1-7-2018 A Look Forward 2018 Luke 9:57-62
Well, now’s the time of season where about half of the people that make New Year’s resolutions give them up. The most popular resolution of an American is weight loss.
Maybe you heard the story about the wife who walked into the bathroom just as her husband was getting on the scales to weigh himself. As she watched, he got on, then as he sucked in his stomach. She said sarcastically, "That’s not going to do any good!!" He said, "Sure it will. It’s the only way I can see the numbers."
Or, as Walter Jensen told me, the doctor told him he needs to watch his weight, so he put it right on his belly where it would be easy for him to watch.
Perhaps the reason that many New Year’s resolutions fail so easy is that most people go at these resolution with sheer willpower alone—forgetting the source of real power. These people who fail their resolutions do so usually because they work at it alone. Even secular psychology easily recognizes the power of accountability and the increased success rate when groups of people work at resolving problems collectively. Now if that can be true apart from Christ, imagine the success rate of Christians working together with the power of the Holy Spirit and of the Gospel!
The topic that I want to cover is the work of the ministry. Now many of you will never be called to be pastors, or deacons, elders and you don’t need these positions to be used mightily by YHWH. But the work of a pastor is to minister to a local body of believers and, in turn, the body then become the hands and feet together for Christ in this world. A faithful pastor is to push the congregants toward Christlikeness, to instruct your life, to give you counsel, and most predominantly, to guide you in the word of God through preaching and that's how much of the teaching gets done is through the preached word and interpreting the wording--going through it methodically—which equips today’s saints and also hopefully strengthens your own personal studies, effectually making you an even sharper tool for our Lord as are continually coming together to worship each week.
You might recall what we talked about last week. I challenged you to take a look back in order to evaluate and learn. Not so for this week! Listen to how Jesus responds to those who will follow after our Lord:
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.” 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.” 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.”
This passage is not exactly filled with the words that you would expect to hear from a loving, self-sacrificing Son of God. Yet here it is, unadulterated for us to dwell upon this morning. What we see here is a cost and need for faithful devotion for the call to and work of the ministry.
In context, the very next thing (starting in chapter 10) is there are 70 appointed and chosen to be sent out on a mission--they are missionaries--they are the representative of the Christ. These 70 are going to speak His words in an official way and prepare the way for the Messiah’s Kingdom. By the way, before we go further, which one(s) of us here today are called to do the work of a missionary? Who here is called to bring the Gospel to the lost? But in this passage, this is more than just an account of what happened. This passage is more than a retelling of events—there's more here than a history lesson. I believe that this passage is a warning as to the cost of working in the ministry.
To be used by the Creator of the entire universe, to be effective and to have a lasting impact for the All-Powerful YHWH, we must look forward at the goal and devote ourselves to doing everything we can to be relentless with the power of the Gospel to further His Kingdom here on Earth. But Jesus communicates truths here using three men as a caution as to weed out those who are partially committed. Jesus first would have those of us desiring to serve Him:
I. Count the Cost (vv. 57-58)
I. Count the Cost (vv. 57-58)
It is all too easy for us to get caught up in the moment and jump into something that seems fun and exciting. We sometimes volunteer for things that we don’t really plan ahead and consider what effect it might have on our lives. Jesus brings this lack of vision to the forefront of our perspective:
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.”
Somebody approaches Jesus here and wanted to follow after this Son of Man. It is hard to gauge the genuineness of this traveling companion. This is the exact thing that the Apostle Peter would say! This person here probably can relate to Peter when he told our Lord that he would never leave Jesus just before denying him 3 times. However, we also know that Peter’s heart was as genuine as any mature believer would have. But we don’t know if this person here, after counting the cost, continues to follow after Jesus or abandon the faith considering that the cost is not worth it.
Jesus was not desperate to muster up disciples—He didn’t take everyone who wanted to follow. Those who truly wanted to be his disciples needed to understand that it would cost them something. It takes sacrifice: sometime it is money, sometimes it is your time, sometimes it is your rights, , sometimes it is your comforts, and sometimes it is all of the above.
To be Jesus’ disciple, a person must willingly put aside worldly comfort and security. These words are recorded for our benefit today. Have you counted the cost of following Jesus? Do you understand that following Jesus is far more valuable than anything this world offers?
We have to consider the cost of sacrifice in order to serve our savior. We would be better remembering that this cost never measures up to the cost of your salvation! So do not keep our Savior waiting:
II. Do not Delay (vv. 59-60)
II. Do not Delay (vv. 59-60)
The call to ministry is not convenient! Salvation is now! And so serving Him is now! not on our timeline but our Master’s time!
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.”
The first person came on his own to petition his loyalty to Jesus ; this time, however, Jesus asked another man to be his disciple. But this man says that he first needed to return home and bury his father. The man was seeking approval to wait until his father was buried. Jesus is sternly exposing that any reason to delay serving the Christ is not valid. The second man wanted to do it “first.” Whether his concern was fulfilling a duty, having closure, keeping family approval, or something else, he did not want to commit himself to Jesus just yet.
Jesus’ response: “Let those who are spiritually dead care for their own dead” points out that those who want to follow him should count the cost and set aside any conditions they might have. In other words, let those who are spiritually dying (those who have not responded to the call to commitment) stay home and handle responsibilities such as burying the dead. This may sound insensitive, but it has purpose and consequences. A high priest and those who had taken the Nazirite vow were required by the law to avoid the corpse of even a parent (Leviticus 21:11; Numbers 6:6–8).
The burial of the dead, especially of one’s close family, was a serious and sacred obligation in first-century Judaism; it took priority over almost all other religious duties. Jesus’ harsh response here was intended to get attention. He was asserting the radical claim of the importance of the Kingdom above even the most fundamental obligations of family. In effect, He was saying the response to ministry is the highest basic obligation of all. Those unresponsive to the call (“the dead”) should take care of the lower priorities.
Almost 10 years ago now, my wife and I planned to move away from our families and our stomping grounds out of Colorado for the first time ever to come to a place that we have never visited and knew nothing about. But just a week or so before the move date, I received word from my own mother that she had just been diagnosed with a severely aggressive form of breast cancer. The doctors told her that radiation would do no good and a double mastectomy was necessary. The only effective treatment the doctors knew of is high doses of chemo. So what was I to do? My God was displaying miracle after miracle pushing us toward moving up here, yet was it not my responsibility to care for my own mother? I left her and moved right as she was starting to receive chemo. Was that the right thing to do? Was I to wait? Mary and I prayed those questions many times over but somehow “felt” it was still of the Lord that I come to Northland. It is words like this from our Lord that confirms that, although it was a terribly hard decision to make, it was the right decision.
We must be clear though that the Bible—including Jesus--does not teach the rejection of all family duties by Christians. This is reinforced by comparing other scripture such as 1 Timothy 5:8
But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
and 1 Pt 3:1–2.
1 Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, 2 when they see your respectful and pure conduct.
Jesus’ point was about people’s priorities. He didn’t set aside the commandment to honor father and mother (Mk 7:7–13)
7 in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ 8 You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” 9 And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ 11 But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban” ’ (that is, given to God)— 12 then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, 13 thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.”
III. Do not Hesitate (v.61)
III. Do not Hesitate (v.61)
If you're looking for a life of ease, don't go in the ministry. YHWH never promises an easy life, but he does promise a joy-filled life!
Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.”
You might be thinking here, “what?? I can't even say goodbye to my own family?” But what Jesus is pointing out is that this man is wanting to come to Jesus on his own terms. In essence, this man is telling the Messiah, “I will serve you, but let me do this thing my way” Or to put it more stronger this is referring to those that would say, “I will do this thing for the Lord, but I won’t do this thing.” I think it is more common in our churches today for us to say, “Sorry, I can’t serve God that way, I’m not gifted in that area” Now don’t get me wrong, if you can serve God in the areas that you are most gifted, you should! BUT if you’re here saying I will NOT serve YHWH in this area, because I don’t feel comfortable doing this or that, then you might not be fully committed. You ought not hesitate just because you don’t feel like you have all the credentials, all the know how, to serve in areas of need. I remember hearing story after story at Northland how hardly a young pastor would come to any Pulpit feeling like he is adequate for the task. And so too, must we recognize that we are not adequate, yet we still serve in areas of need. There are plenty of examples of God calling people to areas of ministry both in the Bible and in history that they felt that they were not gifted in that area, i.e. Moses could’t speak, Gideon couldn’t lead, so on and so forth. Don’t allow satan to convince you to reject serving a need in the ministry.
So What? (v.62)
So What? (v.62)
Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
According to Bible historians, James Freeman and Harold Chadwick: In the first century, a plow usually had just one handle. One hand guided the plow, while the other held the long goad—a long staff, pointed on the end—by which the oxen were spurred on to their work. Since the plow was fairly lightweight, it was necessary for the plowman to lean forward with all his weight on the handle to keep the share—the cutting blade—in the ground. It is then inferred that by looking back, the laborer would be unable to make straight furrows. The usual method was for the plowman to pick an object at the far end of the field and keep the plow going directly toward it. If he turned to look behind him to see how he was doing, he would lose sight of his objective and go off from his straight line. Jesus’ spiritual lesson is that if we look back at our past, just like the Israelites in the wilderness kept looking back at Egypt, then we are not worthy for service in His kingdom.
The picture of a person putting a hand to the plow and looking back can be compared with Elijah’s call of Elisha in 1 Kings 19:19–21. Elisha was called to be a prophet right in the middle of plowing a field—and he never looked back. In fact, he slaughtered the oxen so that there would be no temptation to return. Elisha then moved wholeheartedly into the ministry to which he had been called. Jesus explained that service in the Kingdom of God was of such vital importance that his followers must make it their top priority. They must step out in faith to serve him, without looking back.
What does Jesus want from his followers? Total dedication, not halfhearted commitment. His followers must accept the cross along with the crown, judgment as well as mercy. We must count the cost, not wait, and and be willing to abandon everything else that has given us comfort and security. Nothing should distract us from service for the Kingdom. Eternity depends on it, and hesitation disqualifies us from true service.
So now I think we should ge to it--to the work of the ministry without any more delays!