Follow Me: Clarity in the Call
June 26, 2022 | Follow Me: Encountering Jesus| Luke 9:51-62
Most of us who regularly attend church would describe ourselves as followers of Jesus. Those who may not, at least have an idea of what that means, right? We may call ourselves, Christians, maybe disciples, but at the end of the day, Jesus’ consistent call was to follow him. That is the call in our text today, both implicitly by the way people approached him and explicitly when he looks at someone and says, you, follow me. The problem is when we take his call to follow him, with all of its implications and demands and we try and make it easier, or try to make it more palatable, we try to make easy what Jesus never did. As a matter of fact, what we find in our text today is that Jesus never shied away from the difficulty of following him, he never lessened the demands of following him, and he never allowed anyone to follow him without declaring what it meant for them. So this morning, I want us to look at what Jesus said concerning what it means to follow him in Luke chapter 9.
The context of this passage in Luke is two-fold. The first is missional, found in verse 51 of chapter 9 Luke 9:51 (ESV) 51 When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. This is a turning point in Luke’s Gospel. From this point forward, although he travels to and from Jerusalem his focus is on his final approach that will take him to the cross.
The second is situational. He is about to send out the seventy-two disciples to go ahead of him in groups of two as messengers. To heal, to proclaim the kingdom of God, and to make Christ’s intention of visiting them shortly known, recorded in chapter 10 of Luke’s gospel.
So what we find here is Jesus making clear to these followers and potential followers what it means to travel this road with him. So this is of utmost importance for those of us who claim to be followers or may desire to follow Jesus.
This morning we are going to look at four interactions with Jesus that reveal an inaccurate view of what it means to follow Him. One with a current follower, and three with would be followers.
Four interactions, each one that gives us an inaccurate view, as well as a summary description of the follower who holds this view.
Luke 9:51-56 (ESV) 51 When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers ahead of him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make preparations for him. 53 But the people did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. 54 And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” 55 But he turned and rebuked them. 56 And they went on to another village.
Interaction #1- The Hazy Disciple (Lu 9:52-56)
We are used to Peter being the disciple that blurts out things like this, but this time it was the brothers James and John. Loud, aggressive and ready to bring fire down on this town. Elsewhere we are told this tidbit when Mark describes Jesus calling the 12 to be his disciples.
Mark 3:16-17 (ESV) 16 He appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); 17 James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, (bo-ner-gees) that is, Sons of Thunder); The sons of thunder, what a name!
You cannot say they weren’t passionate followers, can you? How dare this town reject the Messiah?
Immediately before this encounter, we find John with a similar attitude. Luke 9:49-50 (ESV) 49 John answered, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us.” 50 But Jesus said to him, “Do not stop him, for the one who is not against you is for you.”
John was passionate about who Jesus was and what it meant to follow him, which is a good thing. But,
passion is not a substitute for clarity. Many times we excuse people because of their passion. We say, well, he/she is just passionate for Jesus, so we excuse their methods or their manner, but notice that Jesus did not. He twice rebuked John for his error in condemning those he thought needed to be stopped or punished.
…passion is not a substitute for clarity.
So, they were passionate, but let’s not miss that their request had some biblical basis.
In 2 Kings, Elijah calls down fire twice to destroy those who came in the name of a disobedient, rebellious king. Furthermore, it happened in the region of Samaria. Some manuscripts add, (ESV) as Elijah did.
Just because God had done something before, doesn’t mean he will again, or that it is an appropriate time for it. All we have to do is look at Jesus’ ministry up to this point to see that this is not the manner of his ministry or consistent with what he has taught. James and John missed this because they were still consumed with being the highest disciples, the ones who would sit at the right and left hand of Jesus when he came into his kingdom. They were passionate, but it seems their passion was more for their own standing than that of what Jesus desired from his followers.
So Jesus rebukes them, and turns to go to another town.
Here, we do not have his rebuke, but in some manuscripts we find Jesus saying, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of; 56 for the Son of Man came not to destroy people's lives but to save them” Which, if not original to the text, is at least consistent with what Jesus says in other places.
Jesus says of his own mission, the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost, and in another place, God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
Judgment will come for those who reject Jesus, but in his ministry on earth, his mission was to seek and save, not to condemn and destroy.
Just think if Jesus had not restrained his disciples and they had gotten their way based on their hazy understanding of what it meant to follow him. John would have stopped a legitimate follower of Jesus who was casting out demons, because he didn't think he was following Jesus right. A whole Samaritan town would have been destroyed because they slighted Jesus, some of whom may be the very ones who accept him after the resurrection.
You see, a lack of clarity in what it means to follow Jesus can cause us to do more harm than good in the kingdom of God, even, and especially when we are passionate about following Jesus. That is why it is so important to be students of scripture, to be actively connected to a body of believers that can help guide our understanding, to sit under the preaching and teaching of the word and be active in the corporate prayer ministry of the church.
If disciples who walked with Jesus missed it, then how much more are we in danger of holding a hazy view of what it means to be a disciple, a follower of Jesus. So first, we have a hazy disciple in John, next, we find that as they traveled along the way, someone approached him and declared their commitment to be a follower. Let’s pick up there now.
If disciples who walked with Jesus missed it, then how much more are we in danger of holding a hazy view of what it means to be a disciple, a follower of Jesus.
Luke 9:57-58 (ESV) 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.”
Interaction #2- The Hasty Disciple (Lu 9:57-58)
“I will follow you, wherever you go.” Sounds pious and right, doesn’t it?
In Matthew, in his parallel account, we find that the person who said this was a scribe, or a religious student of the Old Testament. Someone who helped others understand the more difficult parts of the Law.
Although not many scribes were counted among Jesus followers, this one seems to have at least been loosely associated with him, at least someone who gathered in the large crowds around Jesus. Something caused him to cry out, I’ll follow you wherever you go.
One commentator said it this way, which I thought was beautifully stated.
(Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary) The preaching of Christ had riveted and charmed him; his heart had swelled; his enthusiasm had been kindled; and in this state of mind he will go anywhere with Him, and feels impelled to tell Him so. "Wilt thou?" replies the Lord Jesus. "Knowest thou whom thou art pledging thyself to follow, and whither haply He may lead thee? No warm home, no downy pillow has He for thee: He has them not for Himself. The foxes are not without their holes, nor do the birds of the air lack their nests; but the Son of man has to depend on the hospitality of others, and borrow the pillow whereon He lays His head."
Where you go, I will go. But from Jesus’ response it seems this potential follower had not counted the cost of following Jesus. He was eager, but hasty. Jesus, here replied only concerning physical comfort, but later in his ministry, as his betrayal, death, and burial came closer, he was even more clear on the cost of following him.
25 Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.
28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace.
33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.
Jesus wants to ensure that anyone who comes to him understands the cost associated with following him.
There are many people who respond to an invitation to accept Jesus because they are emotionally engaged, or they are swelled with affection for what Jesus has done, but they have not, either because they have not been told, or they overestimate their affection for Christ, and do not fully count the cost. Then, they quickly decide that following Jesus is not for them. This happens more than you would think. Someone comes down at an invitation, excited to ‘make a decision’ for Christ and by Tuesday they don’t want to talk about it or follow up with scheduling baptism. I’ve even had them tell me, I got caught up in the emotion of it all.
This is where we must be careful. Can a genuine conversion bring emotion, joy, etc… absolutely, but so can a false one. So, how do we know the difference? Does a quick response to the gospel always mean a hasty disciple? Not at all.
What is Jesus’ answer? ‘Make sure you count the cost before you get on the road with me.’
I am reminded of Jesus' parable of the sower and the rocky ground. Do you remember that?
Matthew 13:20-21 (ESV) 20 As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, 21 yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away.
Notice the description he ‘ immediately receives it with joy’, and yet he has no depth, no root, he/she has not counted the cost, so when it gets hard, they ‘immediately fall away’.
Maybe this scribe was thinking about all the wonderful passages about the conquering king Messiah that would usher in the new kingdom, and he saw an opportunity to have his best life now. But Jesus says, not that he cannot follow him, not that he won’t accept him as a disciple, no, he says, make sure you understand that following me will not be comfortable, and, this side of heaven, may cost you a great deal.
So we have examined the hazy disciple in the apostle John, the hasty disciple in the scribe, now we see, along the way, Jesus looked at someone and said, follow me. Let’s pick up there now.
Luke 9:59-60 (ESV) 59 To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 60 And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
Interaction #3- The Hesitant Disciple (Lu 9:59-60)
His response is not a no to Jesus’ call for him to Follow Him, but a maybe later. If we don’t understand the culture and the hyperbole of Jesus here we stand missing the point.
Jesus is not being cold-hearted or dismissive of this man’s family. First, we acknowledge in Hebrew culture, if this man’s father was dead, he would not have been out on the road, but rather at home taking care of his responsibility. The custom was to bury the dead the day they died. Rather, I think we should understand this man as saying, my father is advanced in age, I cannot follow you yet, but once he passes and I deal with his passing, then I will follow you.
There is no sense of urgency in his response to Jesus’ call.
This describes many would be followers of Jesus doesn’t it?
I will follow Jesus once I get settled in my career, once I get married, once I have kids, once the kids are grown a little, once the travel ball is over, once I sew the rest of my wild oats, once I get out of college.
Jesus, says, no, my call on you is to go proclaim the kingdom of God now, not later. Jesus identifies that, although a good thing, this man is using his family responsibility as an excuse to delay his discipleship.
(Reformed Expository Commentary (28 Vols.) - REC) David Gooding comments: “If Jesus is God’s Son, our first duty is towards him. A man who considers that he has a prior duty to fulfill before he is free to become a follower of Christ, has no concept of who Christ is.” Nothing is more important than following Jesus, not even the claims of our own families, which are the strongest of all earthly claims.
A man who considers that he has a prior duty to fulfill before he is free to become a follower of Christ, has no concept of who Christ is.
If we are not willing to put Christ and his call first, we are not really ready to accept his call on his terms.
Sometimes we come with our own terms in following Christ which is what we see in our next encounter.
Luke 9:61-62 (ESV) 61 Yet 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 his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Interaction #4- The Half-Hearted Disciple (Lu 9:61-62)
Perhaps, having heard Jesus tell the previous man to let the dead bury the dead, he thinks, I am okay with that, I am okay with following Jesus much sooner than that, but first. There that word is again. But first, let me say farewell to those at my home.
It is interesting that Jesus uses the idea of the plow here, especially in light of our scripture reading this morning when Elisha went home to say goodbye to his family before he followed Elijah.
Elisha did go home, to break his ties with his former life and to begin following Elijah. You can see the total commitment and break when he breaks his plow into firewood, slaughters the work animals, and makes a farewell dinner for his family. There is nothing to come back to, no equipment to return to, he is 100% all in.
Jesus must sense something in this man’s request or heart that causes him to say, don’t go back, even for a moment. This man needed to be about his duty without delay.
I don’t know how many of you have plowed before but once or twice I helped my grandfather on his tractor. You quickly learn where you are supposed to look when you are plowing, and it’s not back. The person that keeps checking behind them to see if they are going straight will go everywhere but straight, no you look straight ahead from the moment you start, fixated on where you are going, not where you are coming from.
As long as we are looking back at what we left behind in following Jesus, as long as we are drawn back to what is behind, we will never fully follow Jesus the way we should.
The hazy disciple, the hasty disciple, the hesitant disciple, and the half-hearted disciples.
Of these four, we know only what happened to the first. He got clear on what it meant to follow Jesus and he dedicated his life to spreading the message of the kingdom of God and its messiah.
We don’t know if the man followed Jesus knowing he would be homeless, or if the man left his family to deal with his parent’s passing and followed Jesus, or if the man immediately followed Jesus or went home.
And maybe that’s better, maybe it is so we can ask ourselves, how will my story end?
If I have failed to count the cost, if I have priorities ahead of following Jesus, if I’m putting it off, will I let Christ’s words to me today change me?
Will I be a faithful follower, rightly understanding what that means?
The call of Jesus is nothing less than a call to lay your life down to follow him, or as he said time and time again, to take up your cross and follow him. It may cost you everything.