cannot be put off till a “better time.”
3. It’s funny…when we are waiting for that right moment; it never seems to come along.
4. More than likely Jesus senses a sense of reluctance in the man’s heart and a desire to hang on to some aspects of his past life.
5. The call issued to Elisha did not seem to be as urgent as the one Jesus issued.
6. However, there doesn’t seem to be any reluctance on the part of Elisha.
B. The cost of discipleship requires that we put absolutely nothing ahead of Jesus’ call.
1. Jesus has been preaching that the Kingdom of God was at hand, so naturally the call required immediate action.
2. Notice some of the things that Elisha did when he accepted God’s call through Elijah.
a. He stopped plowing.
b. Broke up all the wood plowing equipment and built a fire.
c. Killed his twenty-four oxen and cooked them over the fire to provide a feast for his family.
3. Elisha’s actions show that there was no looking back. He was willing to make a complete break with his old life.