The Holy Gospel According to St. Luke, the 9th Chapter
When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; but they did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. When 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?” But he turned and rebuked them. Then they went on to another village.
As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 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.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” But Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Jesus “set his face” to go to Jerusalem which is Bible-talk for Jesus being BOUND AND DETERMINED and being that bound and determined to go to Jerusalem made the Samaritans pretty grouchy. You see, there was disagreement between the Jews and the Samaritans about which mountain was THE holy mountain and with Jesus headed to the city on top of the “wrong” holy mountain, the Samaritans didn’t want anything to do with Jesus. He was obviously not “their” messiah.
They didn’t understand who Jesus really was, which seems bad, but then neither did his own disciples. They thought he was a “rain hellfire” sort of Messiah. They just didn’t understand that Jesus was an “I’ll go through death for you” sort of Messiah, not a “rain hellfire” sort of Messiah and the sad truth is that people still have trouble with that today.
But Jesus being BOUND AND DETERMINED and the disciples not understanding what Jesus was all about is only part of the story. The rest of this story is about discipleship. Now, discipleship has been made out to be an intellectual exercise, but really it’s more about living, doing, walking and working in the same way Jesus lives and walks and works. It’s more arm and leg work than brain work. But this lesson isn’t so much focused on what discipleship IS. This lesson is more about what discipleship is NOT.
First, it seems, discipleship is NOT about finding Jesus. The first man in the story wanted to follow Jesus without being called, but you see, nobody finds Jesus. Jesus finds us. This man wanted discipleship to be HIS idea, but Jesus wasn’t ready for him just yet and simply leaves him beside the road with his head spinning and his mouth hanging open.
Second, discipleship is apparently NOT just part-time. When Jesus does call, it’s all the way… to come and die. To die to our preferences, our comforts and our time tables. The Apostle Paul says that as a disciple, “it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me” and dying isn’t something you can do just part-time. That second man wanted to follow, but just part time. The other part of the time he wanted to take care of his family. Honestly, not a bad thing really. But when Jesus calls, it means EVERYTHING else is swept aside. You just can’t follow the Jesus Way some of the time and work’s way or the country’s way or even mom and dad’s way the rest of the time. When Jesus calls, it’s for ALL of our time!
Third, it looks like discipleship does NOT allow for conditions. The third man would follow… BUT… with one condition… he wanted to go back and say good-bye. Conditional discipleship is just not discipleship. It’s doing your own thing, making your own decisions and setting your own agenda. Discipleship is doing what Jesus calls you to do…letting Jesus completely set your agenda.
All that makes discipleship seem REALLY hard. And there’s a reason it seems really hard. Because it is REALLY HARD! You heard St. Paul, “it’s no longer I who lives but Christ who lives in me.” That’s really hard! Are you ready… am I ready to be a disciple on Jesus’s timeline, or maybe we’d rather be a disciple when it best fits our schedules? Are we ready to be a full-time disciple or is part-time all the time we have? And when we’re called to follow are we ready to follow unconditionally or are there some “buts” in the way… is there an asterisk or two… or maybe three? Like, * when it feels good… * when it goes my way… *when it fits my schedule?
We all want to be in control of deciding to follow. I know I want to be in control of deciding! But the truth is that Jesus calls us, not when we’re ready for Jesus but when Jesus is ready for us!
We all want to keep at least a part of our lives for ourselves. I know I want to keep a part of my life for myself! But the truth is that Jesus doesn’t call us to part-time work, but to a new, full-time, life in Christ!
We all want to have discipleship go our way. I know I want my discipleship to go my way! But the truth is that death does not have any room for asterisks, “buts” or conditions and nothing but death… the all the way dead kind of death… leads to new life in Christ.
So, you see, THAT’s the reason Jesus is so demanding of us as disciples. He KNOWs the path he laid out is the path to living the real and abundant life God created us ALL to live and Jesus is simply BOUND AND DETERMINED to have EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US really, really LIVE! In fact, Jesus is so BOUND AND DETERMINED that not even DEATH could get in the way of him giving us God’s gift of new and abundant life. Amen.