“Where He leads I’ll follow, follow all the way; follow Jesus ev’ry day” (Song: Where He Leads I’ll Follow by W.A. Ogden). It is easy to sing these words. It is easy to proclaim these words, but will you follow him?
Will you follow Him…
1. If it means doing without the comforts of life?
One man said to Jesus, “Lord, I will follow You wherever You go” (Luke 9:57). Jesus wanted the man to understand what following Him might mean. He responded, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head” (Luke 9:58). Jesus had no place of “His own.” He had no regular lodging place. Albert Barnes commented, “It is not improbable that this man had seen the miracles of Jesus, and had formed an expectation that by following Him he would obtain considerable worldly advantage” (Barnes’ Notes, Comments on Matthew 8:19-20). I do not know if such was what the man was thinking. If this were his thoughts, then Jesus’ words must have been a great disappointment. However, we do not know how this man reacted.
What about you? If following Jesus meant leaving all you things, and comforts of life, would you do it? Jesus taught that to be His disciple one must be willing to forsake all (Luke 14:33).
2. If it means missing some family gathering?
Jesus said to a man, “Follow Me” (Luke 9:59). The man replied, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father” (Luke 9:59). Jesus answered, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preached the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:60). This is a paradox meaning, “Let the spiritually dead, bury the physically dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.”
We should understand that there is nothing wrong with showing respect for the dead, and the family of the dead. Jesus wept as He approached the tomb of Lazarus (John 11:35). Peter and a number of widows attended the funeral of Tabitha (Acts 9:36-39). “Devout men carried Stephen to his burial and made great lamentation over him” (Acts 8:2).
Why did Jesus respond as He did? Here are some suggestions which have been set forth. 1) Some have suggested that the man’s father was not yet dead (e.g. Burt Groves, The Gospel According to Luke, p. 108). It is claimed that he was asking for time to stay with his father until his father passed away. Such is possible. However, there is nothing in the text which suggests such. 2) Some have suggested that the reference is to the father’s second burial (e.g. Gary Brantley, Reason and Revelation, Vol. 13 no. 10, p. 79). He explained, “During this era, family members initially placed the deceased into a burial cave. After the flesh had totally decayed, they collected the bones in an ossuary (bone box) for preservation… According to rabbinical sources, atonement for the dead occurred when their bones were placed in the ossuary… perhaps the man asked Jesus for time to complete this Jewish burial rite to insure his father’s final atonement. Therefore, Jesus’ response might have been a reaction to this erroneous theological position” (ibid). This is an interesting theory. However, there is nothing in context which indicates that this is what Jesus is addressing. 3) Let me suggest that Jesus responded the way that He did due to timing and priorities. a) Timing – in context, Jesus was departing the area (Matthew 8:18, 21-23). H. Leo Boles commented, “The burying was now to be done; whereas Jesus was leaving the region, and if the disciple accompanied him he could not perform that service…” (Gospel Advocate New Testament Commentary Series, The Gospel According to Matthew, p. 197). b) Priorities – Jesus had called this man to follow Him but something else came first. He was unlike Peter and Andrew, James and John – who when called, “forsook all and followed Him” (Luke 5:11). He was unlike Levi – who when called, “left all rose up, and followed Him” (Luke 5:28). J.W. McGarvey commented, “This was a very exceptional prohibition, intended to show not that it was ordinarily wrong to stop for burying the dead, but wrong when in conflict with a command from Jesus” (The Fourfold Gospel, p. 342).
What about you? If following Jesus meant placing Him above family, would you do it? Jesus taught that if we are to be His disciple, He must come first even before family (Luke 14:26). Noel Merideth has written, “Nothing must stand in the way of discipleship. Military men carry out their orders, leaving their fathers to be buried by whom they might be if the need arose. Why not also for the kingdom? (Spiritual Sword Lectureship, The Book of Matthew, p. 264).
3. If it means leaving immediately?
One man said to Jesus, “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at My house” (Luke 9:61). Jesus replied, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the Kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62).
We should understand that ordinarily, there is nothing wrong with one saying farewell to family and friends. Elisha did (1 Kings 19:19-21). Levi did (Luke 5:27-29). Paul and Barnabas did (Acts 13:1-3; 20:36-ff).
Why did Jesus respond as He did? Here are some suggestions which have been set forth. 1) Some have suggested that Jesus thought that if he visited family and friends they would talk him out of leaving (cf. Barnes Notes). However, there is nothing in the context which suggests such. 2) Some have suggested that perhaps, Jesus looking upon this man’s heart (cf. John 2:25) knew that this man had at this point a divided interest. If he was going to follow Jesus, he needed to do so fully committed. This is a reasonable interpretation. 3) Let me suggest that the issue again may be timing and priorities. a) Timing – Jesus was departing the area (Matthew 8:18, 21-23). If the man was going with Jesus, then now was the time to leave. b) Priorities – the man needed to decide with whom he most wanted to be.
What about you? If following Jesus meant going with Him now, would you do it? Or, would you say, “I will go after I do this or that.” There is a country song which says, “Everybody wants to go to heaven but nobody wants to go now” (Kenny Chesney, Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven). Another country song says, “Lord, I want to go to heaven, but I don’t want to go tonight” [Joe Diffie, Prop Me Up Beside the Jukebox (if I Die)]. Would such be our attitude?