Four Lessons We Can Learn From One Of The Weird Things That Jesus Said

Posted by Craig Borlase on 10 June 2014

As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, "I will follow you wherever you go."

Jesus replied, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head."

He said to another man, "Follow me."

But the man replied, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father."

Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God."

Still another said, "I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family."

Jesus replied, "No one who puts his hand to the plough and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

[Luke 9: 57-61]


Admittedly, this one ranks pretty high on the list of strange things that came out of Jesus’s mouth. And as Luke works through the trio of encounters where people misunderstand the true cost of discipleship, it can leave us feeling increasingly weirded out. 

The first guy signs up without being called, the second –our mate with the corpse in the deep freeze –just can’t seem to get free of the law, while the third man makes the offer of following God and then attaches conditions as if it is some grand career move which he can only complete once all the lose ends are tied up. All of them miss the point about following God, and Luke doesn’t tell us whether any of them come good in the end. We assume that the silence speaks volumes.

But what can this bizarre passage teach us? Well, try these on for size:

 1. Do we know people who have made rash commitments? Too often the church can be guilty of encouraging people to simply pray the prayer and sign on the line, leaving them a little stranded when it comes to support. Do we need to confess our part in this? We need to make sure that in our own church we take the responsibility of introducing people to Christ seriously. But there’s a deeper theme here: are some of those rash commitments a little closer to home for us –have we made them? Does our faith feel too easily shaken by life’s trials, do we feel as though we’ve rarely got any kind of solid foundation to our faith? If so, then we need to fix it. 

2. Do we need to fix the problem of legalism? Are we too bound in by the law, constrained by ideas of what Jesus can and cannot do? Are we too caught up by the preoccupation with our own destiny –whether we’re talking about our death or the rest of our lives –that we can’t take Jesus seriously? Do we need to break out of a desire to keep on going back and revisiting past graves –the tombs we’ve erected that mark the sorrows and losses we’ve encountered on the way –and focus instead on the future path that Jesus would have us follow? Do we need to break away from expectation that friends and family put on us, the assumptions that we will be a certain person, go through certain rituals simply because that’s the way things are done round here?

3. Have we made a mess of things by getting our values out of line completely? Have we forgotten the hierarchy –God above, us below? Have we made our faith about the pursuit of our own agenda, about the working down through our own emotional or physical wishlists? Have we made our role at church bout what we can get out of it for us? Are we trying to convince ourselves and others that we’re really serious about God when the truth is that we’re simply trying to dictate the terms. Do we really want to play that game? Are we really so sure that we’re going to come out anything other than completely and utterly wrong? 

4. Some of us feel spiritually dead inside. We don’t want to be left among the corpses, left to carry out the ritual while the others are finding life in massive fullness with Christ. You need to put that right. You need to own up to God about feeling dead. You need to acknowledge that God is the only source of life that matters, and take him up on his promise:  

"I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." [John 8:12]


There’s a temptation to put a whole load of ‘yeah…buts’ into this. It’s tempting to say that the context of first century discipleship is different to the idea of following Jesus today. It’s tempting to jump in and say that following Jesus will mean that he will respect our commitments and current state of play. It’s tempting to say that when God calls us –nice, middle class, comfortable as we are –certain things will stay in place.

Follow me. The answer and the offer are always the same. Forget the reasons why we can’t, the situations that have to get fixed first or the whimsical offer that we know we can retract later if it doesn’t work out. Jesus says follow me –take to the road with me, travel with me, trust me, reach me. Why? Because that’s where we’ll find life –the abundant, full, vibrant, dangerous, apparently unwise type of life that only God can deliver. 

So let’s forget the conditional offers. Let’s instead listen out for God’s voice calling us to follow him. And let’s do it.


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