According to the Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, “More Christians were martyred in the 20th century than in all previous centuries combined.” They estimate that currently, more than 200 million Christians are being persecuted worldwide, citing currents statistics from Nigeria, India and Iraq. Many believers live in very dark and hostile places around the world, and are extremely vulnerable and abused. [erlc.com/issues/quick facts/persecution] These believers are people like you and me. They have families, friends and homes. They have worries and fears of the future. They want what’s best for the ones they love. Yet, they are choosing to follow Jesus, even in the face of great opposition and great cost.
As I mentioned yesterday, Jesus’ ministry took a significant turn in the last nine months of his life. Once He made this statement to the disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily and follow me,” (Luke 9.23 ESV). Jesus was focused on two things: multiplying the movement and the cost associated with multiplication. From this point forward in the Gospels, you find Jesus repeatedly calling people to sacrifice; to a radical allegiance to Him regardless of the cost. Therefore, it’s not surprising that when Jesus encounters three, would-be disciples, He challenged them to follow Him, and leave their excuses and hindrances behind.
“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, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Yet 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 his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9.57-62 ESV)
WHEREVER YOU LEAD
A man approached Jesus and said, “Jesus, I will follow you wherever you go!” That sounds promising. Most of us would have signed that young man up on the spot, but not Jesus. Instead, Jesus challenged the man’s youthful idealism. He said, “Foxes have a place they live, the birds have nests but I’m homeless.
If you want to follow Me you’ve got to let go of the tangible things that give you security and follow Me wherever I lead. ” I can remember growing up singing an old hymn, “Wherever He leads I’ll go. Wherever He leads I’ll go. I’ll follow my Christ who loves me so. Wherever He leads I’ll go.” It’s easy to sing those words, but it’s oftentimes difficult to live them. To follow Jesus means saying, “Jesus, you are my leader. You set the course and direction for my life. Wherever You lead me, I’ll follow You even there.”
WHENEVER YOU CALL
A second man came to Jesus and pledged his allegiance. Jesus extended to him the same invitation He had given to so many others, “follow Me.” But immediately, the man had other pressing business. “Let me FIRST go bury my father.” This seems like a reasonable thing to ask, until you realize that most likely, his father wasn’t dead yet. What he was actually saying is, “Jesus I want to follow You, but I can’t right now. Whenever my father passes away, then I’ll give You my full attention.” This explains why Jesus replied the way He did. “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” In effect Jesus was saying, “Let the dead (spiritually) bury the dead (physically) but you choose now to live your life for advancing the movement.”
There are always those who want to follow Jesus and invest their lives in a powerful way, but the timing is never quite right. You might say, “When I get out of High School, and I’m not so busy, then I’ll serve Jesus.” Or “When I get out of college and the heavy demands on my time lighten, then I’ll follow Jesus.” That turns into “Whenever I get married and settle down…,” or “Whenever I have children, and my life is more rooted…,” or “Whenever I’m out of this busy stage of my life…,” or “Whenever the kids are out of the house…,” or “Whenever I get to retirement…,” or “Whenever I’m not on a cruise…” You see, every stage of life expects that the next stage will provide more time to live for Jesus, but that’s simply not true. The time to live for Jesus is now!
WHATEVER IT TAKES
The last man offered to follow Jesus but only on his terms. “Let me first say farewell to those at my home,” he requested. Jesus responded quickly, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” This exchange is different than the other two in that it is similar to the call of Elisha in (1 Kings 19.20 ESV). There the prophet Elijah found his emerging disciple, Elisha, plowing a field with twelve oxen. The prophet threw his mantle of leadership across Elisha’s shoulders; a sure call to discipleship. However, Elisha made a request. “Let me kiss my mother and my father, and then I will follow you.” His request was granted, and he went on to follow his master, Elijah. The request of this man is similar to that of Elisha, and Jesus picks up on that by referencing the plowing of a field. But Jesus had something significant to say in His response. “Yes, Elisha’s request was granted, but what if I deny that request? Will you still follow Me? Are you willing to follow Me only on My terms? Are you willing to do whatever it takes to follow Me?” This is a penetrating question. Are you willing to do whatever it takes to follow Jesus? Are you willing to follow Him, even if His timing and His terms don’t fit your future plans?
Following Jesus will often cost you. He is Master. He is King. When He extends His call to discipleship, He is asking you to follow Him – wherever He leads, whenever He calls and whatever it takes.
Photo Credit: Matheus Ferrero