Third Sunday after Pentecost
Luke 9:51-62 New Living Translation (NLT)
As the time drew near for him to ascend to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. He sent messengers ahead to a Samaritan village to prepare for his arrival. But the people of the village did not welcome Jesus because he was on his way to Jerusalem. When James and John saw this, they said to Jesus, “Lord, should we call down fire from heaven to burn them up?” But Jesus turned and rebuked them. So they went on to another village.
As they were walking along, someone said to Jesus, “I will follow you wherever you go.”
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.”
He said to another person, “Come, follow me.”
The man agreed, but he said, “Lord, first let me return home and bury my father.”
But Jesus told him, “Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead! Your duty is to go and preach about the Kingdom of God.”
Another said, “Yes, Lord, I will follow you, but first let me say good-bye to my family.”
But Jesus told him, “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.”
This week we find ourselves in Luke’s gospel. Luke is about halfway through his account of Jesus’ life and starts today’s passage with this…As the time drew near for him to ascend to heaven…Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.
Each one of the gospel writers: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, write in a different way. Luke sets up Jesus on a journey, and that journey is to Jerusalem. Interestingly enough, Luke tells us that Jesus was going to go from Galilee to Jerusalem by way of Samaria. Apparently this was Jesus’ standard protocol, instead of the typical way the Jewish people did things. Samaria was a piece of land between Galilee and Jerusalem. Most Jews would end up avoiding Samaria altogether – they would cross over the Jordan, follow up the east bank until they passed Samaria and then cross the river again. John and Luke record Jesus going through Samaria. Now in this case the people of Samaria weren’t too fond of Jesus coming through. We don’t know exactly why, but Jesus’ people come back and tell him that Samaria doesn’t want him.
I was about to write that it must have been James and John (the Sons of Zebedee) or otherwise known as the Sons of Thunder, who wanted to call down fire from heaven to destroy the village – but then noticed Luke included this detail. Jesus rebukes James and John and tells them, we will go to another village.
This is where it gets interesting. First, a man approaches Jesus. He tells Jesus, I will follow you where ever you go. Jesus gives a very curious reply. He reminds him that the cost of following Jesus is very high – high enough that even though the animals of the earth have homes – the Son of Man (or Jesus) does not. Jesus is an itinerant preacher. His disciples follow Him where ever He goes. They might not even know where they are spending the night. As a pastor, we have had those times when we didn’t know where our next meal was coming from. Several years ago, we were between ministry assignments and we didn’t know what God had in store. The question is, are you willing to follow even when you don’t know the plan – even when you don’t know where you are going to lay down your head? Many Christ-followers around the world are not like us here in America – we have our religious freedom. There are Christ-followers who are fearing for their very lives simply because they follow Jesus. They don’t know if their house may be burned down – whether their children might be taken away – whether they might go to prison – but they follow. This is what Jesus was asking the first man to do – and he was unwilling.
Then instead of hearing how more show up to follow Jesus, we hear now that Jesus is asking others to follow Him. Jesus asks them to preach the Good News of the Kingdom. But again they have issues. They want to follow Christ, but are unwilling to pay the price. The first man says, “I will follow you, but I want to bury my father.” Now at first glance, Jesus’ response seems harsh, but Jesus knows this man’s father has not yet died. The man is not ready to pay the cost of leaving family. It’s a tough thing to leave family to preach the gospel. Pam and I have been there. We know what it feels like to pay that price.
Another man who was asked to preach the Good News said, “Let me say good-bye to my family.” Again Jesus’ response seems harsh, but this was an excuse to delay doing what every believer has been called to do and that is to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ at any cost. Every believer has been called by God to preach the Good News. For some, it may cost everything they have…for others it might be different. The cost for each person is different, but the call is the same. Are you willing to pay the cost of following Jesus – and the call to preach the Good News.