July 11, 2004: Why Listen When Christ Says “Follow Me”?

Let us pray: Dear Savior, although our presence here today confirms the fact that we want to be Your disciples, the road to such discipleship is hard. It’s easy to become distracted by families that pull us away from You, by jobs that consume our time and tempt us to put You on the backburner, and by our own apathy. Today remind us that such approaches blunt and/or block Your efforts to transform us from caterpillars that crawl into butterflies that soar! Amen

TEXT: Luke 9: 51-62

Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
A few weeks ago Debra Ann and I had lunch in Salem at the Hawthorne Hotel along with another couple. That hotel gets its name from Salem’s most distinguished citizen, Nathaniel Hawthorne, the great American novelist. In one of his notebooks, Hawthorne once scratched a story idea—just this one phrase: “Idea for a story—a story in which the principle character never appeared!” Many people’s lives follow that exact same plot. What do I mean? Well, God has a master plan for our lives. But we sometimes frustrate that plan and the person He wanted us to be never appears. We see that played out in the concluding verses of today’s Gospel lesson, too. And since, all things in the bible have been written for our learning, today I ask you this question:


“As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem.”

Why did these people give Jesus the cold shoulder? The answer is embedded in that little phrase: “because he was heading for Jerusalem.” You see, the Samaritans had a 500 year old feud with the Jews. This feud was both religious and political in nature. They were ancestors of Babylonians who had been transported into this region during Israel’s captivity centuries before. They had intermarried with Jews in the area and produced a hybridized religion in which they embraced Abraham and other heroes of the Old Testament, but also merged them with their pagan Babylonian religion. Basically, these folks believed they would be saved or blest by “god” if they tried hard to behave and be “good people.” In conjunction with this, they worshipped their “god” on Mt. Gerizim and thus detested anything to do with Jerusalem and temple worship. The idea of a Messiah, the idea of sin, alienation from God which they could not appease on their own, the idea of grace was not only foreign to them, it was abhorrent. Like so many today they believed in themselves and their own concepts of god. Like so many today they rejected the Trinity and the 1st commandment in favor of their own whims. So, when Christ’s representatives say that “He’s just passing through to Jerusalem in order to fulfill the Old Testament prophecies by suffering and dying for the sins of all,” they reject both Him and His message. You can almost hear them saying: “We don’t need this Jesus! We’ll do it our way instead!”


Next we come to three separate men whom Christ meets along the way. All of them have their excuses for not embracing Christ then and there, too. And those excuses mirror our own lives and hearts more often than we’d care to admit.

“A man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, ‘Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.’” That may seem like a cryptic answer to us, but it’s not. As God’s Son, Jesus could read hearts. So, He knew that this fellow was acting on impulse. He was caught up in the emotion of the moment. He thought following Jesus would somehow insure a much easier earthly life where food and lodging would appear without having to work for it. Jesus’ answer informs him that this isn’t the case. He’s not a good luck charm. Following Him doesn’t insure a cushy life. And the man walks away.

“He said to another man, ‘Follow me.’ But the man replied, ‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’” This second call to discipleship was met with conflicting duties. The fellow was torn between getting his earthly house in order first before he would work on putting his spiritual house in order. Note well that Jesus isn’t against taking care of family obligations. But, if you put Him off to buy a house first, or to have a child first, or to get married first, or to set up your career first—well, it’s a question of priorities isn’t it? If you follow Jesus first and embrace His love and forgiveness which He won for you by giving up His life for yours on the cross, if you do that first then all the other issues of life will fall in line. And then how you engage in all those other conflicting duties will be guided by His truth and His perspective. This man wasn’t willing to put that kind of faith in Jesus because he trusted in his own reason more.

“Still another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-bye to my family.’ “Jesus replied, ‘No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.’”

This third fellow had a divided mind. Christ isn’t against having family ties. He isn’t against carrying for loved ones. After all, He did give us the 4th commandment to help insure, protect, and build up the family. The question here is: who do you love more—God or your family? Who has first place in your heart?


Why Listen When Christ Says: Follow Me? The answer to that question is embedded in our introduction. God Almighty has a wonderful plan our each of our lives. But, that plan can be thwarted and blocked if we don’t heed His Word of truth when He knocks at the door of our hearts. It is only when you listen to His call and embrace Him in faith that the fruits of the Spirit are given to you. Think about it. Why would you be so stupid as to put off receiving Godly love that will never fail, Godly joy that cannot be taken from you, Godly peace which not even death can dispel, Godly patience which smoothes out the bumps in life’s road, Godly kindness and goodness which uplifts the soul, Godly faithfulness which will never disappoint, and Godly gentleness and self-control which helps make life liveable? After all, does not Christ say: “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will then be added to you as well?”

A few years ago when the stock market tanked, many of us lost various amounts of money. We put off making that decision to sell which, if we had done so, would have changed our retirement for the better. Well, today Christ calls each of you to: Follow Me! If you put Him off, you do so at your peril. But, if you embrace His call and give Him your heart and soul truly wondrous things await! His resurrection and ascension into glory prove it! And so, what do you want to be?—A caterpillar or a butterfly? Amen