“As they were going along the road, a man 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.” But he said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 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).
What an interesting passage. Why? Because, like the men in this situation, I too often want to stipulate on my terms what I will do in following Christ. But, the fact is, Christ has to be Lord if I desire to follow him.
Many times I find myself worrying about the quality of my faith – is it strong enough; am I doing it right; or, am I growing in the faith? I should not worry about his; just obey to the best of my ability and step out in faith. Be like the father with a demon-possessed boy: “I believe; help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24).
Yet, I often find it difficult to believe and step out in faith. I don’t get much out of religion anymore; the services are not inspiring; God’s word is difficult to comprehend; and, his commands are so stringent. I am often like Paul: “I do what I do not want and leave undone what I would do” (Romans 7:15ff.).
Maybe the answer is, as Bonhoeffer states, “Only those who obey believe!” If I find faith difficult, maybe I am trying to keep a part of my life to myself. Maybe the problem is not religion, but my lack of obedience: “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains alone” (John 12:24). Maybe I am not dying to self.
The young ruler in Matthew 19:16 has a question for Jesus that is really the ultimate, serious question of life: “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Yet, this ruler succeeds in avoiding the question, in that, he feels that Jesus must have something deep to say. He expects a weighty response, which reveals an academic concern on his part, not a real, in-depth spiritual quest. He, as we see in the rest of the story, certainly does not expect a directive that would make an absolute claim on, or commitment from, him.
Too many times we look for the awesome, the fascinating, the heroic, in our quest to follow Jesus, when in reality we ought to be striving to obey the simple call of discipleship in our daily routine journey in life. The devil desires us to keep on posing problems and questions and thus escape the necessity of obedience to what we clearly perceive God wants from us. He does not want our philosophies and theories – he wants us!