And so Jesus prepares to end his day and leave Capernaum. Following the morning of teaching Christ and his disciples began the walk back to the town of Capernaum. Remember that it was during that time that he was approached by the leper, whom he healed. And then as they came to the outskirts of town the Roman Centurion with the sick servant approached Jesus, and after Christ commended him for his faith he healed his servant. Then they arrived at Peter’s house for supper only to find Peter’s Mother in law was ill in bed and Jesus healed her.
After supper a number of people who were sick or demon possessed were brought to Jesus, and he cast out the demons and healed those who were sick. Not a bad days work. But it was time to move on, and so they headed for the beach where Peter kept his boat and it was as they prepared to head out across the Sea of Galilee that we witness the encounter that Karen read for us earlier.
Have you ever been captivated by a person? Bought into their vision and their dreams and wanted to hook your wagon to their star? And maybe you did, and maybe you didn’t or maybe you did for a little while. When I was a teenager I was enamoured with Pierre Trudeau, in retrospect I’m not sure if it was because I was truly committed to everything he believed in and everything he did, or I was just committed because it bugged my father so much. If you have to rebel politics is a fairly safe route to go.
And so in the story we see two separate people approach Jesus and pledge conditional allegiance to him. Kind of like the guy who wrote his girl friend and said “For you I’d climb the highest mountain, swim the deepest ocean, cross the hottest desert. Ps if it’s raining on Saturday I won’t be over.”
In this account there are two men with two stories but in Luke’s account there are three men with three stories and I know there are some folks who would point to this as a contradiction. Stop it! If we went to the same event and were both telling someone about the event do you think we would have identical stories? Perhaps you heard something that I completely missed because I was looking at something that you didn’t see.
Maybe Matthew had turned to talk to Peter when the third man spoke to Jesus, maybe he had made his way down to the boat or just wasn’t paying attention to the conversation at that point because it wasn’t relevant to him. I don’t know, but Matthew didn’t include him in his account so we are going to skip him for no other reason then it makes my job easier.
First let it be noted that Not Everyone Who Heard Jesus Followed Him. Many of the people who were in crowd on that hill in the morning had gone back to their daily lives. Jesus words were a brief interlude in their lives; perhaps he had given them something to think about but apparently for many of them it wasn’t a life changing experience.
And that would have tough for people like Peter and Matthew to understand. After all they had given up a lot in order to follow Jesus. In both cases they gave up their livelihoods, Peter was a fisherman and Matthew was a tax collector, I understand that tax collectors from 2000 years ago were not viewed with nearly as much respect or held in nearly as high esteem as tax collectors are today. But it was still a job, still put bread on the table and kept the wolf away from the door and Matthew left the tax booth in the same way that Peter had left his fishing boat.
And for them and for people like them they couldn’t understand why everyone didn’t respond in the same way.
Today we see the same thing, not everyone who hears the message of Jesus will choose to respond in a positive manner. And we can’t understand it. It make’s perfect sense to us, repent of your sins and be granted eternal life. Wow what a deal, and yet there are people who hear it and understand it but aren’t going to commit to it.
Why not? Haven’t got a clue. But I don’t feel bad when not everyone who hears Denn preach makes a life changing decision because not everyone who heard Jesus in person made the decision to follow him.
I was reading a novel by Frank Peretti a number of years ago and a new preacher in town was talking to one of the old timers and told him “We are going to take this community for Christ.” And the old guy, he would have been around my age, responded by saying something to the effect of “Really? Peter never took a community for Christ, Paul never took at community for Christ, not even Christ took a community for Christ.”
As a matter of fact listen to what Jesus says about Capernaum in general a little later in Matthew 11:23-24 “And you people of Capernaum, will you be honored in heaven? No, you will go down to the place of the dead. For if the miracles I did for you had been done in wicked Sodom, it would still be here today. I tell you, even Sodom will be better off on judgment day than you.”
It wasn’t that they were opening hostile to Christ, they didn’t drive him out of town or throw rocks at him or threaten to crucify him theirs was the sin of indifference. Christ just didn’t make a difference to them.
And as much as we’d like to think that everyone who hears the message of Christ will respond it just don’t work that way. And they all have reasons of why they have chosen not to follow him. But it is their choice and no one else can make it for them.
Second we need to understand that Not Everyone Who Says they Want to Follow Jesus Actually do. Throughout the gospels we have accounts of people who came to Jesus but apparently never continued in their journey or at least didn’t get very far.
Over the course of my ministry I can list scores of people who were all fired up, all gung-ho about following Christ who somewhere along the line decided maybe that wasn’t what they wanted to do after all. I wish that every person who had started down that path during the 13 year history of Cornerstone was still walking it today. And maybe it’s because they never really let go of the life they had.
Billy Sunday was a pro-baseball player in the states who became the greatest preacher of his time and he said “When a man starts to follow Christ and looks back it’s only a matter of time until he goes back”
Jesus had said something very similar in Luke 9:62 But Jesus told him, “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.”
And maybe sometimes it’s our fault for not being up front about what following Jesus will cost, maybe we are so anxious for people to sign on the dotted line that we don’t take the time out to explain all the terms and conditions. But then again maybe it wouldn’t matter even if we did.
How many people here own a computer? How many people have ever installed software on their computers? How many people have checked the little box that says you have read and agree with the terms and conditions of that particular software? Ok, here’s the question, how many of you have ever read the terms and conditions? I forget which piece of software it was that I installed but I checked the little box and then a dialogue box popped up that said something to the effect of “We know that you didn’t actually read it, but you are still bound by it.”
And folks that is the reality of following Jesus. By making that commitment you are agreeing with the terms and conditions as laid down in the bible. And it doesn’t matter if you never read them because you are still bound by them.
Jesus spells it out in Luke 14:27-28 And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple. “But don’t begin until you count the cost.” And then he gives a couple of examples of what that means, a man starting a building and running out of capital, a king declaring war against another king who had a superior army. And Jesus concludes by stating in Luke 14:33 “So you cannot become my disciple without giving up everything you own.”
You’re sitting there thinking “Where’s he going with this? Is he looking for money? All my money?” No, well not today. You see Jesus didn’t say unless you “give” everything you own, he said you “give up” everything you own. He meant that you had to loosen your grip on the stuff you own and more importantly on the stuff that owns you.
But there is a valid question there that needs a response, what is it that you’d willing give for the Kingdom? And more importantly what is it that you wouldn’t be willing to give up for the Kingdom?
And so as the disciples were readying the boat for the trip across the sea of Galilee two men came to Jesus wanting to follow him, and he said “No problem, but first you have to agree to the terms and conditions.” And then he told them what those terms were.
Let’s pick up where Karen was reading earlier Matthew 8:19 Then one of the teachers of religious law said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” This guy had probably been in the crowd while Jesus was teaching, probably weighing what Jesus had said and now he see’s Jesus is about to leave and he rushes down and proclaims, “Wait, Jesus, I will follow you wherever you go.”
That’s a pretty bold statement. He didn’t just say “I will follow you.” He said “I will follow you wherever you go.” “Through hell or high water Jesus, you just point me in the direction and turn me loose.” “You and me Jesus, you and me.”
Now we may not say that verbally but I’m sure that at some time in your Christian life you have expressed that type of sentiment to Jesus. Especially if you were in negotiating mode. “Lord if I survive this I will do anything you want me to do, work in a leper colony, move to Africa, give you everything I own, I’ll do anything, follow you anywhere.”
I don’t know what the first part of the conversation was maybe it was something like “If you bring my kid home safe” “If you give me that dream job” “If I get better from cancer” or “If the pregnancy test was wrong.” But I can almost imagine the promises that you made. And then it’s “You want me to do what? You want me to give how much? You want me to go where?”
And so Jesus told this man, who said “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” Matthew 8:20 But Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head.”
1) If you are going to follow Jesus You Will Have To Give Up Your Possessions. Again it’s not “give” it’s “Give Up.” It’s loosening our grip on the things we own and the things that own us. When we make spiritual decisions based on financial reasons we might not be using the best measure.
Jesus was very clear in Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. Who or what are you serving?
Maybe we need to adopt the prayer of David in Psalm 119:35-37 Make me walk along the path of your commands, for that is where my happiness is found. Give me an eagerness for your laws rather than a love for money! Turn my eyes from worthless things, and give me life through your word.
And in 1 Timothy we read the most misquoted scripture in the Bible, 1 Timothy 6:10 For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. (Did you catch that it’s not money that’s the root of all evil it’s the love of money.) And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.
You see the problem is that even though the desire for more money is based on the desire for security, it ends in nothing but stress. Because the more you have to keep the more you have to lose, and that will keep you up at night and give you ulcers.
This doesn’t mean you have to take a vow of poverty and give all you have to the church but hold onto to what you have loosely and remember the wisdom of billionaire J. Paul Getty who said “Money is like manure. You have to spread it around or it smells.”
Matthew 8:21-22 Another of his disciples said, “Lord, first let me return home and bury my father.” But Jesus told him, “Follow me now. Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead.”
2) If you are going to follow Jesus You Will Have To Give Up Your Priorities Now on first reading this sounds pretty callous. I mean all the guy wanted to do was go home to bury his father, how long would that have taken? And in the Jewish faith there was a certain obligation, especially if you were the first born.
Or maybe it was a promise that he had made his father, kind of like when Jacob died and Joseph sent a message to the Pharaoh, in Genesis 50:5 Tell him that my father made me swear an oath. He said to me, ‘Listen, I am about to die. Take my body back to the land of Canaan, and bury me in the tomb I prepared for myself.’ So please allow me to go and bury my father. After his burial, I will return without delay.” So why would Jesus deny this man something so simple yet so meaningful? How long could it take? Well not that long, if his father was really dead.
Remember that in the culture of the time the dead were buried right away, the day they died. And so I would wonder why the man was listening to Jesus in the first place instead of being with his family if his father had just died?
You see many commentators feel that what the man was saying was “I will follow you once my father is gone.” And he may not even of been sick, but to this man his priority was to take care of his earthly responsibilities first. And while that may seem noble it isn’t if it interferes with your commitment to God.
My children know what my wishes are for when I die. And I really hope that they do what I want, not that I will be able to do anything about it if they don’t.
But I don’t expect them to put their lives on hold until I die so they can fulfill their obligation and I would never want that obligation to stand in the way of their being obedient to God’s will in their lives.
And you have to understand that God will never call you to do something that will be detrimental to your family but you have to trust him. That’s why Jesus said in Matthew 6:33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.
The Kingdom needs to be your priority and there needs to be an urgency there that can’t be put off. We probably aren’t begging off serving Christ in order to bury a parent but what is there that stands in your way of being 100% sold out to Jesus?
“First let me establish my career.” “First let me retire” “First let me finish high school” or “First let me raise my family.” Maybe what we are saying is what Augustine said in his prayer “Lord make me good, but not yet.”
So what happened to these two men? We don’t know. The assumption is that the words of Christ turned them away. But we don’t know that, maybe we are projecting what our response would be to Christ.
But perhaps they took the words of Christ to heart, surrendered their possessions and their priorities and followed Jesus. But bottom line is this: Today it doesn’t matter what their response was but it will matter for eternity what your response is.
How will you spend your money and how will you spend your time? Nobody can make that decision but you and nobody will be held responsible for that decision but you.
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