The Lessons: 2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14, Galatians 5:1, 13-25, Luke 9:51-62
Text: Luke 9:57-62
Theme: The Cost of following Jesus
On a Sunday morning in January 2006, five young men attacked and threatened to kill a Protestant church leader in Turkey. Kamil Kiroglu, twenty-nine, had just left his church in Adana when he was ambushed and beaten so severely that he fell unconscious twice.
“They were trying to force me to deny Jesus,” Kiroglu said. “But each time they asked me to deny Jesus and become a Muslim, I said, ‘Jesus is Lord.’ The more I said, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ the more they beat me.” One of the attackers pulled out a long knife and threatened to kill Kiroglu if he did not deny his Christian faith and return to Islam. Kiroglu refused.
After the incident, he said, “I am praising God – not because he saved me from death, but because he helped me not to deny him in the shadow of death.”
– “Convert Christian Beaten Unconscious,” Compass Direct (January 20, 2006)
The cost of being a Christian is high, and for many, extremely high.
SOME OF JESUS’ SAYINGS ABOUT THE COST OF BEING A DISCIPLE
All of Jesus’ sayings about discipleship in our Gospel Lesson today lay emphasis on the cost of being a disciple of Christ.
“Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head” (Luke 9:58, KJV) is the first of these sayings. It was his reply to one man’s promise to follow Jesus wherever he goes. Why did Jesus try to put him off? Is this saying really tantamount to a rejection of a false profession of loyalty? This saying is antithetical. On the one hand are the foxes and their holes, the birds and their nests, and on the other, the Son of man with nowhere permanent on earth to call his home. The implication is that to follow Christ, some people may be called at times into a way of life which doesn’t support settling down and buying a home. Notice that Jesus didn’t compare himself to human beings by declaring, “King Herod has a palace, and the Roman Governor has a garrison, but the Son of man has nowhere to live.” He was contrasting his own way of life to that of animals and birds. He was not even blaming God for his situation of apparent homelessness at least in the latter stage of his ministry. Those who claim that Jesus was materially rich on earth often overlook this verse!
What are the implications of this saying for the Christian disciple? Obedience to Christ, following Him, fulfilling His words, means that one must be willing and prepared to face a hard life, in which one will find oneself with no permanent home on earth. Like Jesus, we may at times find ourselves with no place on earth to make our permanent home, no place of rest. We think of missionaries who are sent out to lands far from their original homeland, or of pastors and preachers who may have to go to all kinds of places to preach God’s word or to take up pastoral work, but never have any place where they can stay permanently on this earth.
The saying, “Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:60, KJV). Jesus had called someone to follow him, but the man first wanted time to bury his father. If the man’s father had just died, the man would have been busy with the funeral arrangements already, and not had time to be among the crowds with Jesus. This was an excuse which meant something like, “Let me wait a few years until my father has died and I have done my duty as a son and buried him. Then I shall follow you.” This may have looked like an acceptable reason for not becoming a disciple right then, but Jesus calls on him to “let the dead bury their dead,” which means to allow those who are spiritually dead to take care of this duty, when the time comes, but to go now and preach the kingdom of God, because that is a call that is urgent. What does this mean for the Christian today – that we should neglect our families? By no means, but duty to the family must never override obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ and to doing His will and proclaiming His kingdom.
The third saying may strike us as hard – “No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” Is a man not allowed even to say goodbye to his family before becoming a disciple of Christ? Notice that even the prophet Elijah allowed Elisha, whom he had called to be a prophet, the time to say farewell to his family (1 Kings 19:19-21). But the call of the Lord Jesus Christ is far greater than the call of Elijah. The saying again underscores the priority of loving God even above family priorities. Ploughing in the ancient world was not done by tractor, but by a hand plough pulled by oxen. If you did not look straight ahead of you, you would plough a crooked furrow. Today, of course, if you don’t look ahead of you and drive straight, when you’re driving the tractor, you will plough a few crooked furrows!
The Sunday School teacher was telling the children that Lot’s wife turned into a pillar of salt when she looked back, and a boy replied that when his mother was driving, she looked behind her and turned into a telephone pole.
The image of the plough reminds us that living the Christian life must be a higher priority than even our family relationships. Sometimes, if one’s family tries to interfere with one’s obedience to Christ, one may have to leave one’s family, or disregard their advice on matters that conflict with Christ’s call. If I had listened to my father and mother’s advice on the matter of my calling, I would never have studied for the ordained ministry.
In conclusion, where do you stand in your following of the Lord Jesus Christ? Do you let other things, other people, even family members, carry a higher priority than the Lord Jesus Christ? When it comes to a conflict of loyalties between Christ and anyone or anything else, where do you stand? Do you stand with Christ?