[Jesus] said…“Follow me.”
Luke 9:59 (NIV)
I’m sure we can all remember one time or another when procrastination has got the better of us. Maybe there was a job to do or someone we needed to contact and we just didn’t get around to doing it. A little bit of procrastination is inevitable in our everyday lives but we need to beware of making excuses when the stakes are a lot higher.
In Luke 9:57-62 Jesus called two people to leave behind the life they were living and follow him. They said they would follow Jesus but not before they had done certain things. The first man wanted to bury his father and the second wanted to say ‘goodbye’ to his family. This sounds reasonable enough, except Jesus didn’t think so; his response implied that they were procrastinating.
The first man’s request has often been misunderstood to mean that the man’s father had just died, and he must bury him. However, ‘to bury one’s father’ refers to the cultural expectation that a man’s duty is to stay at home and care for his parents until they die. So this man is actually putting off following Jesus until some unknown time in the future, when his parents die. The man is concerned about what his community expects of him and so he makes his excuse.
The second request was not to say a simple ‘goodbye’ to family members, but meant ‘to request permission to leave’. There was an expectation in that culture that the person leaving must request permission from those he leaves behind. So again we are dealing with community expectations, which can be understood in present-day terms as peer pressure.
In their responses to Jesus both men revealed what was more important to them, and they allowed this to influence their decisions. However, Jesus made it clear that they can’t have divided loyalties: “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” (v. 62). Ploughing was very precise work that needed undivided attention; looking back made it impossible to plough properly. The analogy is clear, Jesus is saying that you can’t follow him and be looking back to what you left behind.
Jesus is showing that loyalty to him is more important than loyalty to the cultural norms of our society or anything else we may think is important in our lives. Our relationship with Jesus is too important for compromise or procrastination and that is why Jesus’ words on this matter are so strong. And Jesus does not ask us to do anything he is not willing to do himself:
‘Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges…and was born as a human being.’ (Philippians 2: 6-7 NLT).
If we believe that Jesus is the Son of God, and that he died for us, then nothing can allow us to make excuses and procrastinate when it comes to following him.
Father, may we follow Jesus wherever he goes. In his name we pray, Amen.
Study by Barry Robinson
About the writer:
Barry Robinson is a minister in Grace Communion International and Regional Pastor for Southern England.
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