Theme: Three Who Faltered
This week’s lessons press the importance that it is not enough to merely show an initial interest in following Christ; one must persevere in obedience to the very end.
Scripture: Luke 9:57-62
Eight hundred years before Christ’s day the prophet Elijah was led to enlist Elisha as his fellow worker and successor. He found Elisha plowing, went to him, and threw his mantle over him. Elisha immediately understood that this was Elijah’s way of calling him to service, so he ran off after Elijah calling, “Let me kiss my father and mother good-bye, and then I will come with you.”
Elijah feigned indifference. “Go back,” he said. “What have I done to you?”
Elisha would not be put off. He went back to the field, slaughtered his oxen, burned his plowing equipment to cook the meat, gave the food to his family and neighbors, and then set off to be Elijah’s attendant (1 Kings 19:19–21).
Some persons have cited this story as one in which a servant of God did put something before God’s service: the saying of goodbye to one’s parents. They have contrasted it to Jesus’ words in Luke 9: “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God” (v. 62). The contrast seems apt, because one of the persons about whom Jesus spoke these words wanted to go back and attend to family matters after which he said he intended to follow Jesus. Yet an examination of the two stories shows them to be in perfect accord. In Luke 9 the prior matters about which the would-be disciples were concerned were actually delaying tactics or excuses. In 1 Kings 19 the actions of Elisha were a demonstration that the decision he had made was irreversible.
In Elisha’s case (as in the case of those who are true followers of Jesus) there is no turning back. Not only is the one who looks back unfit for kingdom service; he is not even a citizen of the kingdom. He does not qualify, now or for eternity.
Christ’s words about starting out as His disciple but then turning back were a response to the excuses raised by would-be disciples, as I said. So it is valuable to look at these excuses for the types of distractions from service that Jesus says are incompatible with following Him. There are three. Each illustrates what Jesus elsewhere calls “the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things” which choke out the seed of the word and make the individual spiritually unfruitful (Mark 4:19).
What was the significance of Elijah throwing his mantle over Elisha?
How do we reconcile Elisha’s response to becoming Elijah’s disciple and Jesus’ words in Luke 9 concerning his potential disciples?
Key Point: Not only is the one who looks back unfit for kingdom service; he is not even a citizen of the kingdom. He does not qualify, now or for eternity.