The Gospel lectionary reading for today is from Luke 9:57-62....I recall a couple in a church I served many years ago who said to me one day, "We are behind you 100%." A few weeks later, they left the church.
As they were going along the road, someone said to him, "I will follow you wherever you go." 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." To another he said, "Follow me." But he said, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father." But Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God." Another said, "I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home." Jesus said to him, "No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God."
Most pastors can identify with that story. I imagine when this person said to Jesus, "I will follow you wherever you go," Jesus did not get too excited. Jesus was well acquainted with the fickleness of human nature. Thus, Jesus warned the person who made this rash promise that following him would not be comfortable: "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head." As Dawson Trotman, founder of the Navigators ministry used to say, "Followers of Jesus need to keep their hearts open and their bags packed."
Luke tells us of another person whom Jesus invited to follow him. That person said, "First, let me go and bury my father." It sounds cruel to think that Jesus would say to such a grieving person, "Let the dead bury their own dead." However, it is quite possible that the person's father was still living and thus he was saying to Jesus, "Let me attend to family matters first." Jesus' radical correction of this person shows us that we need to put God's kingdom first, even before our family. Jesus also makes a great promise to those who will put his kingdom first. "Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things [the basic needs of human life] will be added to you as well." (Matthew 6:33)
Another person said to Jesus, "I will follow you, but first let me say goodbye to my family." Jesus sensed that this person might not be fully committed to his cause. That is why Jesus urges us to count the cost before deciding to follow him. He does not want us to have doubts once we make that commitment. Jesus does not want us to be constantly looking back over our shoulders. Rather, he wants us to look forward, with our eyes focused steadily on him.
To be sure, following Jesus is not easy today. It never has been. As T. S. Eliot once wrote, being a real Christian is:
A condition of complete simplicity(Costing not less than everything)But the reward for those who choose to follow Jesus is beyond anything this world can imagine. And Jesus will give us the power to follow him, one step at a time, if we will just step out in faith.