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.”
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.”