Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Jesus didn't make it easy, did he?

Luke 9:57-62 NASB

As they were going along the road, someone said to Him, "I will follow You wherever You go." And Jesus said to him, "The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head." And He said to another, "Follow Me." But he said, "Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father." But He said to him, "Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God." Another also said, "I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home." But Jesus said to him, "No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God."

My thoughts -

There are things I wish Jesus didn't say, there are things I really wish Jesus didn't say, and then there's this morning's passage. What I really need is a good theologian to explain that what I'm reading here isn't really what Jesus meant; that there are cultural issues or situational issues or some kind of contextual something that makes this passage a lot more palatable.

Barring some kind of a theological intervention this morning I'm stuck with this reality: Jesus did not make it easy to follow him.

That makes sense. When he called his disciples they left everything to follow him. Peter, James, and John left behind a thriving fishing business and the biggest catch of their lives, for instance. But they knew that what Jesus had to offer was better than anything in this world.

Jesus's ministry grew by leads and bounds early on. He had thousands come to hear him speak. They followed him everywhere. They wouldn't leave him alone. He was mobbed wherever he went. But those numbers dwindled until he had just a handful left at the end. He didn't reward the casual follower. His teaching was too demanding. He was too demanding.

But this passage here seems especially difficult to swallow. First, Jesus explains that following him is not a particularly comfortable lifestyle.

"The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head."

As a Christian I can say that I don't like what Jesus is getting at. We want to be like Jesus, but in a comfortable way. I know I want to be more like Jesus but I'd like a nice home, a reliable car, a steady paycheck, and the possibility of retirement some day. Jesus isn't offering these things, though. Jesus is letting this prospective follower know that the going is tough, even for the Son of God. Life is hard and there are no promises here that it will get any easier.

Where's my "name it and claim it"? Where's my "health and wealth". Where's my "the Lord wants you to prosper"? Theologically I don't like that doctrine but as a practicing Christian (and I'm getting better at it - ba-da-ching) I think I could learn to live with a unique material blessing from God, you know?

But the fun doesn't stop there. Jesus goes on to tell some other prospective followers that they can neither bury their dead nor even say goodbye to their loved ones. Like I said earlier, I'd love for a good theologian to explain that these things don't mean what they seem to mean. Bible scholars, get on this one please. And let me know what you find pretty quickly. Because I'm the kind of guy who just might look back after putting my hand to the plow.

And I'm pretty sure I'm not alone in that.

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