Yes, but let me first (Luke 9:57-62)

One of the great themes of the Gospel of Luke is the emphasis on following Jesus.  Following involves submission to Jesus and His teaching and being completely committed to Him as Lord.  Jesus told His disciples in Luke 9:23, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

This morning, we will study Luke 9:57-62 and learn from Jesus that His followers must: First, recognize that following Jesus is greater than your comfort.  Second, recognize that following Jesus is greater than every other responsibility.  Third, recognize that following Jesus is greater than every other desire.

Following Jesus and Comfort

In verse 57, a man makes a profession of faith in which he promises to follow Jesus wherever He goes.  Unlike the other men in our text today, this man does not offer an objection to immediate submission.  He boldly proclaims that he will follow Jesus everywhere.  Jesus offers a perplexing reply.  He says, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head” (58).  What does that mean?  He is not saying that He has never had a home, but rather that He has “set His face to go to Jerusalem” (9:51) where He will “suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised” (9:22).  Jesus is bidding this man to “take up his cross…and follow me” (9:23).

The point Jesus is making is to show that following Jesus is not easy.  You may lose your comfort.  Following Jesus may be very difficult and it may cost you all that you currently hold dear, but the promise is that you will be reconciled to God.

Following Jesus and Responsibility

In verse 59, Jesus told a man to follow Him.  The man replies, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.”  A son burying a father in this time period was a great responsibility.  A Jewish burial during this time involved two phases: first, the body was prepared and placed into a grave and then, one year later, the bones were removed and placed in an ossuary (box containing skeletal remains).  We cannot tell from the text if the man’s father is alive, recently died, or died a year earlier.  It seems to be a reasonable request.  The man has an important obligation that needs to be met.  But look at Jesus’ response.  He tells the man, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead.  But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God” (60).

This may sound harsh to us, but it shouldn’t.  Jesus hears the man’s responsibility and understands that the man does not believe that following Jesus is the most important responsibility.  The man wants to follow Jesus but first must attend to a more important matter.  Jesus is telling the man that a true follower’s greatest responsibility is to follow Him.  Jesus says that those who are spiritually dead should have precedence over those who are physically dead.

Following Jesus and Desire

In verse 61 another man tells Jesus, “I will follow You, Lord, but first let me say farewell to those at my home.”  The second man wanted to follow but first had a responsibility to meet.  The third man wanted to follow but first had a desire to meet.  Like the request of the second man, the request of the third man seems reasonable to us.  The man wanted to go home and say goodbye.  Jesus tells the man, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God” (62).

Was Jesus having a bad day?  This may sound callous to us but it shouldn’t.  Jesus is telling the man that a true follower’s greatest desire is to follow Him.  We do not know if the man wanted to consult with his family or if he would even return.  Jesus says that no one who sets about the work of the kingdom and looks back is fit for the kingdom.  A follower, like a man plowing a field, must not long to go back.

In Conclusion

While these sayings of Jesus may sound harsh, callous, and unkind; they are gracious.  Following Jesus must be more important than every other comfort you have.  The most important comfort a Christian should have is in following Jesus.  It is important to rest and to relax, but if you place your own comfort before following Jesus then your priorities are wrong.

Following Jesus must be more important than every other responsibility you have.  The most important responsibility a Christian should have is to follow Jesus and nothing should supersede that.  It is an important responsibility to provide for your family, but if you place that responsibility before following Jesus then your priorities are wrong.  It is an important responsibility to pay your bills, but if you place that responsibility before tithing then your priorities are wrong.

Following Jesus must be more important than every other desire you have.  The most important desire a Christian should have is to follow Jesus and nothing should supplant that.  It is an important desire to see that your children enjoy sports and build character through teamwork, but if sports practice keeps them from hearing about Jesus in a local church then your priorities are wrong.

Let us wholeheartedly and completely follow Jesus.

Questions for Reflection

  1. What should be a Christian’s greatest comfort? 
  2. Why is it wrong for other comforts to take precedence over this one?
  3. What should be a Christian’s greatest responsibility? 
  4. Why is it wrong for other responsibilities to take precedence over this one?
  5. What should be a Christian’s greatest desire? 
  6. Why is it wrong for other desires to take precedence over this one?