Luke 9:57 As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58 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.” 59 To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” 60 But Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 61 Another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” 62 Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
The public appeal of following Jesus had tickled the ears of some people. Why not put yourself in the place of apostolic honor? It appears that it was easy to say that you would follow Jesus without really understanding the commitment. Jesus wasn’t calling followers who would be with him for a short period of time and then run back to their regular way of life. He was asking people to give up their regular way of life, putting it all behind and live in wholehearted commitment to the kingdom of God. There would be no turning back and all three sayings suggest an attitude of absolute commitment to following Jesus.
Basil of Caesarea suggests, “A person who wishes to become the Lord’s disciple must repudiate a human obligation, however honorable it may appear, if it slows us ever so slightly in giving the wholehearted obedience we owe to God.” (Concerning Baptism 1.1) Absolute commitment is what is required of those who will take up their cross and follow Jesus.
The excuses provided to Jesus could be translated into our modern context. There are plenty of people who would like to say that they are ready and willing to follow Jesus but then Jesus begins to explain what that commitment looks like.
What is our attachment to our material lives? My husband and I are at that point where we are continually evaluating the status of our retirement funds. It means that we look at our material lives in a different way and we wonder about the longevity of our resources. You also begin to look at the material in a different light. Do we really need the kind of house in which we live? What kind of a vehicle (and how many) do we really need? What is our attachment to our “things?” There are a number of folks who have experienced a total loss of their material goods in the last few weeks with Hurricane Matthew. If you were the one who had lost everything how would you react? Jesus is calling us to become unattached to our materialism and become free to be engaged in the work of the kingdom.
Burying the dead was considered the highest priority for a family member. Jesus steps on toes again when he says that the kingdom is even more important than that which you think is the most important.
Basil’s comment strikes and interesting chord. Sometimes the things to which we believe we are called seem pretty important in the eyes of the world. We can begin to tell ourselves that we are needed in a particular position because from there we will be able to make a difference. Absolute commitment to Jesus means that positions lose their appeal as we live into the kingdom and the kingdom alone. We don’t look back and we don’t imagine the good we could have done when heading a different direction. It may not make sense to anyone around and yet, you live into the life of discipleship — wherever that may lead. This is absolute commitment to following Jesus.
Lord, may the things of this world grow strangely dim. Amen.