SPIRITUAL NOURISHMENT FOR TODAY
Passage: Luke 9:57-62
57 Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to Him, “Lord, 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 Then He said to another,“Follow Me.”
But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.”
60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the Kingdom of God.”
61 And another also said, “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.”
62 But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the Kingdom of God.”
Memory Verse: Luke 6:33
“BUT SEEK YE FIRST THE KINGDOM OF GOD AND HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS, AND ALL THESE THINGS SHALL BE ADDED UNTO YOU..”
In the last edition of Spiritual Nourishment for Today, we completed the two part series on the topic ‘Jesus rebukes vindictiveness’. We learnt that as people who have been called, chosen and saved by Christ, we should avoid vindictiveness and embrace forgiveness and love towards those who hate us and even despise us. We should always think of what we can do to lead such people to Christ to be saved. In this edition, we bring you the first of a three-part series titled ‘Hindrances to Discipleship’. It is my prayer that the Lord will open our understanding into his word and help us to become his true disciples.
After Jesus and his disciples have been refused passage through the Samaritan village to Jerusalem, Jesus asked his followers to use another route to Jerusalem. He did not allow his disciples to be vindictive. On their way to Jerusalem Jesus was not with his twelve disciples alone; many other people followed them. One of the people who followed Jesus took a decision to follow Jesus. Matthew describes him as a scribe (Matthew 8:19). It seems this man had been following Jesus for some time and after weighing a lot of things he decided to be a permanent follower of Jesus Christ. He thus went to Jesus and said:
“I WILL FOLLOW YOU WHEREVER YOU GO”.
The statement made by the man seems to show his deep understanding of who a true disciple should be. He understood that a true disciple should follow Jesus wherever he goes. It implies being with him at all times and in all circumstances and doing whatever he requires of you. This is what the man decided to be – a true disciple of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
The question which needs to be answered by all of us is whether we understand what it truly means to be a follower of Jesus Christ? This question is very pertinent because many of us who call ourselves followers of the Messiah do not follow him at all times and under all circumstances. Many do not follow what the Lord commands them to do. Instead they follow the Lord as and when it is convenient for them. The moment they find that the circumstances have become unfavourable for them they recline. They sometimes even go to the extent of denying the Master. It is however important to remind ourselves that it is not enough to claim to be followers of the Messiah. What matters more is that we follow him wherever he goes and do as he directs no matter the circumstances.
Jesus was not very enthused about the scribe’s decision to follow him. He did not just applaud him for taking such a decision to follow him. He knew that many people confess to follow him but with a very narrow mindset. In fact Jesus’ response to the man shows that he knew what the man was thinking which was unknown to the other people around. So he did not just accept him as one of his disciples. Sometimes I wonder whether all our prayers for forgiveness are accepted by the Lord when we know we do not really mean what we say?
Sometimes even as we are asking for forgiveness we are thinking of how to commit another sin. The Lord is not just happy with the mere confessions of our mouths but the true disposition of our heart and mind towards him. We should know we cannot deceive the Lord with our beautiful words because he cares much more about our hearts. Whereas the people around would have applauded the scribe for his bold decision to follow Jesus, the Master knew what he was thinking and knew that he was not fit for the task.
Jesus’ response shows that even though the man wished to follow him, he had a misconception about Jesus’ mission into the world. Jesus knew the man was thinking that the Kingdom of God as Jesus had been talking about was a temporary kingdom on earth with luxury and comfort for those who followed him.
In Jesus’ reply he reminded him of the true cost of following him in this world. Jesus told him, and by extension all of us, that following Jesus is not always luxuries but entails lots of troubles. His reply meant that to become a true disciple of Christ, you must prepare to suffer physically and spiritually. By this Jesus dispelled the notion that many hold concerning what it means to be a Christian (a follower of Christ). It means that following Christ is not as smooth, luxurious and trouble-free as many teach in our days. Many teachers, preachers, evangelists, pastors and prophets have created the erroneous impression that those who follow Jesus shall always prosper financially. Some even go to the extent of teaching that being a poor Christian is tantamount to being a cursed Christian. They try all means to set the people’s minds on worldly prosperity instead of guiding them to set their minds on things above (Colossians 3:1-2).
Like the scribe we have been talking about, many Christians come to follow Christ expecting things to be rosy at all times. Because of this negative mentality they have lost the opportunity of becoming true disciples of Christ and consequently members of the Kingdom of God. We should always understand that disciples of Christ may suffer hardships on the way but this should not discourage us from following him. May the Lord help us not to allow worldly things to become hindrances to our decision to follow him!
THE WORD OF THE LORD!
In the first edition of this series we zoned in on the scribe who told Jesus about his decision to follow him wherever he (Christ) went. We came to understand that this man even though knew that a disciple should follow Jesus everywhere yet thought that following Christ was something luxurious. This understanding of the man’s thought was deduced from Jesus’ answer to him. It was obvious he was thinking of some worldly benefits he would obtain for following Jesus. Because of such worldly thoughts, he missed the opportunity of being a disciple of Jesus Christ. In this edition we want to concentrate on the second man who missed the opportunity of becoming Jesus’ disciple.
There is a fundamental difference between the man we talked about in the previous edition and the one we are talking about in this edition. The basic difference is that whereas the first man took a decision to follow Jesus, the second person was invited by Jesus. The question then becomes what did Jesus see in this man that made him invite him to follow him?
Many had attempted to be followers of Jesus after being healed by Jesus but he asked them to go to their homes. So what was so special about this man who was invited by Jesus? Well I do not find anything special about this man. All I know is that this man was favored by Christ. He did nothing so special to deserve an invitation by Christ. He was an ordinary person but the favor of the Lord found him. He is like most of us who have been saved by Christ.
We did nothing special, neither are we better than those still living in their sins. It is all by the grace of God that we can call ourselves the children of God and the followers of the Messiah. We should therefore not abuse this grace we have received by turning our backs to Jesus. If you have received an invitation from the Lord to either become a Christian or play a special role in his kingdom, grab that opportunity now. If you turn it down you will forever regret.
Even though the man who received invitation from Christ did not turn it down he had other things which were much more important to him than following Christ. He did not see the invitation to follow Christ as a lifetime opportunity. He was unwilling to give Christ the first place in his life. He was much more interested in going to bury his father than going to preach about the Kingdom of God. This man was hindered from becoming a disciple of Christ because of the worldly things. In fact it is not stated whether this man’s father had already died or was going to wait for his father to die before coming to follow Jesus Christ. I should think the second suggestion is more probable because if his father was already dead and was known to Christ and the people around him he would not have been denied the opportunity of going to bury his dead father. He would even have been among the crowd at that time. What the man did was to give Jesus a flimsy excuse or better still give the indication that there are more important things to do before making a decision to follow Christ.
Like this man, many have put Christ second in their lives. Christ and his kingdom are not the most important issues in their lives. To them it is important to look for all the other things in this world before deciding to follow Jesus or deciding to do anything special in the Kingdom of God. This is just like turning Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:33 upside down. Some people think they should work hard and make all the money they can before coming to church or responding to Christ’s invitation. This is just the same us investing in the things of this world instead of the things above.
Such people will miss the opportunity of becoming true disciples of Jesus. In fact there are those who are followers of Christ but with divided attention. They do not prioritize the things of God in their lives. They are quick to respond to family, employment and other social issues than spiritual things. Those are the people who could spend six days in a week at the work place but none in church. They are afraid of losing their jobs but have fear of losing the Kingdom of God.
This man failed to become a disciple of Christ because he was not willing to be obedient to the word of Christ. He wanted to do his own things and come to follow Christ in his own time. Beloved do not follow the footsteps of the man under consideration because you do not have all the time in this world at your disposal. You may lose your life before you finish what you are doing and consequently miss going to heaven. I am appealing to you to remember not to say ‘no’ to Jesus because this is the day of salvation; this is the day of grace. If you are hearing his voice, do not drag your feet!
The man in question was probably thinking of waiting for his dying father to die and all the properties shared before deciding to follow Jesus. For this reason he missed the opportunity of being named a disciple of Christ – an opportunity many sought to have but never got. I do not know for how long you have been turning down Christ’s invitation to follow him. But I know it is not too late to take that decision. If you would come back to your senses and accept Christ’s invitation it will be the best decision you ever took in your life. If you have already accepted this invitation, stand firm and remain in him and do not let anything take you back into the world. May we always put Christ first in our lives!
THE WORD OF THE LORD!
In the second edition of this series, we learnt about the man who was invited by Jesus to be his disciple and how he failed to become a follower of Jesus Christ. Instead of becoming a disciple of Jesus and making the spreading of the Gospel his topmost priority, he was more interested in burying his father and the possible benefits he could gain from the sharing of his father’s properties. We emphasized on the need for Christians to invest more in things which have eternal significance and not the things of this world.
In this edition, the last of this three- part series, we want to zone in on the last of the three persons who could have become disciples of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. But before we do that let us quickly add that those called by God to be his followers have a fundamental duty to perform. That duty is to preach about the Kingdom of God. What it means is that any believer who does not preach the good news about the Kingdom of God is not fulfilling his or her calling. By implication nothing we do for the Lord matters more than preaching about the Kingdom of God. This can be done publicly or privately.
The third person who could have become a disciple of Jesus Christ is mentioned in Luke 9:61. Like the earlier ones, his name was not mentioned. Also, we have no clear information on what went on before he made the statement recorded by Luke and the subsequent response by Jesus Christ.
Unlike the first two persons described earlier, Luke does not tell us whether he was invited by Jesus or he made the decision himself like the first one. The above notwithstanding it is obvious that like the first two, he also had some hindrances to his becoming a follower of Jesus Christ. I want to think that he volunteered to follow Jesus by himself but was not fully ready to become a disciple of Jesus Christ. Like the second man, this man also had something to do before coming to follow Jesus.
He also did not put Christ first in his scheme of things. Even though he had the desire to be a follower of Jesus Christ, he was still holding on to certain things which he found very important. He had still not been able to part with his friends and family. He found it too difficult to follow Jesus without the consent of his family as if to say that his final decision to follow Christ would be determined by his family members. It is obvious that the love he had for his family members outweighed his love for Christ. So even when he felt the need to follow Christ, he was being pulled by the love for his family. His family could mean anything he valued more than Christ. That became a hindrance to him.
Beloved in Christ, this man is a picture of many of the people of our days. Many have the passion and the desire to follow Christ but their love for the things and people of this world keeps pulling them backwards. They have become so committed to worldly passions that they find it almost offensive to themselves and others to decide to quit at once in order to follow Jesus. Those are the people who could pray to God by saying; “Please God, allow me to commit my last sin after which I shall follow you forever.” They are not committed to the things of God. Unfortunately, these are not the types of people Christ wants to call his followers. Christ does not want people who pick and choose among Jesus’ ideas or follow him when they wish. Christ wants people who will count the cost of following him before taking the decision to do so. He is not interested in indecisive and half-hearted followers like many of us; he wants totally committed followers.
Jesus’ reply to the man shows clearly the kind of people he expects his followers to be. According to Jesus, his followers must be prepared to commit themselves wholly and irrevocably to him. Jesus meant to teach that those who choose to follow him must devote their whole lives to him more than the way some people devote themselves to certain vocations or professions in this world. This implies that following Christ is a life-time commitment which starts from the very day a person takes a decision to follow Christ through grace. There must be an immediate response to Christ’ calling without any excuses.
Jesus’ reply also shows that anyone who chooses to follow him must not think of returning. Such a person should be prepared for surprises – straight paths as well as curves. He meant that no one who makes a decision to follow him should think of returning because it will not be in that person’s own interest. According to Jesus, anyone who decides to follow him and then goes back into the world because of his attachment to the things of the world is not fit for the Kingdom of God.
Unfortunately many people claim to be Christians yet with so much attachment to the things of the world. If we claim to be Christians and still have so much interest in the things of this world, we are not worthy followers of Christ.
It is my prayer that we shall all commit ourselves fully to following Christ in order not to miss the Kingdom of God.
THE WORD OF THE LORD!
Pastor Nana Kobina Baisie
Teacher/Pastor at Nadrim Mission International School, Busan, Korea.