The Sermon for Sunday, June 26th, the Second Sunday after Trinity

The Lessons: Psalm 16; 1 Kings 19:15-21; Luke 9:51-62

The Text: Luke 9:57-62


In 1996 Disney came out with the movie 101 Dalmatians, and it was a box-office success. Many viewers fell in love with the cute spotted puppies on the big screen and decided to get one for themselves. When they brought those adorable little puppies home, however, they found that living with a dalmatian is an entirely different experience from watching one on the movie screen. Soon, according to the Associated Press, all over the United States dog shelters saw a dramatic increase in the number of dalmatians being abandoned by their owners. A Florida organization called Dalmatian Rescue took in one hundred thirty dalmatians in the first nine months of 1997; usually they get that many dogs in two and a half years.

Dalmatians can be a challenge to own for several reasons. Dalmatians grow to be big dogs, weighing as much as seventy pounds. They are rambunctious and require a lot of exercise. They can be moody, becoming restless and even destructive if they don’t get enough activity. They shed year-round, and ten percent of dalmatians are born deaf.

Tracey Carson, a spokeswoman for the Wisconsin Humane Society, says, “Although Dalmatians are beautiful puppies, and can be wonderful dogs, you have to know what you’re getting into.”[1]

In the second half of our Gospel Lesson today is a passage containing the replies of Jesus to three possible disciples, who did not know what they were getting into, nor how costly it is to be a disciple of Christ. These brief conversations take place on the road to Jerusalem, just after the Apostles James and John have been rebuked by Jesus for offering to call down fire on a village of the Samaritans that refused to give him accommodation because he was on his way to Jerusalem.


The first of these would-be disciples asserts that he will follow Jesus wherever he goes (Luke 9:57). To this the Lord Jesus gives the reply, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man hath not where to lay his head” (Luke 9:58b, KJV). This is an antithetical parallelism, in which a contrast is drawn between the fact that foxes and birds have homes and the fact that Jesus himself in his earthly life has no permanent home in Israel. Why did Jesus contrast his homelessness to the homes God provides for foxes and birds? There is possibly a deeper contrast here. Foxes were known for their cunning. There is even an English proverb “When the fox has once got in his nose, he’ll soon find means to make the body follow.” Though the foxes have their foxholes, the Son of Man, the Lord Jesus Christ, lived a life with hardly any opportunity to rest, because he was so often on the road. There is a sense here that the Lord’s obedience to God leads him into a kind of homelessness which foxes never face. Similarly, though birds that travel great distances when they migrate, find trees to perch in for the night, the Lord has nowhere to lay his head. Now we do not know what effect Jesus’ reply had on this would-be disciple. But we can learn from it that being a disciple of Jesus might mean that one does not have a comfortable home in the same city for the rest of one’s life. It might mean that one travels from place to place preaching the Gospel, as St. Philip the Deacon and Evangelist did before he settled in Caesarea (Acts 21:8).

To another, the Lord gives the command, “Follow me,” and the man asks the Lord to give him permission first to bury his father (Luke 9:59). Either the man’s father has just died, and he must fulfill his filial duty of burying his father, or his father is perhaps old and near death, and the son wants enough time to take care of arranging the funeral before making a total commitment to the Lord to follow him. Jesus’ reply that the man should let the dead bury their own dead may sound callous, but it is not, when one considers the second part of Jesus’ reply, “But go thou and preach the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:60b, KJV). The Lord is not simply calling the man to physically follow him, but to follow Him by doing what He is doing, proclaiming the kingdom of God. There are enough people, Jesus implies, to take care of such things as funerals, who will never believe in Him, and never turn from their sinful way of life. The “dead” in the first instance are those who never will repent but remain dead in their sins. These can take care of those among their number when they die physically. The significance of this saying is that obedience to the Lord to follow him and proclaim the kingdom of God is far more important than the affairs of one’s family.

The third would-be disciple affirms that he will follow Jesus but asks to be allowed to say goodbye to his family. Here, instead of Elijah’s reply to Elisha, “Go back again: for what have I done to thee?” (1 Kings 19:20c, KJV), Jesus answers that no-one who sets his hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God (Luke 9:62). This is a harsh answer, but again it shows the priority of God’s kingdom. After all, the ploughman cannot plough straight if he is not looking ahead and concentrating on what he is doing.

The last two replies of Jesus to these followers confirm these words of the Lord about the cost of discipleship:

If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.

(Luke 14:26, KJV)

In this saying, the word “hate” is not to be understood literally, but that the disciple’s love for the Lord Jesus Christ must be so great that his love for his family pales in comparison.


Many Christians today underestimate the loyalty they should show to the Lord Jesus Christ, and somehow think that they can live their lives as if they lived fully in this world and were not waiting for the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ with great joy! If we were all aware of our citizenship in God’s eternal kingdom, it would dramatically change the way we live now! How will you live to be ready to do whatever the Lord Jesus Christ calls you to do in this world?

[1] p. 323, Craig Brian Larson and Leadership Journal: 750 Engaging Illustrations for Preachers, Teachers, and Writers. Grand Rapids, Michigan: BakerBooks, 2002, 2008.


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