This week at Impact on the campus at Indiana University South Bend, we spent some time looking at Luke 9:57-62.
“As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58 Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” 59 He said to another man, “Follow me.” But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” 60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 61 Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.” 62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
Out of Luke’s account there are three potential disciples that Jesus is speaking to. To the first one Jesus is very direct about the cost of discipleship. The path of a disciple is not an easy one. It will not be a path of comfort, it’s not all about miracles and food for 5000 people. Jesus is not at home in this world and as a disciple it puts in a tough position because as humans we like to fit in.
I read a blog last summer from another campus minister about his top 10 list of the things a typical college student struggles with. One of the top ten was the willingness to sacrifice the quality of community in order to find a place to belong!
When Jesus says to the second man, follow me, he gets a different response. THe second man’s request seems reasonable at first but the man’s response was not to obey Jesus as others immediately did but to make an excuse. He wanted to go bury his father.
Historical note… As far as I know it, burial at this time in Judaism was a year long process from the time the body was first buried until a year later when the bones of the deceased were placed in a ossuary box (facility for the storage of human bones). Though this was a basic family obligation, Jesus is teaching the priority of kingdom over family. In this I think Jesus making a play on words, perhaps with a bit of sarcastic humor when he says let the dead bury the dead, let the spiritually dead bury the physically dead. Either way, the man was laying out an excuse that would be a year long process and Jesus isn’t having any of it. Jesus is not saying that followers can never care for family obligations however it must be done out of obedience to Jesus not instead of obedience to Jesus.
As with the previous person, the third guy begins with a “but” I will follow You, Lord, but… Simply put, Jesus doesn’t allow room for anything to take precedence over his summons to discipleship. That seems to be the bottom line, what are the things in our life that gets in the way of choosing to be an all out disciple for Christ?
Now, the other thing that I began to wonder about is if Jesus was being very blunt in order to weed out people. You know, the one’s who would bail out when the going gets tough. You see, in the beginning of Luke 10, Jesus sends his disciples out in pairs without any provision. So maybe this is also a wake up call for us to realize that Jesus is saying it’s all or nothing. Your journey as a disciple could be tough and difficult, are you sure you are all in?