Last week I wrote about pursing Christ’s priorities (In His Zone). He is on a mission and He surrounds Himself with those who share His passion to see people saved. This same theme continues in this next section of the Gospel of Luke.
As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 10:57-62, ESV)
Many people reading this think that Jesus is being unduly harsh and uncaring. After all, what’s wrong with wanting to bury your father or saying goodbye to your family? The problem is that the folks in this passage are more focused on their own priorities and plans rather than His. There are two kinds of people described in this story, wha I call the “Hangers-on” and the “But-firsters.”
The first guy in this story represents the “Hangers-on.” These are the folks who like the spiritual or religious fun times. They like the miracles, the great worship conferences, the mountain top experience. For them following Christ is all about the party, the good times. But Jesus points out to him, and to us, that following Him is not all fun and games. Jesus Himself had no place to call His own, no place to lay His head, no big conference venue, no material success. Following Him meant understanding what you are getting into and that the path to glory passes through suffering. Sure there is glory; sure there is resurrection power, but first comes crucifixion. If we don’t understand that reality, then our faith will be weak and when tough times come, we risk folding under the pressure. That is not what Christ wants for us. His response to this man may seem harsh, but it is simply a reality check and many in the church today need to hear it.
The next two guys in this story represent the “But-firsters.” These are the folks who want to follow Christ in their own way and in their own time. Most commentators think that the man wanting to bury his father doesn’t mean that his father just died and needs burying, but he is telling Jesus to wait until sometime in the future when his father dies and then needs burying. He is consumed with the duties, expectations and responsibilities that this world lays on him instead of following hard after Christ. This man is caught up in what the world says is important. Jesus’ statement to him – and to us – is simple; people are in need of hearing the Kingdom message. People are dying spiritually. Don’t wait until you think you are “ready,” go now! You see, there will always be one more thing to do “first.” There will always be some duty or expectation that will be placed on you. Don’t fall for the “but-first” syndrome, pursue His priority.
And when you do, don’t look back. You can’t live in two worlds. You are either pushing forward or you are looking back at your old life and wishing or longing for that life again. Jesus says, either you’re in all the way or you’re not. Decide.
Does that seem harsh? Maybe. But I, as I said before, Jesus surrounds Himself with people who share His passion and I think He truly wants us to understand what he expects. He doesn’t do a bait-and-switch. He doesn’t trick us into the Kingdom. But once we’re in, we need to be totally focused on what He is calling us to – Kingdom living and His mission to save the world. So, are you in?