IN the ninth chapter of his Gospel, Luke relates three incidents from our Lord’s ministry so briefly that we are in danger of passing too quickly over the treasure of truth hidden there. Three characters flash suddenly by; we never hear of them again; the tantalizing brevity of it all leaves us wondering what became of them.
The first of these, much impressed by the Master, declares in a fit of momentary enthusiasm, “I will follow You wherever You go!” Matthew tells us that this man was a scribe, and his offer to follow must have looked very attractive. Until then, only rough fishermen and common working-folk had volunteered; now the prominent were professing! You or I might have seized that proposition before he had finished speaking.
Jesus did not so hastily accept this distinguished convert. He calmly replied, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head.” He was saying, “Before you so lightly rush into this adventure of following Me, count the cost. Do you realize that it means surrendering your home comforts, position, reputation, and career as a rabbi to be the despised disciple of a hated ‘fanatic’?”
There it ends. But in a flash it portrays a type all too common: the easily excited, emotional enthusiast, quick-on-the-trigger—a rapid beginner who stalls on the middle mile when reality reveals the actual cost of the thing he has undertaken. The Christian adventure is no romantic excursion for the glib-and-gushing type.
This man was too eager; the next two are not eager enough. The first meets Jesus’ invitation to follow Him with a condition: “First, let me go bury my father.” Whenever a man starts off with “ifs” and “buts,” he has not made a full surrender. Their name is Legion who want to follow Christ but who have not fully let go of something dead they want to bury. Somewhere in their lives there is a carcass of money or lust or cherished evil, or even something not bad in itself (such as this man’s dead father), but which is a millstone that holds them back from absolute dedication. They want to go back, they think, to bury it, but they fall in love with it all over again and never become a disciple.
So Jesus says, “Let the dead bury the dead.” It sounds harsh, but it is the Divine condition. “Give up these dead loves of the old life! If you mean to follow Me, I will have no fondling of these carcasses of earth!” And many a soul has never joined the procession of the redeemed because still he lingers among the graves of this world’s decaying treasures!
The third man merely wishes to tell his family goodbye; surely there is no harm in that! Yet back comes the stern rejoinder: “No man, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” The danger was this: if the man went home to say farewell, his relatives and neighbors would have cooled his ardor—any man who has tried to serve the King in a matter-of-fact environment knows that full well. “Don’t get worked up over this new preacher. This is a fit of fancy and will soon blow over”—thus they would have talked and toned his fiery idealism down to the drab luke-warmness of those average souls who never see the Heavenly Vision.
So, with this plowman figure (v. 62), Jesus said in substance: “If you are going with Me, let us go. But My road is not for those with their feet turned one way and their head another, who ever look back, like Lot’s wife upon Sodom. My kingdom is no place for the man with the backward look!”