Summary: The need to be clear n our commitment to Jesus
What does the call to follow Jesus mean to you? Is it something you heard a long time ago and that’s now faded away as the years have gone by, or is it something that you hear afresh every day? Well, today we’re going to look at this passage from Luke’s gospel where the call to follow Jesus rings out clear and loud and we’ll see a number of different responses to that call.
Open up your bibles at Luke ch 9 if you haven’t already and look at v51. We’re told the time for Jesus to be taken up to heaven is approaching. Jesus had a clear sense of his purpose on earth. He knew that his time was short and that it wouldn’t be long before his work was complete. And he also knew that that work would come to it’s fulfilment in Jerusalem. So we’re told he set his face to go to Jerusalem. The NIV says he resolutely set out for Jerusalem. There’s an intentionality there that’s expressed quite strongly. He’s going to Jerusalem to fulfil God’s plan for him and for all humanity.
The Danger of Rejection
As he starts off, he approaches a Samaritan village and so he sends messengers ahead to prepare the way for him. No doubt they tell the people that Jesus is planning to stay there on his way to Jerusalem. Now if you know anything about the relationships between the Jews and the Samaritans at this point in history you’ll realise that this was a very gracious thing for Jesus to do. You see, what he was doing was including the Samaritans in his mission. He might well have bypassed them, but no, he sets out to stay with them, to include them in the fulfilment of God’s plan of salvation. But what is their response? They reject him. They don’t want to be part of anyone who’s set their face to go to Jerusalem. So here we see the first type of response to Jesus’ call to follow him, to join him on the way of the cross. One response of people to the call of Jesus is rejection. But not only do we see that, but we also see the danger of rejection. The danger of rejection isn’t what James and John, the Sons of Thunder, had in mind. It isn’t that God will strike us down on the spot. No, it’s more subtle than that, but nevertheless it’s just as daunting. The danger of rejection is that Jesus will let us have our way. He never forces us to accept him. He just goes on to another village. In other words, if you choose to ignore the call of Jesus, he’ll let you. That’s a bit scary isn’t it?
It’s a bit like the child who throws a tantrum. Some parents have learnt that the best way to deal with a tantrum is to walk out of the room. Why? Because when the child realises their bluff has been called they stop screaming. The aim of the tantrum is to get the parent to try harder to please the child. But if the child is left to scream without an audience they soon give up. Well, it’s a bit more serious when it comes to Jesus’ call. Those who reject Jesus find themselves, like that child, left alone, but what a terrible thing it must be to find yourself ignored by the living God, left to your own devices, without God to call on when you find yourself in trouble. But that’s what happens here. We’re told that they went to another village.
The Cost of Commitment.
So Jesus moves on and as he’s walking down the road someone comes up to him and says, "I will follow you wherever you go." Here’s someone who’s recognised Jesus as a great leader and who wants to follow him. But the only trouble is, he hasn’t really thought about what following Jesus entails. His is almost a flippant comment. A superficial desire to be in on the excitement of Jesus’ mission, without first considering the cost of commitment. But Jesus doesn’t want superficial commitment. He wants deep commitment based on a clear understanding of what following him entails. He says "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head." Elsewhere he tells his followers that to follow him entails taking up their cross. That is, being ready to die for Jesus sake. The call to follow Jesus isn’t an easy thing. It involves being at odds with the world, possibly at the cost of our lives.
The Priority of Commitment
But just because Jesus rebukes this man doesn’t mean he doesn’t want people to follow him. Because he then turns to another man and says to him "Follow me." This man understands what Jesus is asking but asks that he first be allowed to go and bury his father. That is, he’s asking if he can leave the decision to later, when his father’s died and he no longer has that family responsibility. But Jesus say, ’No, this is a call that takes first priority’. The Priority of Commitment to Jesus overrides even the priority of caring for your father. How many people are there who use their responsibility to their family as an excuse for not serving God with all their heart and soul and strength. How many people are there who use family responsibilities as an excuse for not worshipping regularly with God’s people? As an excuse for remaining fringe members of a congregation rather than active core members. But Jesus says, "Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God." The priority of commitment to Jesus comes about not just because Jesus is Lord of all, though that’s a good start. No, it also comes about because people are dying. When he talks of the dead burying the dead, he’s saying ’those who haven’t heard the gospel are as good as dead. They need the gospel to bring them back to life.’ What’s the point of caring for you father if in the end he suffers eternal death? A much better way to care for him is to proclaim the Kingdom of God to him. To tell him of Jesus’ offer of forgiveness and new life. The same applies to our next door neighbours, our brothers and sisters, our cousins and nephews and nieces. Telling them the good news of Jesus is by far the best way to care for them.