Summary: What is the cost of discipleship? It’s free! Jesus calls us to follow Him and then gives us the tools we need to do so. We keep in step with Christ when we allow the Holy Spirit to put our lives into order...into Christian order, as believers.
Keeping In Step With God
Stephen Becker, M.Div.
St. Peter’s Lutheran Church
Fifth Sunday After Pentecost, July 1, 2007
Have you completely committed your life to Jesus? I mean, completely? Have you ever thought of what it “costs” to completely turn your life over to the Lord? In our readings this evening, both Jesus and Paul talk about what is expected when we start a new life in Christ. Paul explains the cost to the Galatians. And Jesus gives us what seems—at least on the surface—the harsh reality of “the true cost of following Jesus.” So what’s Jesus saying? What’s He asking us to do? Let’s open with prayer…
In our society today we find true commitment to be a rarity; I mean, how many times have you had somebody ask you, “will you do something for me,” only to answer them, “well…depends…” I know I’ve responded like that before. I think that in our society we have come to accept being “involved” with something over being committed. So what does it mean to be truly committed to something or someone? Take a ham and eggs breakfast as an example. The chicken was “involved” in the breakfast. Now the pig…well he definitely “committed.” It’s a crude example…and a bad joke, but it really does emphasize the difference.
During Jesus’ earthly mission, He definitely taught the difference between being just “involved” as opposed to being fully committed. In fact, in our readings today we see that if you have Jesus as Lord of your life, total commitment to Him is an absolute necessity. In our reading from Luke, Jesus and his disciples were traveling to Jerusalem. This was not the trip that brought Jesus to Jerusalem to be crucified, but a trip before it. During that time, the Jews would have to travel through Samaria to get to Jerusalem and it would take them at least three days to get there. The Samaritans and the Jews weren’t example “best friends,” and usually the Samaritans would refuse to put the Jews up for the night on their way through Samaria. And by this time Jesus had quite a reputation and following, so as they walked, various people came up to Jesus to offer to follow Him. What’s amazing about Jesus is how He always used a situation, good or bad, to teach about Who He is and about His Gospel of peace.
So as the first man came up to Jesus and offered to follow Him, Jesus makes what on the surface might seem a bizarre statement: “Foxes have holes and bird of the airs have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” Here Jesus identifies Himself as the Savior of the world—the Son of man—who is being rejected. There in Samaria because the Samaritans disliked the Jews so much, Jesus couldn’t even find a place to sleep for the night. So they just kept going. And seeing another man, Jesus says to him, “follow me.” Now friends, these people who came up to Jesus during His travels had to have known a little about Him. As I said, Jesus was starting to get quite a reputation. Yet nevertheless, as Jesus asks this man to follow Him, the man gives an answer like I mentioned earlier. He stalls. He doesn’t give a commitment. He basically says, “it depends…” He said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” Notice that the man didn’t say that his father had died or was just about to die. If it were true, why was the man even there with Christ? So Jesus says, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go proclaim the kingdom of God.” That’s a big statement. What did Jesus mean by “let the dead bury their own dead?” What Jesus is teaching us here is those who do not know Jesus as Lord, those who aren’t saved by grace through faith are spiritually dead. Just like Paul tells the Galatians, “Live by the Spirit.” In other words, Jesus is telling this guy, “if you truly believe in me, if you allow me to be Lord of your life, then follow my teachings and live.” Those who are already dead spiritually will die a real, final, permanent, physical death unless they place their faith in Jesus first. So Jesus isn’t just dismissing those who don’t believe in Him. No, in fact, just like he did with the man who asked for time to bury his father, Jesus directly addresses those of us who DO have faith, and who are spiritually alive in Christ to go, “proclaim the kingdom of God.” We have been freed from sin and death by Jesus’ death and resurrection. And so like Paul opens chapter 5 of Galatians, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” We are free from sin and death; we are free from the law; and being free, we are to go and “proclaim the kingdom of God” so that others who are still spiritually dead can find that same life in Christ that we have.