Three Prospective Followers

SCRIPTURE: Luke 9:57-62, NLT

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.”

INTRODUCTION

As you can clearly see in today’s text, three people are challenged with the thought of following Jesus. Two volunteer and one is asked but none of the tree pan out. Today we are going to look at these three individuals and learn from their experience and the words of our Lord Jesus Christ.

I. THE FIRST MAN IS AN ENTHUSIASTIC VOLUNTEER

He said, “I will follow You wherever you go.”

There is absolutely nothing wrong with what he said, the problem is that he spoke before considering the cost. How do I know this? Because of Jesus response…“Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head.”

Jesus knew the man was volunteering on the emotion and excitement of the moment. The idea or concept of following is…the follower will encounter and experience the same thing as the one to whom he is following.

Let’s say that I set my face toward Augusta and the Master coming up next month and you commit to follow me. I must tell you that I am going through Atlanta, Georgia on I-20. This means heavy traffic, the potential of road rage, wrecks, traffic jams and unsafe exits after dark. If you follow me, all these things will be a risk.

This man was memorized by Jesus no doubt but did he understand where Jesus was going. Jesus was not headed toward health and wealth; He was headed for Gethsemane and Golgotha. He was not going in the direction of fame and fortune but shame and death. Jesus was telling him the truth: if you follow me, you will be homeless, despised and rejected.

I admire Jesus: He does not soft soap the message, He does not water it down, He does not lower the standard. Jesus demands our all, anything less than total self-denial will not work. Jesus did not say, “Great, it is a piece of cake. Following me is easy, it will not cost you a dime, anyone can do it.”

Discipleship is not for the faint of heart or for those who are half-hearted. With Jesus, it is all or nothing. In light of Jesus honesty, Warren W. Wiersbe says, “No wonder the labors are few.”

II. THE SECOND PROSPECTIVE FOLLOWER CANNOT DISENGAGE FROM THE WORLD

He said, “Yes I will follow you but “Lord, first let me return home and bury my father.”

Burying the father was the responsibility of the oldest son and there is no indication that the boys father is any where near death. He is willing to follow Jesus but not willing to make it a priority. It’s almost like saying, “Yes, I will follow You someday but not today. I have some pressing matter to take care of but when I’ve taken care of my business, I will follow You.”

Jesus reply teaches us that Discipleship has a higher priority than even family obligations. The man had siblings who could take care of his father funeral. He may have been worried about collecting his inheritance before following Jesus.

Folks, we cannot follow Jesus until we sever all ties with the world.

III. THE THIRD PROSPECTIVE FOLLOWER CANNOT DISCONNECT FROM THE PAST

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

His answer does seem bad to us but Jesus knew his heart. We take our read from what Jesus said in response…Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.” The third man finds it difficult to cut ties that bind him to the past. He lacks the decisiveness and commitment to fast the future. In order to plow a straight row, the plowman has to focus his eyes on a distant goal, like a tree or a post.

The Apostle Paul has the right attitude as is expressed in Philippians 3…I don’t mean that I am exactly what God wants me to be. I have not yet reached that goal. But I continue trying to reach it and make it mine. That’s what Christ Jesus wants me to do. It is the reason he made me his. Brothers and sisters, I know that I still have a long way to go but there is one thing I do: I forget what is in the past and try as hard as I can to reach the goal before me.  I  keep running hard toward the finish line to get the prize that is mine because God has called me through Christ Jesus to life up there in heaven.

I ran track in college. Although I ran middle distance and cross country, I heard Coach Franks preach to the sprinters– the cardinal sin for a sprinter is to look back…you never look back.

 In 1904 William Borden graduated from a Chicago high school. As heir to the Borden family fortune, he was already wealthy. For his high school graduation present, his parents gave 16-year-old Borden a trip around the world. As the young man traveled through Asia, the Middle East, and Europe, he felt a growing burden for the world’s hurting people. Finally, Bill Borden wrote home about his “desire to be a missionary.”   One friend expressed disbelief that Bill was “throwing himself away as a missionary.”
     In response, Borden wrote two words in the back of his Bible: “No reserves.” Even though young Borden was wealthy, he arrived on the campus of Yale University in 1905 trying to look like just one more freshman. Very quickly, however, Borden’s classmates noticed something unusual about him and it wasn’t that he had lots of money. One of them wrote: “He came to college far ahead, spiritually, of any of us. He had already given his heart in full surrender to Christ and had really done it. We who were his classmates learned to lean on him and find in him a strength that was solid as a rock, just because of this settled purpose and consecration.”
      During his college years, Bill Borden made an entry in his personal journal that defined what his classmates were seeing in him. That entry said simply: “Say ‘no’ to self and ‘yes’ to  Jesus every time.” Borden’s first disappointment at Yale came when the university president spoke in a convocation about the students’ need of “having a fixed purpose.” After that speech, Borden wrote: “He neglected to say what our purpose should be, and where we should get the ability to persevere and the strength to resist temptations.” Surveying the Yale faculty and much of the student body, Borden lamented what he saw as the end result of an empty, humanistic philosophy: moral weakness and sin-ruined lives.
  During his first semester at Yale, Borden began a prayer group that started with himself and one other student but the morning prayer group gave birth to a movement that soon spread across the campus. By the end of his first year, 150 freshman were meeting weekly for Bible study and prayer. By the time Bill Borden was a senior, one thousand of Yale’s 1,300 students were meeting in such groups.
  Borden’s outreach ministry was not confined to the Yale campus. He cared about widows and orphans and the disabled. He rescued drunks from the streets of New Haven. To try to rehabilitate them, he founded the Yale Hope Mission. One of Bill Borden’s friends wrote…“He might often be found in the lower parts of the city at night, on the street, in a cheap lodging house or some restaurant to which he had taken a poor hungry fellow to feed him, seeking to lead men to Christ.”
      Borden’s missionary call narrowed to the Muslim Kansu people in China. Once he fixed his eyes on that goal, Borden never wavered. He also challenged his classmates to consider missionary service. One of them said of him: “He certainly was one of the strongest characters I have ever known, and he put backbone into the rest of us at college. There was real iron in him, and I always felt he was of the stuff martyrs were made of, and heroic missionaries of more modern times.”
    Upon graduation from Yale, Borden turned down some high-paying job offers. In his Bible, he wrote two more words: “No retreats.”

      William Borden went on to do graduate work at Princeton Seminary in New Jersey. When he finished his studies at Princeton, he sailed for China. Because he was hoping to work with Muslims, he stopped first in Egypt to study Arabic. While there, he contracted spinal meningitis. Within a month, 25-year-old William Borden was dead.
     When the news of William Whiting Borden’s death was cabled back to the U.S., the story was carried by nearly every American newspaper. “A wave of sorrow went round the world . . . Borden not only gave (away) his wealth, but himself, in a way so joyous and natural that it (seemed) a privilege rather than a sacrifice. 
      Was Borden’s untimely death a waste? Not in God’s perspective. Prior to his death, Borden had written two more words in his Bible. Underneath the words “No reserves” and “No retreats,” he had written: “No regrets
.”

William Borden grabbed the plow and never looked back: this is what it takes to follow Jesus…“Say ‘no’ to self and ‘yes’ to  Jesus every time.”

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Normal Christianity

Matthew 10:37-39

37 “If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine. 38 If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. 39 If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.

INTRODUCTION

What does it mean to be a Christian? Many people believe that being a Christian means attending church once a week but is that a good definition of Christianity? What does it mean to be a disciple of Christ or a follower of Christ? Are all true believers followers of Christ? Did Jesus teach nominal Christianity? Did He distinguish between a believer and a follower? A study of the gospels reveals that Jesus made the same demands on all followers. There is no category for non-following believers. In the GREAT COMMISSION Jesus emphatically stated…”Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

The demands of the kingdom are so offensive to a world already convinced of its rightness that they provoke that world’s hostility.

In a moment, we are going to look at three extreme claims that Jesus makes on our lives but first I want to tell a story. Recruiters for all the armed services were given one hour to make presentations to the student body of a certain high school. The Army recruiter went first, then the Navy and then Air Force. The problem was that each one of them too more than their allotted 15 minutes and that left the Marine recruiter with 3 minutes to present. He stood and spoke loudly and clearly: I have less than three minutes to speak but I don’t need three minutes. Most of you can not handle being a Marine; you don’t have what it takes. In a group this size, there are probably a half dozen that can make the grade. I want to see you six at my table as soon as the bell rings. Guess who had the most applicants? The Marine told them the truth and that challenged a select group.

When it came to enlisting followers, Jesus was tougher than a Marine. Three things Jesus says if we are to follow HIM…

  1. WE MUST GIVE HIM PREFERENCE. He must be our highest priority. He can not be given a place; He demands preeminence. If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine. Jesus must be your greatest love. No one can come before HIM, no one. Many of us want Jesus to be first in our lives but we have learned as did Peter that sometimes our heart deceives us and we don’t love Jesus as much as we thought. My intention is to put Jesus first in everything. I read a story about a woman who loved Jesus with all her heart. She was married to an unbeliever who was also a jerk. He resented her going to church every time the doors were open but she loved the worship and fellowship of her church and she never missed. Finally on a Sunday morning, he gets fed up with this church business and he tells her as she walked through the den and headed for the garage that she is not going. She hesitates briefly but continues to get her coat and the car keys. By the time she is ready, he is standing between her and the door. “You are not going to church today, you are staying home and spending time with me” he said. “No,” said she, “I will have all evening to spend with you but this morning, I am going to church.” With that he pulls a pistol and puts it between her eyes. In a rather sarcastic tone of voice he says, “Now where are you going?” She said without a blink, “If you pull the trigger, I’m going to heaven; if you don’t I am going to church.” I love that story…I’m cheering her own…you go girl. Jesus has to be number one: your greatest love.
  2. WE MUST TAKE UP OUR CROSS AND FOLLOW JESUS. Theologically, there is no such thing as a Christianity without a cross. The cross was the Roman instrument for death and of course Jesus took our sins to the cross. Our forgiveness and atonement is directly related to Jesus death on the cross. If you take the cross out of Christianity, our sins are un-atoned for and we have no forgiveness. The cross is not a piece of jewelry or a good luck charm, it is death to the flesh, to our self life. Paul told the Corinthians that he suffered death daily. We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair.We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies. Yes, we live under constant danger of death because we serve Jesus, so that the life of Jesus will be evident in our dying bodies. So we live in the face of death, but this has resulted in eternal life for you. Matter of fact, Paul said to the Galatians that he was a living dead man…I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. Paul said I am crucified, that would mean dead but then he says, nevertheless I live but it is not I but Christ in me. So what is Paul, living or dead…he is both. He is a living dead man. He is dead to self and alive to Christ.
  3. WE MUST WILLINGLY SURRENDER OUR VERY LIVES. The demands of the kingdom are so offensive to a world that they provoke that world’s hostility. JESUS does not want to be a part of our life, not even the best part: he demands our life itself. Whoever counts his life of so much value that he will preserve it by sacrificing his opportunity to follow Jesus, or will renounce his faith to save his life, will find in the end that he has lost his soul forever for the sake of a few fleeting years; while he who gives up all things, even life itself, will find an abundant reward in the life eternal. All self-seeking is self-losing. The Divine law is always to give in order to receive. We keep nothing that we have not given away. The only thing you will retain in the final outcome is that which we did not clink to. It’s not that important that we live long upon the earth; it is important that we be faithful as long as we live. If we want to be followers of Jesus, we must be ready to die. If I value my life in this world more than I value Jesus and the life of the next world, I cannot be his disciple. Admittedly, we are afraid of persecution. We see what the world did to Jesus and we do not want to bear that kind of reproach. We do not want to be marched down main street with a cross on our shoulder while the crowds is mocking and making fun of us. Our very nature instinctively cries out for us to preserve our lives, to clink to our life and that would make sense if this life was all we had.
    • If this life is all there is, no more studying all day on Saturdays…I watch football and eat stew.
    • No more trips to Guatemala and no more money given to missions…I will use that to buy me a new tractor with a front end loader.
    • Sacrifice is stupid if this life is all there is.
    • If this life is all there is we should live it up not give it up!

CONCLUSION

The demands of the kingdom are so offensive to a world that they provoke that world’s hostility. We live in a world that is anti-Christ and the hostility toward Christ and His followers is growing. I think it is very possible that a more severe persecution is on the way, one that I fear the West is not prepared for; one that I’m not sure I am prepared for. All of the 12 Apostles were martyred except John.

  • James the brother of John was killed with a sword by Herod.
  • James the less was stoned to death by the Jews.
  • Andrew was crucified on an X cross in Greece.
  • Matthias was stoned by the Jews.
  • Mark was dragged to death in Alexandria, Egypt.
  • Peter was crucified on a cross in Rome. Upside down by his own request.
  • Paul was beheaded by Nero in Rome.
  • Bartholomew was crucified in India.
  • Thomas was run through with a spear in India.
  • Luke was hung on an olive tree in Greece.
  • Simon the Zealot was crucified in Britain.

The bad news is that this world will hate anyone who openly confesses Christ and they can kill the body; the good news is they cannot touch the soul.

The Great Invitation

Matthew 11:28-30

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

INTRODUCTION

I love this passage. Some refer to it as the Great Invitation, Jesus said, “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened.” Do you know anyone who has adult children that is not burdened or weary? Practically everyone you met these days is laden with troubles. When we casually ask people how they are doing, what we want to hear is ‘fine’. We don’t really want them to unburden themselves on us because we are absorbed with our own problems, right? They are a couple of points other than the one above that I want to make by way of introduction. Let me list them so that they will be clear.

  1. Everyone has problems
  2. Jesus invitation is to everyone. It is not an exclusive invitation. If you are weary and heavy laden, Jesus invites you to come to Him.
  3. The symbol Jesus uses, the YOKE is a symbol of oppression and bondage in the Old Testament but Jesus has the power to make all things new. Using the Yoke as a symbol or teaching point was revolutionary and somewhat of a paradox. Who wants a yoke? I hope that we will answer that question in the message.

We are going to use an acronym to guide us through our thoughts: RULE. There is no play on words or double meanings here, it is just a word to help us remember the content.

R is for Rest

Note what Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Does that sound appealing or what? Is there anything that you are tired of? I am tired of secular humanism. I am tired of killing innocent babies and calling it choice. I am tired of having gay rights shoved in my face every time I turn on the TV or Radio. I am sick and tired of political correctness and liberal politics. But I have to be honest, as tired as I am of those things, I am also tired of fear, guilt, shame, self, regret, sin and failure. I’m telling you, everyone has a burden if its nothing more than their shame and guilt.

I have a lot of anxiety. I think I was born hyper. It is practically impossible for me to relax. I don’t even get still when I’m asleep. I keep a lot of my mind and I don’t have that much mind. We all need a Sabbath, a day of rest but I am a preacher and so Sunday’s are anything but a day of rest. My Sunday’s begin around 4:00 am and end at around 7:00-8:00. I am weary in body and mind when I come home on Sunday night. I am so tired physically on Monday that I move like a snail. After a long and stressful weekend a few weeks ago, I came home from work on Monday, took my shower and put on my PJ’s. June said, “What are you doing?” I said, “If anyone calls for me, I am in bed.” I thought I made myself clear but had no more than got it out of my mouth than one of the kids wanted to talk to me. If it had been a church member, she would have told them I was in bed. I hang up from that call and within 20 minutes, I am getting another. I gave up and went to bed. We all get tired and we all have burdens to bear. I just happen to be my own worse enemy and I bear the burden of anxiety. Rest, real rest is a big deal to me.

My favorite time of the day is my quiet time in the morning. There I get to rest in the arms of Jesus. Listen folks, I need my rest and Jesus gives me sweet rest from my weariness.

U is for UNION

The thing about a Yoke is that it brings you really close to the one you are yoked with. Jesus said, “Take My Yoke upon you.” This is a picture of unity. I am in union with Christ. I am right by His side and He is right by myself. This has to be the most wonderful aspect of being yoked to Christ, I have His promised and perpetual presence. He has promised to stay with me until the end of the age. He has promised to never leave me nor forsake me. There is nothing like HIS PRESENCE. There is nothing you can compare to His presence.

There is a wonderful story in John 20 that illustrates my point. The disciples are locked in a room out of fear of the Jews. Lets just pick up with the story from John…That Sunday evening the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them! “Peace be with you,” he said. As he spoke, he showed them the wounds in his hands and his side. They were filled with joy when they saw the Lord! Again he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” There is no substitute for HIS presence. Could a bride enjoy her wedding if the groom was absent? His absence would pretty much spoil her day. There is no good day without Jesus. I can weather any storm as long as I feel His presence. The disciples were having a bad night and they did not realize that Jesus was present until He manifested His presence; oh for faith to know that He is present in the darkness when there is no manifestation.

L is for LEARNING

Again, pay particular attention to what Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you and let me teach you.” The NKJV reads, “Learn from me.” I like the ERV because the emphasis on learning is throughout the passage. Come to me all of you who are tired from the heavy burden you have been forced to carry. I will give you rest. Accept my teaching. Learn from me. I am gentle and humble in spirit. And you will be able to get some rest. Yes, the teaching that I ask you to accept is easy. The load I give you to carry is light.” The invitation is actually an invitation to be Jesus disciple. What a privilege. He is willing to teach us how to be like Him, gentle and humble. A yoke is for serving, not sitting. Jesus it talking about teaching us how to serve with his gentle spirit.

When a farmer was training a new oxen, he would yoke it with a seasoned veteran. The larger, stronger, learned oxen would do the leading and most of the pulling until the junior oxen learns the art. In our case Jesus is the lead oxen. Being His disciple is simply a matter of following. I don’t have to make any directional decisions, all I have to do is follow Him. As the song writer said, “Where he leads I will follow.” You don’t need a vision: Jesus has already cast the vision. He is the founder and architect of the church; you know He has a plan. Discipleship is not about casting a vision; it’s about following the Master. I don’t pretend to know it all but I do know that Jesus is teaching me humility. I’m not that good of a student but He is a very good teacher. One of the things I admire about Him most is His gentleness.

I started in the ministry some 45 years ago and I don’t remember a time when I did not talk about Jesus but as I think back, I question my motives. I am fairly certain that it was more about me in those days than it was Jesus no matter what my lips said. Learning is a process, a progression of steps and incrementally and patiently, Jesus has moved me from where I was to where I am and I believe someday to where He wants me to be. I know that I’m still rough around the edges but I do sense Jesus patiently moving me closer to His spirit of gentleness and humility. Someone said we believers have a three-fold task: [1] To be disciples [2] To make disciples [3] To draw others to Christ so they can become disciples. It’s all about discipleship and you cannot make a disciple until you become a disciple. In the Kingdom of God, you cannot lead until you learn to follow. There are many gifted people who skip the discipleship training and go straight to being the lead ox but they do not have a gentle or humble spirit. I know gifted preachers who can deliver eloquent and moving sermons but they have no humility or gentleness. Jesus want to teach us to serve Him with gentleness and humility. He wants us to learn to be like Him, to serve like Him.

E is for EASY

I have heard the cliché’s, I know living for Christ is easy once we are dead to self but it is the dead to self part that I struggle. One way or the other, a yoke spells work, service, labor, toil: you don’t yoke oxen to stand under a shade tree. There are some prideful folk that are going to say, “I’m not getting in anyone’s yoke. I am my own man and I do what I please. I serve no one other than myself.” I’m sure there are those who believe they are being truthful when they make such foolish statements. What is the essence of sin? It is found in Isaiah 53:6, All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. The essence of sin is that we want to do things our way. The person who says, “I do things my way, I don’t serve anyone other than myself” is deceived. They are a servant of sin because sin demands that we do things our way. Who is standing in the shadows of sin? If you said the devil, you would be correct. Everyone is wearing a YOKE. Jesus invites you to wear His YOKE because, relatively speaking, it is easy. The way of the transgressor is hard and it going to get harder and harder. Jesus is saying, “My way is best. My way is easier than your way,” and He is right.

Remember also that Jesus pulls most of the weight; in some cases all. You pulled all the weight at Calvary. Not one soul lifted a finger to help Him. Who else but Christ can take care of our sins? Who else but Christ can usher us into the presence of the Father? You would be a fool to try to work your way into God graces; get yoked up with Jesus; he will make your burden light.

The apostle Paul could remember the day when he was weary and heavy laden. Paul was a Pharisee. The Pharisees were possibly the most religious people on earth. Paul did this, Paul did that but he was a miserable and mean man. He served God or at least he thought, but he did it his way. He lived to arrest Christians and break up prayer meeting. He was a terror to the church. Christians feared this little man because he was mean and had the power of the Sanhedrin behind him. In those day, life was hard for Paul and he made life difficult for others. Then Paul met Jesus and Jesus transformed his life. Paul became a servant of the church instead of it’s satan: he became a preacher instead of a persecutor. Listen as Paul unveils his heart to the Corinthians…

But if anyone dares to boast, I will too. Are those people Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they from Abraham’s family? So am I. Are they serving Christ? I am serving him more. (I am crazy to talk like this.) I have worked much harder than they have. I have been in prison more often. I have been hurt more in beatings. I have been near death many times. Five times the Jews have given me their punishment of 39 lashes with a whip.  Three different times I was beaten with rods. One time I was almost killed with rocks. Three times I was in ships that were wrecked, and one of those times I spent the night and the next day in the sea. In my constant traveling I have been in danger from rivers, from thieves, from my own people, and from people who are not Jews. I have been in danger in cities, in places where no one lives, and on the sea. And I have been in danger from people who pretend to be believers but are not. I have done hard and tiring work, and many times I did not sleep. I have been hungry and thirsty. Many times I have been without food. I have been cold and without clothes. And there are many other problems. One of these is the care I have for all the churches. I worry about each group of believers every day.

Sound like Paul endured a lot for Christ sake but listen to what he says in chapter 4 of the same letter, Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. Paul consider everything he had suffered to be light affliction. He saying, “Man, what we have suffered or think we have suffered is nothing compared to what’s waiting on us in heaven.”

When I surrendered to the ministry, I thought I was making a huge sacrifice. As I look back, I can see that I made no sacrifice at all. Jesus said, “My yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” Jesus is no liar. He is the ultimate Promise Keeper.

Discipleship

Matthew 8:18-23, NLT

18 When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he instructed his disciples to cross to the other side of the lake.

19 Then one of the teachers of religious law said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.”

20 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.”

21 Another of his disciples said, “Lord, first let me return home and bury my father.”

22 But Jesus told him, “Follow me now. Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead.”

INTRODUCTION

This passage reminds me of another in Luke 20 where the Scribe comes to trick Jesus with a question on taxes. He approached Jesus with what he thought was flattery but you and I know that it is true…this is what he said…Teacher, we know that you’re honest and straightforward when you teach, that you don’t pander to anyone but teach the way of God accurately. {Luke 20:21, Msg.} Whoever this Jew was, he got it right: Jesus was honest and straightforward and He did not pander to anyone. In other words, He did not kiss up, did not try to please of appease but told the truth in love. This brief story concerns the cost of discipleship. I do believe that Jesus wants followers. He commanded us in Matthew 28:19-20…Go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. Why would Jesus command us to make disciples if He does not want disciples? At first glance, you would assume by the tone of the text that Jesus is discouraging discipleship but actually He is just being thoroughly honest.

Three things you need to be a disciple…

  1. YOU NEED TO KNOW JESUS PERSONALLY. If you will look carefully at the text, you will notice that the Scribe addresses Jesus as “Teacher” or Rabbi. Some translate it master: the Greek word is didaskalos which means teacher. You will also note that the person referred to as one of His disciples addressed Him as LORD {kyrios} which means he to whom a person or thing belongs, about which he has power of deciding; the possessor and disposer of a thing;  the owner; one who has control of the person, or as in the state, a person’s sovereign. As you can clearly see, there is a huge difference between acknowledging Jesus as Teacher and acknowledging Him as LORD. Long story short…If Jesus is not your LORD, you are not His disciple. Jesus must be more to you than a good man or a good teacher. Before becoming His disciple, we have to come to know Him as Savior and LORD.
  2. YOU NEED TO KNOW THAT DISCIPLESHIP CALLS FOR COMMITMENT. Jesus said in Matthew 16…“If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.” Jesus told the Scribe…”Foxes have dens and birds have nest but the Son of Man has no where to lay His head.” Jesus had a headquarters in Capernaum of Galilee but He wasn’t there much. His mission demanded that He be on the move. After He left Nazareth, He literally had no home. He simply wants the young man to think this thing through: is he really ready to surrender his life to Christ. Jesus also said in Matthew 16…If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.”  Was this young Scribe ready to give up his life and lose it for Christ sake. Jesus is not trying to discourage him but He does want him to count the cost. Jesus is not glorified by short-term disciples. He wants those who will endure the hardships of discipleship. He wants those who stick with Him to the bitter end which for the believer is the sweet beginning. We have all seen these “Flash in the pan” disciples: they do more harm than good. Jesus honestly calls for honest commitment or surrender.
  3. YOU NEED TO KNOW THAT JESUS MUST BE PREEMINENT IS ALL THINGS. Jesus must come first. The disciple said, “I will follow You but first let me bury my father.” It is doubtful that the boys father is actually dead and the funeral is in a day or two. In Jewish life, the eldest son had an obligation to take care of his father. The young man is probably telling Jesus, “I want to be your follower someday but first I must fulfill my family obligation.” Jesus answer was no, “You let the dead bury the dead.” I don’t know for sure what Jesus meant but for years I have assumed that this was a reference to those who were not called to be disciples. This boy probably had siblings that could take care of his father. Some think it is a reference to the unregenerate…unsaved people can take care of their parents. Perhaps that is what Jesus meant, perhaps not but one thing is sure: when He calls we lay everything aside and follow. Jesus becomes our life. He is our LORD, our Sovereign and we are at His bidding.

Personal Testimony

I struggled with this when God called me to preach. I was not a model child. I was a bit on the rebellious side and got into a little mischief to boot. I didn’t really begin to appreciate my parents until I was an older teenager and then God called me to preach and I left and never returned to live among my folks. Forty years ago, June and I packed up for New Orleans and Danville is as close as we’ve been to home since. I missed most of Mother and Daddy’s retirement years because I was away, yet I knew and they knew that God had called me away. Neither of my parents ever questioned my loyalties. They knew that I loved them but my ultimate commitment was to Jesus. In the early years, I thought I was making this huge sacrifice but I don’t feel that way anymore. Life is short here on earth and I am glad that by His grace, I chose to serve Him. I always comforted myself with the thought that in heaven, I would not be restrained by time and there I could enjoy my parents. I don’t think my parents thought that my following Christ meant that I loved them less. I’m not going to say that I was the greatest son in the world because that is not true, I know several that will put me in the shade. I have one friend who calls or checks on his mother everyday and I was not that good of a son but I did try to show my parents that I loved them.

I am trying to say two things: [1] I don’t regret following Jesus although it did mean living a part from my precious parents. I was blessed with six siblings who could help them when I was not available and I am thankful. I sure it would have been tough had I been the only child. [2] I don’t feel like I’ve made a sacrifice at all. Ten, perhaps fifteen; most definitely thirty years ago I would have played my little violin…poor pitiful Bro. Jack, he gave up so much to follow Jesus; now I am ashamed that I ever thought such cockamamie thoughts. Serving Christ has been more wonderful than I could have ever imagined. I have seen things and heard things that I would not have dreamed would happen in this world. I could not have sat down and dreamed up a better life. To think that as a boy, I wanted to be the next Johnny Unitas. I wake up with bed sweats when I dream about that now. Can you imagine being chased by a man that is 6’8″ and weights 380 and runs the 40 in 4.9 seconds. God is good and I have no regrets about spending a life time in His Son’s service. Thank You Jesus!