No Turning BackLuke 9:57-62Theme: Determinations and distractions.This week’s lessons warn us against the great enemies of discipleship.
LessonThe would-be disciple in Luke 9 was like many would-be disciples today! If a preacher comes promising a solution to life’s problems – “this world and heaven too” – they are ready to sign on with Jesus. But speak of hardships and physical deprivations, and their enthusiasm withers. Such “followers” do not follow Jesus to the end, and so they are not saved.
The second distraction is this: temporary but more pressing obligations. The second individual in Luke 9 did not volunteer to follow Jesus. He was called by Jesus (v. 59), but he asked for delay, saying, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”
Jesus responded, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God” (v. 60).
At first glance this seems harsh of Jesus; indeed, each of these calls is absolute and stringent. But the situation is probably not what it, at first, sounds like to us. We think of the man’s father as having already died and of Jesus’ forbidding the prospective disciple even to attend the funeral. In light of Jewish culture of the time it is unlikely that this was involved. If the man’s father had died, the man would most properly have been at home already, mourning. Since he was not, it is probable that his father was merely old and the man was telling Jesus that he would follow him after his father died and this present phase of his life was thereby ended. It might be years before his father died, but he would stay home for that duration. Jesus would not accept discipleship on those terms but demanded instead that the man come after him right then and not delay his obedience to the call.
In the case of the first individual we have an example of one who failed to count the cost. In this second case we have one who was not willing to “hate” father and mother, husband or wife, children, brothers and sisters for Jesus’ sake. Again, although the text does not say so specifically, we must assume that this person was unwilling to follow Jesus on his terms and so perished eternally.
Procrastination is a great enemy of discipleship. The one who procrastinates has heard Jesus’ call and has acknowledged the necessity of obeying it. But other obligations press forward in his or her mind and crowd out obedience. The individual does not intend to delay forever. “Just let me attend to this small thing first,” he pleads. But the delay of an hour becomes a day’s delay. A day becomes a week, a week a year, and at last a lifetime has passed without any genuine response to Christ’s call.
The third distraction to discipleship is the determination to set one’s own terms. The third of these three individuals (like the first) also volunteered to follow Jesus. But he wanted to do so on his terms. He said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family” (v. 61). On the surface this request is the closest of the three to Elisha’s request of Elijah, which Elijah approved. But here the man’s error is self-evident. He called Jesus, “Lord.” That is, he acknowledged Jesus’ right of command over himself. Yet he was trying to set the terms of his discipleship. He was calling Jesus, “Lord, Lord,” but he was not following him in that capacity.
This greatly hinders and often eventually destroys many a person’s discipleship. Not long ago I was in a meeting of ministers in which one was speaking of our lack of accountability to one another. He said that in his opinion the problem with most so-called Christians today is that they want salvation on their own terms. They say they believe the Bible. They acknowledge Jesus’ lordship. But they will not make themselves accountable for how or when they actually obey him. They want to control that response. If it is convenient, they will obey. But if not, they do not want anyone telling them that they are disobedient and are therefore not actually following Jesus. I believe that this is an accurate statement.
Why is it important for those who preach to avoid sugar-coating the gospel?
What are three distractions that keep us from following Christ?
How did the second would-be disciple in Luke 9 differ from the first in his turning away from Jesus?
Why was the third would-be disciple in Luke 9 not willing to follow Jesus?
ReflectionAre you willing to forego whatever Jesus may ask you to leave behind? If not, it is an indication that you want Jesus on your own terms rather than on his.