Summary: Christ requires complete commitment from his disciples, that is why he put off 3 half-hearted would be followers.
Last week, in the Parable of the Sower, we looked at three different types of people who hear the Word of God, but who do not allow it to any lasting effect on them. Today we are looking at three people who said that they would follow Jesus, but who ended up who ended up by not following. In each case, perhaps surprisingly, Jesus put them off following him.
The first person to speak to Jesus approached him with what sounds like all the best intentions and motives. ‘Lord, I will follow you wherever you go!’
Unlike the other two he didn’t try and make a deal with Jesus. He just came straight up to him, and promised to follow him wherever he went. We might have expected Jesus’ reaction to have been to immediately welcome him as a new disciple, to tell him all about the blessings of being his disciple and following him, and there are many. To up-play the positives, and not to mention the negatives. To encourage him to come along with him and to follow him.
But instead his reply seems almost brutal. Why?
It seems that the he had made an impulsive decision to follow him. He hadn’t thought it through. He came expecting it all to be plain sailing; that being a Disciple of Jesus would mean an easy, trouble-free life, when nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus’ detected this impulsiveness, this desire for an easy life, and was honest. He had nothing in the way of material gain or comfort to offer him. Following him would mean leaving behind most of what was important to him. We thought last week about the seed that was sown in the rocky ground, which quickly sprung up, but was not deeply rooted, so that when trouble and difficulties came they died back. Such was probably the case with this man. He came excitedly, but with no depth and would not have been prepared to pay the price of a disciple.
The second man was different to the other two. Rather than approaching Jesus, Jesus approached him. ‘Follow me!’ were his words.
The man’s approach would have seemed perfectly natural in the their culture. “Yes, I’ll follow you, but first let me go and bury my father.”
It might sound at first to us as if this man was very recently bereaved and had a funeral to organise. But this was probably not the case at all. If his father was actually already dead but not yet buried it is unlikely that he would have been out and about to talk to Jesus at all. It reminds of an incident quite a few years ago now when a rumour went around the town that my Grandad had fallen down the stairs and died. This was completely untrue, his flat didn’t even have stairs. My Mum’s sister, Diane, was in a pet shop buying a cage for a Budgie when the Shop Assistant said to her “Sorry to hear about your father.”
When Diane realised that the Shop Assistant thought that Granddad had just died she replied, somewhat indignantly, “Do you really think that I’d be here buying a Budgie cage with my father lying dead?” If Granddad had been dead, but not yet buried, Diane, my Mum and the other sisters would have been busy organising the funeral and tasks like buying a new cage for the Budgie would not have crossed their minds.
It would have been even more so in Jesus’ culture. Organising the funeral and the burial would have been the only thing to which the man would have been attending. Rather it is probable that his Father was actually still alive, and what he really meant was “I will follow you, but first I must fulfil all my responsibilities towards my Father, to concentrate on looking after him and all his affairs, then, when he is dead, I will come and follow you.” This is precisely what culture would have expected. But it was not acceptable for Jesus. Jesus had a job for him there and then, not for when he decided to get around to it, or when society thought it might be OK for him to do.
This man was saying “Not yet” to Christ. Saying “Not yet” is really equivalent to saying “No!”
We might do the same, waiting until our circumstances are different – we get a new job, the children are a bit older, we retire, when something else changes to make things a bit easier– before we will follow and obey Christ. If we are putting it off, just like this man we are actually disobeying and saying “No!” Instead he has a job in his kingdom for each of us now, no matter what our circumstances. Have you ever noticed that a less busy time never seems to come? When he calls, that is the time to follow.