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Who Will Follow Jesus?

The Lord Jesus Christ never concealed from His disciples the high cost of following Him. He talked plainly of the demands of discipleship to Him (Matt. 16:24-26; 19:21; Luke 14:25-33). He made it clear that those who followed Him during His ministry on earth would suffer physical, social, and mental hardship. However, He also promised great rewards that would exceed any sacrifice made in His service for the sake of the kingdom of God (Matt. 19:27-30).

In Luke 9:57-62, conversations between Jesus and three prospective followers reveal how demanding discipleship to Him would be. Consider these three exchanges:

As they were going along the road, someone said to Him, "I will follow You wherever You go." And Jesus said to him, "The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head." And He said to another, "Follow Me." But he said, "Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father." But He said to him, "Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God." Another also said, "I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home." But Jesus said to him, "No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God."

In the first exchange, Jesus alluded to the hardship of following Him. Christ's way of life on earth was difficult, and the one who was committing himself to follow Jesus needed to know what was in store for him. If he was going to follow Jesus wherever the Lord went, then he would have to radically change his life. Jesus had "nowhere to lay His head," and His disciples would be in the same predicament. This did not mean that they would sleep on the open ground every night, but rather they would not know from day to day where they might sleep. Following Jesus in this manner would require a great measure of faith, trust, and courage.

In the second exchange, Jesus demanded that the kingdom of God must be the highest priority for His followers. To put this in perspective, consider carefully what Jesus said. To a man who wished to bury his father, the Lord said, "Allow the dead to bury their own dead." The Jews buried their dead on the same day they passed away, so this man's father very likely died on this same day. If any of us was to demand that a person neglect the burial of his father on the day of his father's death, then we would certainly be considered cold and heartless. However, Jesus was not without compassion, but rather He was assigning the kingdom of God to its rightful position as the most important priority for His disciples. The spiritually dead who were outside of God's kingdom could tend to burying the physically dead, but followers of Jesus had more important work to do, which was to preach the kingdom.

Finally, Christ's words to the third man demonstrate the complete and final commitment that must be made by His followers. Again, the demands of Jesus may appear to be rather cold, but it by no means was a lack of compassion. No one had more compassion on people than Jesus (see Matt. 9:36). Instead, this was a way of communicating to His prospective followers the requirements for citizenship in the kingdom of God. Once a person commits to be a disciple of Jesus, he must not go back or even have second thoughts about his commitment. Just as a man who guides a plow will fail to furrow a straight row if he looks back, so also a follower of Jesus will fail in his work if his heart still yearns for the old way of life he left behind. This new commitment to Jesus affects all things, including the relationships a disciple has with his own family (see Matt. 10:34-37).

Having considered these conversations, let us ask ourselves: Are we really ready to follow Jesus? Understand that the point of Luke 9:57-62 is not that following Jesus requires a vow of poverty, absence from funerals, or neglect of family. In fact, followers of Jesus have the responsibilities to work and be good stewards of God's material things (Acts 5:4; Eph. 4:28; 1Thess. 4:11; 2Thess. 3:6-15), to show compassion to those who mourn (John 11:33-36; Acts 9:36-39; Rom. 12:15), and to care for their own families (Matt. 15:3-6; Eph. 6:1-4; 1Tim. 4:4, 8; Tit. 2:4-5). All of this and much more is to be done by followers of Jesus because they have complete trust in the Lord, they have placed the kingdom of God and His righteousness as their first priority (Matt. 6:33), and they have completely committed themselves to Christ's service. Truly, the point of Luke 9:57-62 is that the choice to follow Jesus must be a complete and total commitment to Him and His will today. This is a sharp contrast to those who attempt to follow Jesus in a casual way without transforming their lives into conformity with His gospel. So then, are we ready to make that level of commitment and transformation for the Lord? If not, then we are not ready to follow Him.

Stacey E. Durham




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