July 2 – What Does It Mean to Follow Jesus?

Luke 9: 51 – 62 NLT

51 As the time drew near for him to ascend to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.

Luke uses this statement to let us know he will now concentrate on the end of Jesus’ ministry on earth. In his commentary, Living Insights: Luke, Charles Swindoll refers back to a prophecy in Isaiah that predicts this moment in time. I love these prophetic statements since they affirm my faith.

“The Sovereign Lord has spoken to me,
    and I have listened.
    I have not rebelled or turned away.
I offered my back to those who beat me
    and my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard.
I did not hide my face
    from mockery and spitting.

Because the Sovereign Lord helps me,
    I will not be disgraced.
Therefore, I have set my face like a stone,
    determined to do his will.
    And I know that I will not be put to shame.
He who gives me justice is near.
    Who will dare to bring charges against me now?
Where are my accusers?
    Let them appear!” (Isaiah 50: 5 – 8)

52 He sent messengers ahead to a Samaritan village to prepare for his arrival. 53 But the people of the village did not welcome Jesus because he was on his way to Jerusalem. 54 When James and John saw this, they said to Jesus, “Lord, should we call down fire from heaven to burn them up?” 55 But Jesus turned and rebuked them. 56 So they went on to another village.

There is ongoing antipathy between Samaria and the rest of Israel. It was an area of the country where Jews and Gentiles had intermarried during the occupations of Israel in the Old Testament. If you are interested in learning more, check out gotquestions.org. Jesus rebukes the disciples when they react angrily to the Samaritans being unfriendly. To Jesus, northern Israel, Judah and Samaria are all part of the original Israel. The Great Commission in Acts 1: 8 reflects that:

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

The Cost of Following Jesus

57 As they were walking along, someone said to Jesus, “I will follow you wherever you go.”

58 But Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head.”

59 He said to another person, “Come, follow me.”

The man agreed, but he said, “Lord, first let me return home and bury my father.”

60 But Jesus told him, “Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead! Your duty is to go and preach about the Kingdom of God.”

61 Another said, “Yes, Lord, I will follow you, but first let me say good-bye to my family.”

62 But Jesus told him, “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.”

Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem and the cross. He wants people to know that following him means sacrifice; it’s not an easy life. Three scenarios are given by people who are interested in following Jesus. When the first person says he is willing to follow Jesus everywhere, Jesus replies that he must be ready to have no home, no money (resources). In his commentary, Chuck Swindoll wrote that in the culture of the day, people who followed army commanders and political people often ended up richer. This person likely thought that following Jesus meant a better life in a new Israel. That was not what Jesus’ mission was about at all.

Jesus’ reply to the next person seems rather harsh. Why couldn’t a man bury his father? It is likely the man was asking to wait to follow Jesus until his elderly father died and the estate was settled. The third person asks to go home and say good-bye to his family. The implication is that the person values his family immensely and leaving them is a sorrowful thing.

In all three situations described here, Jesus is saying that following him must be first – the most important thing in your life. That expectation frankly shakes me to the core. Maybe it does you as well?

How important is my relationship with God in my life? How does it show up in the way I spend my time? How does it show up in the way I spend or save my money? How does it show up in the way I treat people? How does it show up in my thought life?

Our song for today is Word of God Speak by Mercy Me

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