IN Luke 9:51-62 we find our Lord steadfastly setting His face toward Jerusalem, the cross and the consummation of His ministry. The Samaritans refused to receive Him because He headed for Jerusalem. It was quite a different attitude from that of the Samaritans in John 4. The disciples James and John wanted to call down fire from heaven upon them as Elijah had done in 2 Kings 1:10-12. Swift was the reply of our Lord: “Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of Man is not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.”
Christians today would do well to ponder these words. Often we have shown a disposition to call down fire upon others, not knowing what manner of spirit we are of. “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord.”
The rest of this passage sets forth three Gospel snapshots. Three men appear suddenly upon the stage, and as suddenly they are gone. The tantalizing brevity of it all leaves us wondering what became of them. They illustrate three perils of Christian discipleship: the peril of the uncounted cost, the peril of the unburied corpse, and the peril of the unforsaken circle.
The first man, a scribe according to Matthew, was a quick-on-the-trigger enthusiast who simply had not counted the cost. In Luke 14:25-33 our Lord deals thoroughly with this matter in the parables of the tower and of the king going to battle. He would have us know what we are doing and count the cost of obedience and following Him.
The second man was invited to discipleship by the Lord Himself, but he wanted first to go home and bury his father. The real trouble was in that word “first.” Something else came before following the Lord. He was ready to follow, but not just yet. Our Lord sternly replied, “Let the dead bury their dead; but go thou and preach the kingdom of God.” It is better that the dead should be unburied than that we fail to follow Him. Let the unbelieving relatives bury their dead. Let the dead in trespasses and in sins bury their kind. Whatever interpretation we put upon these words, we gather that our Lord will have no fondling of the carcasses of earth. No obligation of earth, no ties of sentiment should be allowed to hinder our discipleship to Him. Too many Christians sing hymns on Sunday but all week they are out in the world helping the dead to bury their dead.
The third man went further than the second. “I will follow Thee,” he said, but “first” he would tell his people goodbye. “I will follow Thee but…”—there is the weakness of many a prospective disciple. Our Lord uses a familiar figure from farm life to declare the peril of looking back. His kingdom is no place for a man with his feet pointed one way and his head the other. We are to forget the things behind. There is no place in discipleship for divided allegiance. “Fix your eyes upon Jesus” and run the race looking unto Him. Count the cost, let the dead bury the corpse and forsake the circle of those who are at home in this world.