Please read Luke 9:57-62 – Following Christ – what does it mean?
Ask the Holy Spirit for help in understanding God's Word.
V57. I will follow you.
As they are travelling, someone, Matthew identifies him as a scribe, Matthew 8:19, offers to follow Jesus wherever he will go. What a wonderful statement of commitment. Exactly the type of investment of one's life that Jesus was seeking. It is a perfect example of the type of commitment the church so desperately needs today as it struggles with the 'I'll see what I can do, when I get the chance, and if nothing else needs my attention' approach of so many today to community life. Yes and No. You note that Jesus neither accepts nor declines the man's offer. Instead, he goes to the heart of the issue. The offer to follow is great, but only so if it is made after serious consideration.
There is a cost to following Christ. There is always a cost to following Christ. There is always more of a cost than one thinks when one chooses to follow Christ. In his response, Jesus, in a few words, speaks to that cost as it relates to having to make choices so that you can engage in whatever he has for you to do.
The creatures of the earth have a place to live, but Jesus, the Son of Man, because of the daily demands of his work, frequently choose to forsake the comforts of his home. We need to be careful here though; the issue isn't physical deprivation. Jesus didn't live in squalid poverty; he was well cared for in many ways. It is about the choices he made to deprive himself of an easier life, marked by a greater degree of comfort. Jesus is saying to this man, and to us, 'you want to follow me, great, but are you prepared to make the choices necessary? Choices, which will mean that you will have to forgo an approach to life where your personal comfort, and it's not simply about sleeping in your own bed, the application is much wider than that, will have to come second. Essentially, are you prepared to be all in, or only in when it's convenient for you. We're not told whether the man chose to follow Jesus or not. It would be interesting to know. The question, though, is where are you at in your thinking regarding following Jesus? Have you considered whether it's a 'following which accommodates personal comfort', or one which says, 'I have considered it, and I am willing to sleep wherever I am asked.' There is a vast difference. The church needs more of the latter.
v59. Follow me.
Whereas the scribe had taken the initiative and said to Jesus that he was going to follow him, this time it is Jesus who asks a man to follow him, literally 'be following me'. While the scribe was keen and had to be cautioned to consider the demands, this man is over-cautious and wants to delay making a decision. The man's request to go and bury his dead father has been taken up by commentators in two ways.
Some have seen it as the man saying that he must wait until his alive father dies before he can commit. The thinking is that if the man's father had died that day, the man wouldn't have been with Jesus, he would already have gone home. The Jews generally bury their dead without delay, if possible, on the same day and if not then, certainly the next day. The idea that the man is still with Jesus, even though his father has died, is questioned on the basis that the man would surely have gone home to help with the imminent funeral arrangements. Hence the conclusion that when asked to follow Jesus, the man is prevaricating and responds, 'well, let me wait until I get my family affairs sorted first.'
The other explanation is that the man's father had just died, and the man is asking what it says, to go home and bury him. Leon Morris writes, "The Jews counted proper burial as most important. The duty of burial took precedence over the study of the Law, the Temple service, the killing of the Passover sacrifice, the observance of circumcision and the reading of the Megillah." (The Megillah is the name for a scroll, and it refers to one of five books of the Old Testament, namely Song of Solomon, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and Esther, which are read on certain Jewish special days.) So burial was a big thing in Jewish culture, as it is in ours.
Surely this is a wholly credible request to make, given its import in the culture, let alone the fact that it is the man's father and not an extended family member. Jesus is bound to agree to it. His response says otherwise. 'Let others bury your father.' 'Let those who do not understand the nature and worth of the kingdom of God attend to such affairs.' 'Let your concern be about matters of eternal significance, about heaven.' And so, Jesus charges the man, "go and proclaim the kingdom of God." The call to bury one's father is among the strongest anyone can experience, but for Jesus the call to serve in the Kingdom of God supersedes everything, without exception, and for good reason, not everyone has been called to it. The church needs men and women who understand this. The idea of voluntarism has crept slowly into the life of the Bride. The norm is, commitment as it suits, convenience participation and service. Leaders feel that they need to pander to people to keep them on board. Godly men and women who understand what it means to serve regardless of the cost are in the minority. The prevailing thinking is – the church should count itself 'lucky' that I do as much as I do when I can.
Christ knows none of this. He gave his all, in obedience to the Father. He "who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." Philippians 2:6-8. We are blessed beyond all measure to have been made alive in Christ. The idea that he would then call us to serve him in his Bride for the good of others and the glory of his name is beyond all comprehension. The thought that we will do, what we can, when it works for us, is what?
V61. I will follow you.
Like the scribe who offered to follow Jesus, this man does likewise, but with the request that he goes home and sorts out his affairs first. Again, not an unreasonable request. One could argue that, in fact, it is a prudent one, given how Jesus had responded to the scribe.
The problem is that it won't work. People tend not to let those whom they love to leave them. When this man goes home and tells his family his intentions, he's going to be confronted with reasons why he shouldn't do what he is suggesting, even though it is highly commendable. And when presented with those reasons, he is going to find it hard to follow through on his stated commitment. Family and friends are great, but too often, they can be the greatest hindrance to our doing what we should. They have their reasons, and they may be good solid reasons, but in the face of our call to serve Christ, they should amount to nothing. Jesus' response states that succinctly. Our focus should be on the task in hand, and we should be looking forward to what Christ will do in and through us, for the good of others in his Bride and his glory.
I have a lot to give my parents thanks for. But the thing I am most thankful for is the fact that they have always let me go to serve the Lord. From my teenage years they have always said to me, 'go and be about the King's business'. Two and a half years ago, I got the Call to become the minister in Ottawa; I remember travelling to Northern Ireland to tell my parents, who are in their eighties. I will never forget it. After I told them that I would be accepting it, there was silence. And then after what seemed like an eternity, with tears in his eyes my Father said, "son we love you and we will miss you, Heather and the weans (the children) but you go and serve the Lord as you have always done, with everything you have." I thank God that he blessed me with parents who have given me many things, not least the gift of freedom to serve their and my Lord, wherever he has called. It has been a gift I will be eternally thankful for.