The end of Luke 9 is entitled, “The Would Be Followers of Jesus.”
Reading it you’ll see there have always been people interested in Jesus. Many were curious about him. Some even said they were willing to follow, but it was on their terms. YES they would come; ‘But… first….”
Their buts got in the way. Of putting Jesus first. I don’t want to be a Wanna Be. Let’s check them out.
57 As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ Matthew’s gospel tells us this young man was a scribe. A religious scholar from the wealthy nobility in Israel. He was a comfortable theorist. He’d seen Jesus do miracles and likes his style of teaching so he declares “I’ll be a follower.” Now in lots of our churches we’d snap his hand off and sign him up on that basis. When you are looking for any warm body to fill a rota you can take people at their word and at face value and give them responsibility they are not ready for.
Not everybody is as ready as they think or say they are.
At our recent Catalyst Community I talked to leaders looking to plant hundreds more churches how sometimes I have got this wrong. I have seen a need on Floor 5, but rather than ‘take the steps’ I’ve seen someone who looked great on the ground floor (doing what they wanted and liked), so I put them in the elevator and pressed 5 – into a role or responsibility they were either not right or not ready for.
It’s not fair on them and it doesn’t work for anyone. We have to challenge people (Jesus did!) that the ‘higher’ you go in leadership actually means going lower. Rights go down and responsibilities go up. It means to serve more, and doing the things you don’t always like. The one who serves most, leads most.
So Jesus challenged the Comfortable Theorist –
58 Jesus replied, ‘Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’ In other words “Really? Will you follow me when there’s no guarantee of comfort?”
59 He said to another man, ‘Follow me.’
This time – Jesus does the inviting – wow – imagine the privilege of the moment. The King of kings, personally calling him! Of course he does this to you and me.
But he replied, ‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father.’
Notice he’s saying ‘LORD – BUT.. FIRST…” Who’s really Lord? Who’s in charge? How often do we put it off rather than put our best foot forward?
Rick Warren says we can waste our lives on a place called “Someday Isle.” One day I’ll get really serious for God. Some day when I retire or the kids grow up, then I’ll be all in. But first…
We hear his excuse and think ‘Fair enough – his Dad just died, he has a funeral to arrange.’ Not so. His father was probably alive and kicking. This Jewish idiom could mean, ‘Let me get my inheritance now.’ Remember the prodigal son asked for it early? ‘I will follow – but FIRST, I need to get my security sorted out, I have to be sensible….’ (not sold out).
The way the Amplified Bible translates Jesus’ reply is, ‘Let the (spiritually) dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’
Somebody is reading this and you know you have been putting off what God says you should be getting on with. The best time to do it would have been a few years ago, but the next best time to start is right now!
61 Still another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord; but first – What’s first this time? – let me go back and say goodbye to my family.’ This is a similar excuse. “Let me set my affairs in order first. I have things to do, people to see, then I’m all yours…”
62 Jesus replied, ‘No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit (ready) for service in the kingdom of God.’
Of course family is a good thing, as long as it doesn’t get in the way of what matters most. Don’t we really know if we put Jesus first and do what matters most to him, he’ll take care of who and what matters to us? And he’ll do it better.
We need focus to follow. Don’t look back or around. Crack on!
Then we read onto Luke 10 and find, “After this (after what? After them. After those three ‘wannabes’ ) the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go.”
I want to be one of the others.
And I’ll write about that in the next blog.
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