Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Context of Following

There is this wonderful dialogue between our Lord and a few would be followers at the end of the ninth chapter of Luke's Gospel. The first person approached Him and said bravely, "Lord, I will follow you wherever you go." To which Jesus replied, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head."

Then He called another to follow Him, but this one said that he first wanted to go and bury his father. Jesus' answer to this excuse (which was probably not about an imminent death and burial, but rather a way of saying 'let me stay put until my familial obligations are complete' - which may have been many years in the future!) was, "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God."

Then, yet another hopeful approached Him and said, "Lord, I will follow you, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house." Jesus said to him, "No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the Kingdom of God."

From these replies, it seems that He (to whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hidden) looked beyond the apparent 'good intentions' and saw a deep seated reluctance to give up anything at all for the advance of God's Kingdom.

Just a few verses earlier, Jesus had made it abundantly clear that He was about to suffer, and if anyone wanted to follow in His footsteps, they would have to be prepared to suffer too. It is a well known statement. "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me." This statement is clearly defined by the preceding verse. "The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day."

This is the context in which He then said, "If anyone desires to come after Me...let him follow Me."

If one looks at the Western Church in general, one may be forgiven for thinking that Jesus never made such a statement at all. Indeed, one may wonder if the many verses regarding self-sacrifice have ever been read, much less applied by most Western Christians today. How many times are we not told in Scripture to do good to those who hate us and spitefully use us, to forgive those who sin against us, to esteem others better than ourselves, to be servants, to be the least...not to mention the fact that the command to love your neighbor as you love yourself is second only to the command to love God above all else!

Do you love anyone - and we are not even talking about our enemies here - but anyone as much as you love yourself? Do you really know the full meaning of discipleship and servanthood? If you claim to follow Jesus, do you know what to follow Him really means? Do you really know Him and do you know where He is leading?
What is the context of following for you?

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