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But...But...But


Here are some thoughts on this coming Sunday's gospel that were sent out to the people of St. Timothy Lutheran Church. Any thoughts? I'd like to enter into a dialog with anyone interested. Just use the comment section at the bottom of this post.

Gospel: Luke 9:51-62
51When the days drew near for [Jesus] to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. 52And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; 53but they did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. 54When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” 55But he turned and rebuked them. 56Then they went on to another village.
 
57As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58And 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.” 59To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” 60But Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 61Another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” 62Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Jesus is single-minded. He is on his way to Jerusalem, to the cross, to his death. It seems like everyone in this passage has excuses. Can’t you just hear someone saying, “But, but, but…?” Even from the beginning when the Samaritans didn’t want Jesus. He would have been welcome, but it was his determination to go to Jerusalem! If it wasn’t for that…but…

But fear not, Jesus comes across some people that want to follow him BUT. The first man seems quite enthusiastic, but does he know what he would really be getting into? Following Jesus means persecution. Following Jesus means uncertainty about where one would sleep. Did he know what he was promising?

Jesus calls the next person to follow him…but…he had to bury his father. What’s so unreasonable about that? This was an obligation that was binding upon all devout Jews. They were required to care for their parents for the rest of their lives. Doesn’t Jesus’ response, “let the dead bury the dead,” seems harsh? Jesus’ words are better understood as, “Let the spiritually dead bury the physically dead. ”Those who were not following Jesus could discharge that responsibility.

The next man wants to say good-bye to his family. That seems fair, doesn’t it? Jesus warns that excessive concern for family ties (looking back) will [diminish] the priority of God’s rule in one’s life. The image is graphic, for who can plow straight ahead toward a goal while looking back? Discipleship cannot be double-minded  (NET notes).

The kingdom of God, God’s rule in our lives changes everything. As we saw with these excuse-filled would-be followers of Jesus, former allegiances are reorganized. These two men called Jesus “Lord,” but by attempting to delay obedience, we see the hollowness of their affirmation.
  
God’s call to discipleship is a call that supersedes all others. It’s a matter of priorities; whether the concern is care for self, care for the dead or care for family.

What prevents us from wholeheartedly following Jesus? I dare say it’s not a matter of us struggling to choose between good and bad. Our problem is choosing between what’s good and what’s best.  

Is Jesus saying he doesn’t care about our family obligations? No! But the issue is if they become more important to us than our relationship with God. Good things that take the place of God in our hearts are idols. God wants us to set our faces to fulfilling God’s purposes for us.

How are we supposed to know what God’s purposes are for us? Spend time talking to God and listening as God answers you: through scripture, through the family of God, through worship, through prayer, through the Lord’s Supper. Just like any other relationship, there has to be give and take for it to grow. Any thoughts?

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