Disciples of Jesus follow him but not everyone makes it as a disciple. Following Jesus in the days of Jesus was witnessed in a literal following of Jesus, that where Jesus went the disciples followed. We don’t do this today, so what does it mean to follow Jesus today. It means to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, it involves work, it means that we will be committed to the words and meaning of those words that are spoken by Jesus. While this interaction between three men and Jesus seems short and to the point it highlights the costs of following Jesus and how those cost will always be understood once we have understood what it really means to follow Jesus. To address this is the form of a question, we could ask “how costly is it for you to be a Christian?”
Summary of Luke 9:57-62
Jesus has just been rejected in a Samaritan village; they did not receive him because his face was turned to Jerusalem. We could spend some time here looking at the relationship between the Samaritans and the Jews and why the Samaritans might have responded this way, trying to discover the reason for their rejection of Jesus. But understanding their rejection of Jesus wouldn’t change the fact that they have rejected Jesus.
What follows v57 is a man who seeks to be a follower of Jesus and what comes to mind immediately is why we would want to follow a person who is rejected by many, most people would be able to conclude that they too would be rejected by the same people because of their associated with Jesus. But is this man willing to follow Jesus whatever the cost. The second man v59 doesn’t ask to follow Jesus but is called by Jesus, emphasising the importance of making the decision to follow and where this decision will sit alongside all other decision we will have to make, like our obligations to those who are not saved. The third man v61, says he will follow, however the “but let me first” allows us to see what people will place in front of making any decision to follow Jesus.
Being fit for the kingdom is costly and these costs are tied to what it means to be a follower of Jesus, to proclaim the kingdom and be involved in kingdom work. Not every person will be a disciple of Jesus and not every decision to be a disciple will result in following.
I will follow you wherever you go
The first man in seeking to follow Jesus is both bold and confident, perhaps too confident. But will he still desire to follow Jesus after Jesus points out to him that he is asking to follow a homeless man, foxes have their holes and the birds of the air have their nests but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head. This man is too quick in his desire to follow and he hasn’t counted the cost and he must because any person who puts his hand to the plough and turns back is not fit for the kingdom of God. The point that Jesus is making is that to be a follower we should be willing whatever it costs us. Jesus is saying that the costs we are willing to pay are what will determine whether we will continue or turn back.
Follow me and leave the dead
Jesus calls a man to fool him and he desires to bury his father first, Jesus responds, let the dead bury their own dead. Go instead and proclaim the kingdom. Is this man trying to excuse himself, what he is asking doesn’t seem to be unreasonable but we will always have desires that we think are not unreasonable for putting kingdom work further down our list of things to do. Jesus says it comes first. In other words whatever can prevent a person from following Jesus today can cause them to turn back in the future? If the first man was too quick to follow then this man is too slow and he does not see the urgency. If the first man failed to see the costs of following, then this second man fails to see the importance of kingdom work.
But let me first say goodbye
The third man asks if he can first say good bye to his family and he just might be the shrewdness of all three and the one who uses one part of scripture as a reason for not fulfilling another part. When Jesus spoke the words “you have heard it said but I say unto you”, he is addressing the interpretation of the word of God in his day. The lesson is a simple one, not every interpretation of the bible is valid and not every valid interpretation of the bible is equal. This man might just be aware of how Elisha was given permission by Elijah to say farewell (1 King 19), but as we have seen from our reading of the transfiguration, that Jesus is greater than Elijah and whom God has told us to listen to. The man’s request is valid but it is not equal, because Jesus is greater than Elijah.
If the first man was too quick to follow not having counted what the costs were and the second is to slow not understanding the seriousness, then this third man fails to see the priority, perhaps placing his preferred understanding of the bible above the demands that Jesus actually makes of his followers.
To be a follower of Jesus means that we will be involved in kingdom work, discipleship takes precedence over everything else. Yet too often we think that our reasons for prioritising the way we do, which may be valid are equal to the demands that Jesus makes. But I what way have our hands remained on the plough? Kingdom work is not like any other kind of work, it costs us to be involved rather than paying us. It makes demands that are not equal to other demands made on our lives, which we believe to be valid. It takes priority because the eternal is of greater importance than this temporal age. The costs we associate with following Jesus will be determined by what we think following Jesus looks like and often like this last man in particular we may want to do both and so we will have to order them, but there is only one way to order them, Jesus must come first, seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness is the command.
Some are too quick to follow and haven’t really counted the cost, others are two slow and fail to see the urgency and others still think that they will get around to doing it, failing to see its value. But given who it is that we are called to follow and who it is that is speaking the cost of not following must also must also be considered.