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.”
Three men. Three situations. The responses.
Man #1 – The bold promiser comes to Christ with words of commitment
One approaches Christ with a promise to follow him “wherever He goes”. Christ’s response is so wise and powerful yet simple, like a father patting an over zealous child on the head in response to an over committed statement. Yes, Christ would face persecution, and this man may not have been ready to cash the check that His words were writing. But more importantly, Christ would not be remaining in a hole (a tomb); He would not be like a bird that flies for a short time but has to rest upon the earth; He would not lay His head down and sleep the sleep of death; so He knew this man could not fulfill His promise to follow Christ “wherever you go”.
Yes, this man receives a rebuke. Because he was not called by Christ. This man came to Christ, foolishly making promises that he could not keep. This is vanity.
Man #2 – Jesus calls and sends one to preach
This man is called by Christ to “Follow me”. The man’s immediate concern is obedience to the law. He knew that to obey, it was his responsibility to fulfill his family obligations. Christ’s response to this man is not a rebuke, but a revealing of the wonders of grace. He demonstrates with His instruction to ” Go thou forth and preach the Kingdom of God”, that the authority of Jesus Christ’s call provides the full and complete revelation of God’s will, while the law was only a shape of what was to come.
You see, grace is not just the gift of salvation, it is the call upon our life to discipleship. It is the authoritative call of Christ upon our life that moves us to the undeniable action of following Christ. The focus on obedience and repentance comes with the call. And we are sent out to share the gospel.
Man #3 – Offers to follow but under certain conditions
Now this man did not make the same prideful mistakes as the first man, because he comes to the Lord with quite a pragmatic approach. I imagine this man would be quite the lawyer or mediator or salesman. He comes to Jesus Christ, God come in the flesh, to make deals. He offers to follow Christ, but immediately counters his own offer with a “but”.
And this man receives a rebuke, as Jesus points out that no one that looks back is fit for the kingdom.
What’s the deal?
So many of us will look at the two men #1 and #2 and we might be just like the disciples when they wondered –
Those who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?” But he said, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”
You see, the point – in fact the whole point of the gospel and of the whole Bible – is to teach us that it isn’t up to us, that we cannot do this or earn this on our own, that it is in God’s hands, not our own. Once we truly grasp this, we have laid our hands upon the beginning of the fear of God.
And the fear of God leads to wisdom, because it results in us seeking God. It results in us listening to Him. It results in us finding His will instead of trying to fit our own will into the confines of what we think will be acceptable to God.
You see, #1 and #3 were trying to find ways to follow their own path and still be found acceptable to God. I venture to guess they were motivated either by the promise of rewards or the fear of judgement/punishment. And that is not a called life as a disciple and follower of Christ – that is a hired hand playing religion for their own gain.
But #2 was called by Christ -“”Follow me”.
And #2 was identified by Christ as living, even as Christ acknowledged the difference between him and the still dead around him, “Let the dead bury their dead”.
And #2 was given instruction to go preach.
You see, when Christ in His authority calls us, we obey. Our focus shifts, our perspective changes.
So we should ask ourselves –
Have I been coming to the Lord making promises trying to earn favor?
Have I been coming to the Lord trying to work out a deal to save myself from destruction?
Or am I surrendered and seeking His will, knocking until He answers, waiting for the call?
Or am I called and serving Him?
It isn’t just mincing words, because empty religious practice doesn’t buy us a ticket to heaven. And we can’t trade an offer of works to pay our way out of punishment.
What do I do?
Be still, and know that He is God.
Stop talking so much and listen.
Hear His call.
His call is more critical than just your calling His name.
Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
Yes, the path really does matter. Find Him and walk it.
Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.
Hear the call, bear your cross, laborer for Christ –
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
Share the gospel, share His love, in your actions and deeds and even in your words.
So that others too might find and know truth, might hear the call, might be called and chosen by the Lord for His Holy use. So that His name will be lifted high in glory and honor.