Summary: Jesus is making clear to us is that a commitment to follow Him is more than a desire or a profession of belief. It is a radical, life altering of commitment to follow or live like him
Lose the Excuses
Good morning, this is already the fourth Sunday in Lent, a time when Christians focus on discipleship, denial and self sacrifice. It is the hardest part of following Jesus. During the Lenten season, we deal with these habits and put them into practice as we journey to the cross. In Latin, the word for cross is crux. The phrase “That’s the crux of the matter” means the intersection of our priorities and life commitments. The question for us during Lent is this; are our decisions and priorities truly following Jesus in the way of the cross? Jesus’ last journey to Jerusalem took approximately three months. It is recorded for us beginning in Luke 9. During this time, Jesus became increasingly aware that his death was near and so he set his focus on the cross, preparing himself and the disciples.
Our Scripture today records Jesus’ encounter with 3 men as he began his journey to Jerusalem. The key word in each of these encounters is “follow.” It appears three times. Anytime in scripture you see repetition, that’s the key point of the passage. Jesus is making clear to us is that a commitment to follow Him is more than a desire or a profession of belief. It is a radical, life altering of commitment to follow or live like him.
In the crowds gathered for Jesus, we see three kinds of people. They are the same three kinds of people who are here in church this morning. First, on the outward fringe of the crowd, are the curious. They’ve heard some stories about his miracles and his teaching and so they come to check and see what he is about. Could Jesus be the unique son of God who has come into the world? The second group is the convinced. They’re the most dangerous because they believe Jesus is the Messiah and profess it with their lips but they don’t live it. They think they are right with God but the danger is they confuse believing in Jesus with being a follower of Jesus. The third group is the smallest but they’re the truly committed. They know it’s not only about believing like Jesus but living like him as well and seek to do so every day.
So what group are you in: the curious, the convinced or the committed? We need to be honest with ourselves about which group we’re in right now. Why? Because it not only impacts your life but your relationship with Jesus. John 2:23 says, “Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover festival, many people saw the signs he was performing and believed in his name, but Jesus would not trust himself to them for he knew what was in them.” In Matthew 15:18 Jesus says, “They honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” When we think of the heart, we think of emotional attachment. But when the Bible talks about heart, it is not talking about the center of your emotion but rather the center from which you set your priorities and make daily commitments. It’s the place of decision, what today we call the mind. Jesus says the problem is that the convinced who were following him have an emotional attachment but they are not willing to make the decision and commitment to follow Him and live like Him.
As Jesus encounters these three men and invites them to follow Him, we hear three excuses. They are the three excuses Jesus challenges in our lives. First, Jesus challenges our comfortable lifestyles. “As they were walking along the road, a man said to him’ I will follow you wherever you go.’ Jesus replied, ‘Foxes have holes, birds have nests but the son of man has no place to lay his head.’” Luke 9:57 When you make a decision, the convinced say, “I will do anything, my life is yours, use me for your will? Your will not my will be done.” You started enthusiastic, and did whatever you had to do. You went to Bible studies, attended conferences and seminars, and served faithfully. You would take days off to go on mission. Then you come to a point where you felt pretty comfortable and content and started to slow down. That is called the death zone. But in this encounter with this young man, Jesus is saying I will always challenge you in your place of comfort. I will never allow you to stay where you are. Following Jesus will always lead you to new challenges in your life. We are a people who are always on the move.
It is so easy to get comfortable. We see this when Jesus takes Peter, James and John with them up the mountain to meet with Moses and Elijah. As he does, Jesus’ face shown and his clothes became radiant. And Peter, James and John just soak up moment. They not only saw Jesus for who he really was but they were in the presence of the two greatest figures of the Jewish faith. And Peter said, “ “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters…” In other words, let’s just stay here. But instead, Jesus has them keep moving because there was work to do and lives to transform. And when they came from the mountain, a large crowd met them and Jesus started healing people. Have you ever been at a place in your life where you just wanted it to last forever? When we get in a good place, get comfortable and want to stay there awhile and enjoy the moment, we leave the mission of Jesus behind. One of the things we have to understand and embrace is that comfort, convenience and personal preference have nothing to do with Jesus’ call on our lives. Jesus will always challenge us in our place of comfort. Jesus demands your unrestricted availability. He calls you to keep moving in mission and growing on the spiritual journey. We are called to be a people on the move so Jesus will always challenge us when we get comfortable.